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Services > Auto Q & A > Alternator Replacement

Question: What is an alternator?

Answer: Alternators are a part of your vehicle’s charging system. Your charging system has three main components: the battery, voltage regulator, and the alternator. The alternator works in conjunction with the battery and generates the electrical currents to power everything electrical in the car, such as the headlights, dashboard lights, and even the cigarette lighter. Alternators are located towards the front of your engine and are powered by the engine’s serpentine belt. Alternators use the power from the crankshaft and serpentine belt to move magnets over a special surface of wires and cables called the conductor. This movement creates the necessary electrical current to power everything in your vehicle. Alternators are built out of a lightweight aluminum, which helps dissipate the large amounts of heat it produces. They also contain vents on both sides and an interior-cooling fan that help with heat dissipation. As you can see, keeping the alternator cool is very important for it to run efficiently. Another part of the alternator is the voltage regulator. The voltage regulator distributes and controls the voltage of the electrical currents the alternator creates.

Question: Why do you need to replace your alternator?

Answer: If an alternator fails, your vehicle can run for a very short distance on the battery’s power, but eventually, the battery will also fail and your vehicle will die. So, basically, if you have a bad alternator, your vehicle is inoperable.

Question: When should you replace your alternator?

Answer: It is difficult to tell when you have a bad alternator. One sign of a weak alternator is dim headlights. Generally a good rule-o­f-thumb is to have your battery and alternator’s power checked every time you have your oil changed. If you suspect you have a problem with your alternator, have it inspected and replaced if necessary.