Alternators are found in a variety of vehicles such as motorcycles, cars, trucks, and aircraft. They work by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. This mechanical energy is created when the crankshaft rotates and turns the camshaft at high speed.
The rotor on an alternator creates an alternating current (AC). The AC produced by an alternator can be used to charge a vehicle’s battery or be converted back into mechanical power for use in another way.
Signs of a failing alternator
You are doubting the state and functionality of your vehicle’s alternator. Here are some key signs of a failing alternator.
Cranking of the engine
When you turn the key, but it will not start, and you notice that the RPMs of the engine are high. This is a sign that your alternator is not working properly.
A large amount of resistance in cranking
When you turn on the ignition switch but there is a lot of resistance while cranking. This indicates that your vehicle’s alternator is not working properly.
Low battery voltage
If your battery voltage reading drops down to 12 volts or lower, this indicates that your alternator may be failing or has failed.
Engine running rough
When you start the engine and it runs rough, this means that your vehicle’s alternator has failed or is failing.
Engine not starting
When the engine will not start, this could be a sign of a failing alternator.
Battery light on dashboard
When your battery light is illuminated on the dashboard, this could be a sign that your alternator is not working properly.
If your vehicle’s engine overheats, this indicates that the alternator may be failing or has failed.
If your engine will not start and you notice that the RPMs of the engine are low, this means that your vehicle’s alternator is not working properly.
Engine cranks but stalls
If you try to start the engine but it stalls while cranking, this could be a sign that your vehicle’s alternator is not working properly.
Noisy or shaking while driving
When you drive and the engine is making a noise or shaking, this could be a sign that your alternator is not working properly.
Engine backfiring and misfiring
If you notice your vehicle’s engine backfiring, this could be a sign that your alternator is not working properly.
When you notice that the engine is misfiring, this could be a sign that your vehicle’s alternator is not working properly.
Can I test the alternator off the vehicle?
If you own a car that has a manual transmission, this can be done by disconnecting the battery and turning it over. If you want to do this on your vehicle, disconnect the battery and turn it over. You will observe whether or not the alternator is working properly by checking the voltage of your battery. If your battery voltage is lower than 12 volts, this could be a sign of an alternator problem.
If you have a car with an automatic transmission, it may not be possible to test the alternator on your vehicle. Fortunately, there are other methods of testing the alternator in these vehicles:
How to test an alternator off the vehicle
As we have mentioned, you can easily test an alternator off the vehicle. Let’s outline the steps and the tools that you will need for doing the testing.
The main tools that you will need for the job include;
-10mm socket wrench
-9/16″ open-end wrench
-10mm socket wrench
-8mm Allen wrench
-Socket set with a 17mm and 19mm socket
-Pliers/small file to clean the contacts on the alternator.
- Disconnect the battery cables from the battery terminals. Connect your voltage meter to the positive battery terminal and read the voltage reading at 12 volts DC. If your reading is below 12 volts, this is a sign that your alternator needs to be replaced. This could also be a sign that your battery has faulty cells or has been overcharged by an alternator problem. If you have a voltmeter, you can also test the voltage at each battery terminal to see which battery has the highest voltage reading. This is not a reliable method of determining which battery is faulty, but it can help you determine if there is a problem.
- Disconnect the negative battery cable from the alternator. Connect your multimeter to the negative terminal and measure how many volts are being drawn from the alternator. If this is higher than 12 volts, this shows that your alternator needs to be replaced. It could also be a sign that your battery has faulty cells or has been overcharged by an alternator problem.
- If all of these tests were successful, you can now remove the alternator. If your alternator is still not working, you may need to replace it. If you are replacing a new unit, I would recommend that you install a new voltage regulator with the new alternator. This will ensure that your electrical system is running at 12 volts and will help prevent future problems.
- Once the old alternator has been removed, you can now remove the old voltage regulator from the engine block and install the new one in its place. Once installed, reconnect your battery cables to their proper terminals as well as any other wiring or cables connected to your battery.
- If all of these tests were successful, reconnect your negative battery cable to the battery and either start your vehicle or turn it off. If this does not work, then you will need to replace your battery.
- If all of these tests were successful, you can now install the new alternator and voltage regulator in their proper locations on the engine block. Reinstall the radiator hoses and tighten them down as well as any other hoses or cables connected to your radiator.
- Once your vehicle has been started, check the voltage at the alternator to ensure that it is 12 volts after running for 5-10 minutes. If it is not, you can now turn off your vehicle and remove the alternator again to inspect it further for any damage or other issues.
- If all of these tests were successful, reconnect your battery cables to their proper terminals and ensure that all other wiring has been properly fastened or reconnected as needed. You can now start your vehicle and check for any issues with the charging system in order to ensure that it is working properly.
How do I test my alternator with jumper cables?
If you have a vehicle that will not start or a battery that will not crank, you can test your alternator using jumper cables. The process is simple and only takes a few minutes to complete.
- Connect the positive (red) terminal of the jumper cables to one terminal of your alternator while the other terminal remains disconnected.
- Connect the negative (black) end of the jumper cables to one of your battery’s terminals while leaving the other battery terminal disconnected.
- Start your vehicle and allow it to run for at least 5 minutes before checking for voltage at your alternator again. If there is no voltage, you can now disconnect both jumpers from their respective terminals.
What wires are in an alternator?
The diagram below shows a typical automotive alternator. It shows the internal components of the alternator and how they are wired together. The main wires that you will see inside of your alternator are:
1 – Power (red) wire – The red power wire is used to deliver power to your vehicle’s electrical system. It is also used for signal and ground purposes and is often referred to as “the hot” wire. You can identify this wire by the yellow stripe on it.
2 – Ground (black) – The black ground wire is used for grounding purposes in your vehicle’s electrical system. You can identify this wire by the bare copper wire.
3 – Ignition (yellow) – The yellow ignition wire is used for signal purposes and is often referred to as “the hot” wire. You can identify this wire by the yellow stripe on it.
4 – Battery (white) – The white battery feed wire is used to deliver power from your battery to your vehicle’s electrical system. You can identify this wire by the white stripe on it.
5 – Alternator (blue) – The blue alternator feed wire is used to deliver power from your alternator to your vehicle’s electrical system. You can identify this wire by the blue stripe on it.
Buy voltmeter and multimeter
As we have seen voltmeters and multimeters are some of the devices that you can use for testing an alternator off the car. If you want to know more about these devices and how they work, let us know. At ICRFQ, we are a reliable supplier and sourcing agent for the voltmeters and multimeters in China.
If you want to find more Electronic Components Distributors, please check out the following articles: