What Is an Alternator and How Does it Work?

An alternator is an important part of your car. It is responsible for recharging the battery and charging the motor to keep your car running smoothly. If your alternator starts to burn out, it may be because the alternator isn’t working correctly. Depending on the type of alternator your car has, you will need to perform specific tests and maintenance to ensure it stays in good condition.

Visually Inspecting the Alternator.

A visual inspection of the alternator can help diagnose several alternator problems. This process consists of turning off the engine and looking for signs of trouble. You may find corrosion on the battery terminals, a belt that’s too worn, or loose connections. A good visual inspection is one of the easiest ways to diagnose alternator problems. The vehicle service manual can provide instructions on how to do this test. First, remove the key from the ignition. Secondly, rotate the alternator pulley. Thirdly, check the belt’s tension. If it is too tight, it will cause friction and possibly damage the alternator’s internal components. To do this, professionals in alternators Winter Garden FL, suggest that you’ll need a voltmeter. Place the red probe on the plus side and the black on the minus side. Check that the voltage reads anywhere from 0 AC to 2 volts above the base voltage.

The alternator should produce at least 13.8 volts when off. When the engine runs, the alternator should produce a higher voltage, between 14.5 and 15.3 volts.

Regulators In Alternators

Regulators in alternators are designed to control and rectify the strength of the field. They also provide an output based on the field duty cycle of the alternator. The resulting voltage varies according to the RPMs of the engine.

Alternators have a core of iron and copper wires wrapped around them. Bearings on the front and rear sides support this assembly. A pulley is mounted on the shaft to engage the belt.


When the engine revs, the alternator starts to charge the battery. As the engine speeds up, the amps required increase. It is important to make sure the circuits are correctly biased. If the circuits are improperly connected, the alternator will not function properly and may even discharge the battery. Some vehicles have a computer that monitors the signal from the regulator and adjusts the engine parameters. Others have a Body Control Module (BCM). Both of these systems work in a closed loop.

An Overworked Alternator Causes a Burning Odor.

Overworked alternators are capable of generating a burning smell. When this happens, the smell can be a good indicator of an issue with your vehicle. The overworked alternator pushes too much electricity through its wires, which heats them up. This can also cause the belt and its pulleys to heat up, creating an unpleasant smell. If this happens, the driver should disconnect the car battery, as the burning odor is a potential sign of a more serious problem. A bad alternator will also cause the lights to dim and the speedometer to stop working. Other symptoms include a rattling sound under the hood and even a whining noise. It can be difficult to identify a bad alternator while driving. A faulty alternator can cause various other problems, including poor engine performance. Most common alternator problems involve misaligned belts and pulleys, which may cause grinding and growling noises.

Inspecting The Drive Belt for Signs of Wear

Inspecting the drive belt for signs of wear in an alternator is a critical component of regular maintenance. Please do so to avoid significant downtime and repair costs. The drive belt is the power transmission for your car’s alternator. When it wears out, your alternator will stop charging your battery. It can also cause poor performance in your A/C system. Belts have a life span that depends on the vehicle’s original design and the maintenance procedures used. Over time, the rubber on a belt becomes brittle, causing it to stretch and slip. If your belt begins to squeal, it may be a sign that it needs to be replaced. Belts can squeak because of low tension or if they are positioned incorrectly. Regardless, it is a good idea to perform a quick inspection every 1-2 weeks.