I am sure everyone has had that moment when you go to start your car and instead of the nice sound of repetitive explosions occurring at approximately one thousand times a minute (also known as your engine starting), you hear those dreadful few clicks then hear your radio struggling to come on. Most people automatically assume the issue is the battery but, in some cases, it can actually be your alternator.
Before you can determine whether it is your battery or alternator it is important to know what each part does in the overall engine electrical system.
Car Battery: The battery is like the heart of the car. It is very sensitive and needs constant care. Oh wait, wrong heart. The battery is what provides electrical power to all parts of the car which in turn allows all the systems to function properly. The battery is needed for the car to run. Without it functioning properly, your nice sports car can quickly become a ridiculously oversized paper weight.
Alternator: The alternator is the battery’s very own personal assistant. The alternator ensures the battery stays charged enough to provide the necessary electricity to the car. The alternator is powered by the engine. As you drive two things are happening: the battery is constantly being drained while the alternator is simultaneously recharging the battery to ensure it doesn’t die as you’re driving.
So, now that we know what both the battery and alternator do, lets determine what exactly might be wrong with your lifeless car.
One way to determine if the issue might be your battery is to check if any electronics were left on inside the car such as head lights, map lights, etc. Leaving lights on in your car can drain your battery and, subsequently, cause it to not start. This can be remedied by using jumper cables and a fully charged battery to recharge your battery.
Determining if the issue is your alternator can sometimes be a little more tricky. When your alternator initially goes bad you can have symptoms similar to a bad battery. Your car will even be able to be jumped as if it is just the battery. However, when the alternator fails completely, your car’s electrical systems can fail, one at a time, as you are driving. Your gauges and internal lights may begin to stop working first. Then other systems, such as power steering and outside lights, may stop working before the engine turns off completely.
It can be a stressful situation when your car refuses to turn on or suddenly turns off while you are driving. If your car is driveable you can take your car to a car parts store to get both your alternator and battery checked. You even have the option to remove your battery and take it to the parts store to get it fully charged if it is too dead to be jumped.
Regardless of what the issue may be, battery or alternator, we want you to have the knowledge and confidence to understand your options when trying to make the best decision for you and your car! That’s fair repair!
Thanks for reading. Like, comment, and share. Let me know some instances where you might have had an issue with your battery or alternator and how you overcame the situation.
If you have any questions or comments drop them below or send us a message here. We’d love to hear from you. And remember – knowledge is the key to a fair repair.