This might sound strange but when it comes to automotive engineering, the alternator is the single most important component. This is as far as wiring is concerned. Without it, your headlights will not turn on and the car’s cooling system will be paralyzed. You will only be able to drive for a few miles before the car comes to a sudden stop. To understand its importance, you first have to understand how it works. Only then will you be able to troubleshoot alternator problems with pinhole precision. Read on to learn more.
How It Works
Your car’s charging system is made up of three main components; the battery, the voltage regulator and most importantly, the alternator. To generate power, the alternator works with the battery to generate AC power through electromagnetism. The triangular finger poles around the rotor stagger. This makes it easy for the north and south poles to alternate as they surround rotor field windings. As this alternating pattern happens, the magnetic field formed induces voltage into the stator which harnesses all the power generating by the spinning rotor.
Squealing and grinding noises are sometimes associated with charging system problems. More often than not though, they have everything to do with the alternator. The noises you hear could be as a result of bad alternator bearings. Use a mechanic’s stethoscope to be sure if this is the problem.
You may also hear grinding sounds which gradually transfer into the alternator from another faulty component. The grinding sounds may or may not be accompanied by a glazed or loose belt. Fortunately in this case, you can examine the belts visually. Be sure to check the deflection with a ruler though or a special tool so as to ensure accuracy.
This happens mostly because of poor electrical connections coupled with use of substandard batteries. With that in mind, check your car’s electrical connections for tightness. You can then test for a voltage drop between the battery and the alternator. If the voltage drop is more than 0.5 volts, the problem is not with the alternator alone. If there is no voltage drop at all, load test the batter bank or battery with a carbon pile. Note that some models have a warning light on the dashboard which will quickly illuminate if the alternator output drops before a specific threshold. Strangely, the same warning light can also cause alternator malfunction. In such a case, replace the missing warning light or the one blown out warning light.
Amperage Output Problems
You can troubleshoot your car’s alternator by simulating a load with a carbon pile. Proceed to inspect the amperage output with an ammeter. If everything else checks out, then the problem is an internal one. Your best bet here is to remove the alternator for bench testing. You can also rebuild it or simply replace it with a new one. Be sure to go for a new high output and heavy duty alternator to avoid all the aforementioned alternator problems. Be sure to also inspect the unit regularly.