An alternator is a type of generator that is used to charge the batteries in a car. When you turn on a car’s accessories, they will also power the car’s electrical system.
If your car’s alternator didn’t work, the battery would slowly die every time you used the car.
But do all cars, including new ones, have alternators?
Because all modern cars have electrical systems, they all need alternators. They are the only things that can provide a steady charge, even when moving slowly. If you buy a brand-new alternator, it should last about 100,000 miles.
Most cars before 1960 had a DC generator. When silicon rectifiers came out, they changed the way that they were made at that time.
During WWII, the first alternators made with modern plans were made. After the war, they were used in more places that needed a lot of power.
The Valiant, made by Chrysler, was the first car for the public to have a modern alternator. It was first sold to consumers in 1960, and Ford and GM soon made their own versions.
Because alternators are better, they have replaced dynamos in modern cars.
When an alternator is used to make power, the car doesn’t have to carry as much weight. Alternators are also not as easy to break as dynamos.
If you bought a car made after 1960, you’ll need one of these to keep the battery charged.
If it was older than that, you would need a dynamo instead.
The amount of power they put out is the biggest difference between new and old alternators.
They were often found with amperages of less than 30 amps.
Most modern alternators can make at least 50 amps, and many can make 70 amps or more.
The alternators in commercial vehicles can put out up to 300 amps.
Depending on the use, there are commercial alternators that can make more power. The more power a car needs from electricity, the stronger its alternator will be.
What Does an Alternator Do?
Usually, there are two windings on an alternator.
The one that is on the outside is called the stator. The winding on the rotor moves around the inside of the machine.
The voltage goes to your alternator through its regulator. When you start the car, the engine turns the serpentine belt, which in turn turns the rotor winding. An electric current flows through it as it turns.
This makes a magnetic field around the winding on the rotor. So, there is a flow of AC current in the stationary winding.
AC current is changed into DC by diodes that are placed along the alternator. This is what runs the electrical system of the car.
A voltage regulator is used by your alternator to control how much voltage goes out. This only lets a certain amount of current through, which keeps your electronics safe.
The alternators in modern cars are still made with the same basic ideas.
But they have changed the way they look to make them smaller. This has the added benefit of lowering the temperatures at which they work.
By making it cooler, it is now possible to use a smaller one to make more power. So, alternators today tend to be a lot smaller than they were in the past.
A lot of them have slots cut into the side that let air in. Some companies even put fans in them to make sure they stay cool when the car is running.
They have opened up the alternator’s case to show the windings, which helps heat move more quickly. They have also made it better by packing the cores closely together. That made the magnets in the design work better and made them smaller.
You can even get a water-cooled alternator. They can power large devices without getting too hot.
How to Tell If You Need a New Alternator
If your car’s alternator stops working, it won’t stay on for long. Most of the time, engines in modern cars need electricity to keep going.
Most of the time, a dead alternator is easy to fix, but you have to know it’s the problem. If you think that your alternator has stopped working, keep an eye out for the following signs.
One easy way to check is to look at the dashboard, which is right behind the steering wheel. Most cars will show you any signs you can look up in the manual there.
The symbol most of them use looks like a battery with a line going through it. If you see that, it means that the alternator isn’t working right.
You can also buy a voltmeter at an auto parts store and test the alternator yourself. Once you buy one, you can use it to check the alternator’s current.
To start the car, you might need to get a battery charger, though. You could also ask a friend to help jumpstart the engine.
Check the voltage of the battery when the engine is turned off. If the battery is in good shape, it should be between 12 and 14 V.
Now you’ll have to start the engine and check the battery again.
When you start the engine, you should see that the voltage jumps. If the engine is running, it will usually show 14 V or more.
If your voltage doesn’t go up, there’s a problem with your alternator.
You can also check the accessories in your car to see if the alternator is failing. If the lights inside the car seem to be flickering, it might be the alternator.
Recently, does your car’s battery die when you leave it alone? That is a very common sign that your alternator is broken.
If you get a new one, the battery shouldn’t die as often. That will make it more reliable and make it easy to crank.
What Does a New Alternator Cost?
If you need to replace the alternator in your car, you’ll have to think about two costs. Most of the time, the cost of the part is not too high. But you can double the final price once you figure in the cost of labour.
If you have a modern car, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a new alternator.
That includes both the cost of the parts and the cost of the work. If you know how to work on cars, replacing an alternator isn’t too hard.
It would be a great way to save money on labour costs to do it yourself. If you have a cheap car, a pre-made alternator will only cost you $150. So, replacing one of them doesn’t have to be an expensive fix.
Still, if you’ve never worked on a car before, it’s better to hire someone else. If the alternator is not set up right, you won’t be able to drive.
Check out a few online videos to get an idea of how hard this project would be to do on your own.
If you think it can be done, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself.
Just make sure you pay attention to how the serpentine belt connects to all the rollers. They are put on in a specific way that you have to copy. If not, it won’t spin the alternator windings, which means they won’t work.