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Alternator, Starter

Don’t Get Me Started: Replace Your Car’s Ailing Alternator

Understanding the basics of a car’s electrical system is as simple as knowing your ABCs: Alternator + Battery = Charged.

The alternator’s job is to continually charge the car battery, whose power would putz out pretty rapidly absent the alternator’s steady support. Unlike flashlight batteries, the considerably larger car battery can’t survive on its own. Operate a vehicle without a functioning alternator and you’d be lucky to make it to the local convenience store before the battery drains completely. Talk about inconvenient.

Engage the starter without a charged battery and all you’ll hear is “click, click, click.” Not even a gasp, let alone a “vroom.”

How do I know when I need a new alternator?

A battery symbol illuminating on your dashboard is your car’s way of saying, “My battery is not charging properly.” This is a warning the alternator might be in its final days. What causes an alternator to die? Most of the time, it’s simply time, as age takes its toll on the alternator’s various internal parts. Bearings go on the fritz. Electricity-generating magnets and copper wire coils conk out, too.

Not sure whether your car’s problem is the alternator, battery or starter? Call or stop by Glenbrook Auto Parts. Our auto parts pros can help test your system and determine the source of your troubles.

What parts do I need to replace my alternator?

  • New alternator
  • Set of open-ended wrenches
  • Set of sockets and ratchets
  • New serpentine belt (optional)

Key DIY Tips

If the alternator is “going, going or gone,” here are some DIY alternator-install tips, as presented by AutoMD.com:

  • Disconnect battery’s negative cable.
  • Go to the alternator, and note each wire’s connection point. Disconnect the power and ground wires from alternator.
  • Disconnect wiring harness connector.
  • Loosen alternator bracket bolts and adjusting bolts (or alternator belt tensioner) so you can remove the drivebelt.
  • Remove alternator mounting bolts, spacer (if equipped), adjusting bolt, lower pivot bolt (if equipped) and alternator.
  • Install new alternator.
  • Loosely install alternator mounting bolts, spacer (if equipped), adjusting bolt and lower pivot bolt (if equipped).
  • Install alternator belt.
  • Pull alternator until alternator belt is tight.
  • Tighten alternator mounting bolts while moving alternator unit to achieve proper alternator belt tension.
  • Reinstall power and ground wires to alternator. Install wiring harness connector.
  • Check belt tension by pushing down in the middle of the belt. If it moves more than a half an inch, it’s too loose. Adjust alternator belt to proper tension before proceeding to next step.
  • Reconnect negative battery cable.
  • Start engine and check battery voltage with a voltmeter to verify proper alternator charging. Alternator output should register between 13.1 and 16.5 volts.
  • Turn off engine, recheck alternator belt tension and readjust if necessary.

What else should I do at the same time?

When replacing an alternator, you might consider:

  • Replacing the serpentine belt.
  • Testing the battery.
  • Cleaning the battery cables and ensuring they’re secure.

Stuck with a stinky starter? You can install a new starter with DIY tips from expert sources.

Remember, with Glenbrook Auto Parts in Glenview, you can save time by ordering your parts online and picking them up in the store. We’ll have them ready and waiting for you.

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