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Sep 16, 2015

A Quick Guide to Troubleshooting Alternator and Battery Problems

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Almost all car drivers have experienced vehicle power issues. These problems can leave the driver trying to figure out whether the problem lies with the alternator or the battery at the source. To help provide clear insight into alternator and battery issues, take a look at this troubleshooting guide for your benefit.

Troubleshooting Battery Problem

Using a Voltmeter to Test Battery Performance

Since the battery is needed to start the vehicle and then spin the alternator to keep a charge, it’s important to check the battery first as part of the troubleshooting process. To check the performance of a battery, vehicle owners should buy a voltmeter. Voltmeters can usually be purchased for around $20 from a local auto care store. Checking the battery’s performance involves the following steps:

  • Turn off the car and open the hood
  • Connect the voltmeter to the battery. The red end of the voltmeter should be attached to the red battery terminal, and the black end to the black terminal.
  • Read the voltmeter. If the voltmeter has a reading that’s above 12.2 volts, it should have enough charge to power the alternator. Anything less than 12.2 volts and the battery likely needs to be replaced or repaired.

Troubleshooting Your Alternator

With the voltmeter wires already attached to the engine, vehicle owners can then begin to test the performance of their alternator. The testing process for troubleshooting the alternator is as follows:

  • Start the vehicle and rev the engine to 2,000 RPM
  • When the engine is kept running, the voltage on the voltmeter should read at least 13 volts. Any reading between 13 and 14.5 volts while the RPMs change means the alternator is in good performance condition.
  • If the voltage remains the same or decreases, there is likely a problem with the alternator that requires repair.

Other Signs of Alternator Problems

For those that have run the voltmeter test on their alternator with inconclusive results, it’s important to analyze the vehicle for all potential signs of alternator trouble. Consider for example testing for the following:

  • Run the engine for a few minutes and then turn it off. If the alternator is very hot, there may be significant wear or damage to the bearings. The problem could also be related to the copper wirings on the alternator breaking down.
  • Turn the radio on and rev the engine. If the radio seems to lose signal or power when applying gas, it’s likely there’s an alternator issue.

Vehicle batteries and alternators are not fail-safe components. It’s important that they’re tested regularly for optimal performance. To learn more on how to test for problems with a vehicle alternator or battery, contact our experts directly!


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