Battery or Alternator: Which one is Causing Your Car Issues?

Battery and alternator issues are considered two of the most common problems car owners face. Understandably, people tend to confuse one with the other. 

Car owners must know whether they are experiencing a battery or alternator problem. A wrong assumption or diagnosis can cause you to overlook a very serious problem, which could put you at risk on the road. In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between the two.


Signs of Car Battery Issues

To help you confirm if you’re experiencing battery issues, here are several signs to watch out for:

  • Engine Doesn’t Start: If your car’s engine doesn’t turn over, one of the primary reasons could be a bad battery. That’s because the jump-starting process of your car starts with the battery. If the engine refuses to turn over, that means the battery is not doing its job properly.
  • Aging Car Battery: It’s also possible that your car battery may be drained. On average, car batteries can last between two and five years. If your car battery is somewhere between that range, then replacing it should solve the problem.
  • Battery Corrosion: If the car engine doesn’t start, you can visually inspect the battery and look for signs of corrosion. Over time, chemical reactions and exposure to the atmosphere can cause corrosion on the battery. You can use a rag to wipe away the corrosion; sometimes, that alone can fix the problem. If it doesn’t, you may have to replace the battery.
  • Battery Gauge: Another obvious way to check for battery issues is by looking at the battery gauge in the dashboard. If the gauge shows 12 volts or above, then the battery is likely full and working. If it shows a lower voltage, it’s either the battery is running out or is faulty. If the battery gauge is not showing anything, then the battery is not producing any charge and needs replacing.


Signs of a Bad Alternator


After confirming that you are not experiencing a battery problem, it’s time to move on to the alternator. Unlike battery issues, most indicators of an alternator problem are easy to distinguish.

Engine Dies Immediately: The alternator is the one that closes your car’s jump-starting process. That means your engine will start or turn over at the turn of the key. If you are experiencing an alternator problem, the engine will die almost immediately after starting.  

Dimming and Unstable Lights: If your car’s alternator is failing, it causes the interior and dashboard lights to grow dim gradually. You’ll also notice your headlights going brighter when accelerating and going dimmer when you slow down.

Burning Odor and Violent Noises: Another obvious sign of a failing alternator is a constant growling sound that can be traced to the engine compartment. At the same time, you’ll be able to smell burning rubber coming out of the AC vents. The noise and burning odor are two telltale signs of a failing alternator.


What Should You Do?


Most problems caused by car batteries are easily resolved by simply replacing the battery. Fortunately, car batteries are relatively cheap and cost you around $50 to $120.

A failing alternator can be costly to replace, though. Alternator replacement costs can run from $500 to $1,000. Depending on the damage, an alternator can still be repaired by a mechanic. This will be a little cheaper than replacing it.

When it comes to car safety and maintenance, any signs of a problem must be resolved immediately. Ignoring even the slightest car issues will not only cause further damage to your car but could put you and your passengers at risk.

Differentiating an alternator problem from a car battery issue can be simple, but it’s always best to let a professional troubleshoot and resolve your car problems.

Auto Works of Brandon have professional ASE-certified technicians who can provide you with reliable car charging and starting system check-ups. If you are unsure which component of your car is having problems, contact us now. Our team will help you troubleshoot your car problems.


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