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Car Alternator Basics

Are you sure your alternator is in prime condition? It’s hard to tell whether or not an alternator runs properly if you don’t know what to look for. The most straight forward way to test it is by using a voltmeter. If you’re well in sync with your automobile, there are a few other procedures you may try as well.

Article writer: Matthew Wright.

How Alternators Make Electricity

Technically speaking, an alternator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy through a process known as alternating current. Alternators are electrical generators; what gives an engine its spark, the headlights their light, and the heater its power while the vehicles moving down the road.

Although many people assume the battery powers all those things, the truth is that the battery only does one thing: start the engine or operate electronics when the ignition is off — for a limited time; once the engine fires, the alternator takes over and provides juice for everything.

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Your car’s battery light is a signal of when your car’s charging system is not working properly. This is due to a malfunctioning alternator, a battery running down, or a number of other things. It’s best to know what to do when your car’s battery light turns on: stay calm, look at all your vehicle gauges, and reduce power until you’re able to have an auto mechanic diagnostic for possible issues.

By author Mike Allen.

How to Properly Check the Juice in Your Car Battery

Q: My minivan has failed to start a couple of times recently, because of a low battery. It turns over, but won’t spin fast enough to catch. My mechanic says he tested the battery and it’s bad. But it’s only a year old. I checked the voltage at idle, and it’s 13.8 volts. All of the cells have plenty of water. I think it’s something else.

A: There’s more to checking a battery than testing the voltage and looking inside for low water. For one thing, you need to check the voltage when the engine is off, not when the alternator is raising system voltage to its normal level. You can test for proper cranking voltage with a voltmeter while—you guessed it—cranking the engine. The several hundred amperes of current the starter motor draws should pull the battery voltage down to a normal 9 to 10 volts. Do this test: Disable the ignition or injection to prevent the engine from starting.

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Changing the busted alternator of a car is not a job for anyone and must be taken on by a professional. If you have a garage and some experience in fixing a car, this is a job you can do on your own, saving an expensive, and inconvenient, trip to the local mechanic. But if all else fails you really need a professionals touch to handle your automobile problems. Guanella Auto Body can help with all your automotive questions.



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