Alternators are a critical part of a car’s mechanical system. They are responsibility for producing the electrical current that the car relies on. This current is stored inside the car’s battery and dispersed throughout the car to other critical components that allow the car to run. This includes the fuel pump and ignition. If an alternator fails, it significantly impacts the car’s ability to operate; the loss of current will cause it to lose all power once the battery’s stored charge is expended.
The main component of the alternator is the rotor- a coil of wire wrapped around an iron core. This is where the alternator’s current originates. Three more coils, collectively called the stator, stabilize and reduce the current output, turning an alternating current system to a direct current system. A series of diodes keeps the current flowing in one direction while the voltage regulator controls how much voltage leaves the rotor and enters the battery. If the voltage to the battery decreases, the regulator increases the field current input to the rotor. If the voltage increases, the regulator decreases the field current input.
When alternator failure is suspected, the typical reaction may be to replace it. The buyer might elect to purchase a used alternator. Before any purchasing options are exercised, there are a few things to consider.
Common Alternator Symptoms
First, how can one be sure that it is the alternator that is causing care failure?
– Engine turning over slowly or not at all
– Belt problems- squealing or the smell of burning rubber
– Dim headlights that won’t respond or brighten when the engine is turned on
Once it has been verified that the alternator needs replacing and the buyer decides to cut costs by purchasing a used alternator, there are 3 buying options to choose from, also known as the 3 R’s (repair, rebuilt, and remanufactured).
Repair- This is exactly what it says on the tin. The alternator is examined for faulty parts which are then replaced if at all possible. At the same time, the mechanic also checks for and replaces parts that are about to fail. This is the least costly option and, if done as part of preventative maintenance, can extend the life of the alternator. The caveat to this option is that the alternator may be difficult to impossible to repair if it has already failed.
Rebuilt- It could be considered a more complex version or repair. The alternator is stripped to its individual components. Each part is tested for durability, functionality, and potential longevity. Parts are replaced if they have failed or are about to wear out and some electrical components that are short lived anyway are replaced without being tested.
Refurbished- These are the true used alternator. They have had old pats replaced with new or nearly new parts from other alternators. They have also been extensively tested for quality.
Before purchasing a used of refurbished alternator, buyers should ensure that it has been tested for power and reliability. A quality alternator should also be warrantied based on its quality. The longer the warranty period, the more likely that it will be of high quality. When purchasing a refurbished alternator, it is advisable to bring in the faulty alternator. This will negate having to pay a deposit. While refurbishing an alternator generally grants it new life, this is rendered moot if the alternator’s original life has already expired.
Whichever option is chosen, a combination of maintenance and frugality will ensure that replacing an alternator is inexpensive for buyers.