How to Spot a Failing Alternator in San Bernardino, CA


Battery and alternator issues can be a source of frustration. It can be challenging to tell the difference between a bad battery and a failing alternator. Car Pros Volkswagen of San Bernardino wants to help our customers spot the differences to avoid major issues down the road. Your battery supplies the power that starts your car and allows your vehicle’s electrical system to run. Unfortunately, as it ages, the battery becomes less able to retain a charge because the metal inside, ultimately corrodes. Even if the alternator works perfectly, the level of battery charge diminishes, falling to a level where it is unable to start the vehicle.


To check your battery, begin by checking your dashboard battery gauge. If this is dim, something is likely going on with your battery. One way to differentiate between battery and alternator issues, begin by considering when the battery was installed. If it has been 4-5 years, there is a chance that this is the issue. Replacing a battery can be relatively inexpensive to replace. A typical battery, depending on makes or models, usually costs in the $50-$120 range.


If your battery won’t start your car, use a rag to carefully wipe away any corrosion on the battery and have someone jump-start it. Test your battery by running your motor, then turning the car off. If the car will not restart, this is likely a sign that the alternator is keeping the battery working while the motor is running but the battery is incapable of retaining the charge without the aid of the alternator.


If your battery is working, it’s time to take a closer look at the alternator. There are certain signs of a bad alternator to look for, including:


  • Dim lights

  • Warning lights

  • Weak or dead battery

  • Unusual smells

  • Odd sounds

  • Visual cues


While running your vehicle, take note of your interior lights and how bright they appear. If the dashboard gradually dims, this is indicative of alternator issues. It is also a good idea to consider your headlights. Do these run brighter as you accelerate but then dim as you pull up to a red light? This is also a reason to suspect your alternator is not doing the job of keeping your battery adequately charged. Did you notice a growling sound before the trouble began? This can occur before the alternator fails. Odors, such as the smell of burning rubber or hot wires can be signs of your alternator overheating. If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s time to consider replacing your alternator.


Do you want to have your battery or alternator professionally evaluated? Come by Car Pros Volkswagen today at 1600 Cam Real, San Bernardino, CA 92408 or give us a call at (909) 380-8030 for your service appointment. You can also schedule your next appointment online anytime. Our service hours are Monday-Friday 7 AM-6 PM and Saturdays 8 AM-5 PM. Get great prices on other service maintenances with our service specials. Our service experts are happy to help our Moreno Valley, Riverside, and Pomona area customers keep their vehicles running at its best as we head into the fall weather!   
Categories: Parts, Body Shop, Service, Fleet

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