Step Two: Locate Positive and Negative Battery Terminals

First, the battery delivers a jolt of electricity to the starter. This starts the engine running, which puts the alternator into action. Finally, the alternator completes this cycle by charging the battery. First, check the dashboard battery gauge. The battery should be giving a charge, even while the vehicle is off.

If the dashboard lights are dim, something is likely wrong with your battery. Try turning on your windshield wipers, lights or automatic windows.


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Then make sure these are all turned off and once again try to start the car. After running the motor for a while, turn the car off. However, there are steps you can take to help preserve your car battery life. There are certain signs of a bad alternator to look for:. Your charging voltage should be 0. Otherwise, you may have poor circuit connections inspect wires and connectors , or a faulty regulator. Continue with the section below.

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If the charging system didn't pass the No-Load or Load test, check your alternator's voltage regulator. Charging systems come under different designs. So consult your vehicle service manual to test the voltage regulator. These tests include a "full-fielding" test, which is nothing more than bypassing the voltage regulator, and it's not as hard as it may sound. Your manual may also asks you to check a fusible link for continuity and inspect fuses related to the charging system and tell you their locations. NOTE: On some modern vehicles, the powertrain control module PCM — the engine's and transmission's computer — regulates voltage rate fed through the alternator.

With this type of system in place, your service or repair manual will tell you what type of tests you can do in your own garage. If your tests determined that you have a bad voltage regulator, check your local auto parts stores or online for availability. In many alternators the voltage regulator mounts on the outside of the case and you'll replace it in a matter of minutes. Keep an eye on small nuts, screws and springs. They are very easy to lose. However, if your alternator is four years old or more, replace the whole unit. The different components in your alternator will soon start to show signs of wear.

You'll save more on a new or rebuilt unit now than having to deal with more alternator problems later on. If you have the luxury of waiting a couple of days or more before replacing a bad alternator, check for prices online, you may find a brand new, quality alternator at a lower price than a good, rebuilt unit from your local auto parts store. Usually, a bad alternator diode will cause your headlights or instrument panel lights to flicker or dim and, sometimes, drain battery power overnight, or in minutes.

In addition to alternators, batteries are also a common source of charging system problems for two main reasons. First, if your battery sees little use because you don't drive your car often, the battery sulfates. Although the battery still provides good voltage, it won't deliver the correct amperage.

Step One: Set your Multimeter

Second, if you use your car regularly, you may forget to service your battery regularly, which may result in low electrolyte level or corrosion buildup, leading to poor electrical flow. Check the battery terminals. If they are corroded, this might be your problem. Corrosion prevents proper electrical flow. If necessary, disconnect the terminals and mix a tablespoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Apply the solution with a soft brush to the terminals. Clean the battery posts as well.

How to Check an Alternator: 8 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

If your battery has filler caps, clean the battery top and carefully remove the caps using a screwdriver. Check the electrolyte level. Add distilled water to the cells to bring up the electrolyte to the correct level and recharge the battery if necessary. If you need to recharge the battery, and you are going to recharge it at home, make sure to follow safety precautions. A charging battery produces hydrogen gas, which is highly explosive.


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  • Charge the battery in a well-ventilated area away from appliances with open flames like dryers and water heaters. Also, follow the instructions that come with your battery charger, specially when connecting and disconnecting the battery. The hydrometer test will let you know whether your battery is fully charged, needs a charge, or has failed. A hydrometer is an inexpensive tool.

    Signs of a Failing Alternator

    Buy one at your local auto parts store, and then check this article on troubleshooting a bad car battery using a hydrometer. Basically, a reading below the 1. A difference of 25 to 50 points between one or more cell readings means your battery is defective. Can a drive belt cause charging system problems? Yes, if the belt has become loose, or you haven't changed the belt at your manufacturer recommended interval. Check the belt's tension and condition.

    The belt will fail to operate the alternator if it's too loose, or it's stretched due to years of service, causing it to slip over the pulleys. A slipping belt will usually produce a squealing noise. Also, check the alternator pulley and the rest of the pulleys the belt rides on. If one of them is misaligned or not turning freely, it'll damage the belt as well. Your service manual will offer you a good procedure to check not only your belt, but proper operation of the belt adjuster and idler pulley as well.

    You'll deal with alternator problems more effectively if you know how to test alternator output voltage and conduct other related tests. Still, don't overlook the obvious. Sometimes, there's where you need to start troubleshooting. For example, when doing a quick visual inspection, you may notice corrosion on the battery terminals preventing power in and out of the battery a wobbling drive belt while the engine is running worn out or damaged belt or a noisy alternator failing pulley.

    And keep in mind that, more often than not, charging system — and other systems — problems arise from lack of adequate maintenance. Using your best judgment and the tests outlined here will help you pinpoint the cause of your charging system problems faster. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters. Test between the battery terminal on the alternator and a good engine ground.

    Any AC voltage above. It will not restart unless a kick start is given from an external battery.


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    • After the kick start, all is normal, and the battery is fully charged. What could be the cause?

      Testing an Alternator: The Complete Guide

      You may want to download trouble codes from the computer, even if the engine light is not coming on. Can a faulty alternator cause a P code in PCM? I have a Marelli alternator on a Massey Ferguson tractor, and it has one slip worn away to the plastic. A new slip ring is no longer available. Can the slip rings be rebuilt? Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

      Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. There might be a problem in the circuit. These other posts may help. Check engine grounds and charging circuit:. I've changed 3 alternators and 1 battery in month. Still the technician can't seem to figure out what the problem is. I need help please. Have the battery checked, probably it's faulty and not able to hold the charge any more.

      If the charger said to reverse the cables, most likely the cables were hooked up to the wrong polarity.

      Easy way to test Alternator at home

      See if you didn't blew a main fuse. Hopefully damage didn't go beyond that.

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      I installed a new battery. Soon the battery went dead. I returned to the auto parts house, they checked it and said it had a full charge on it, I asked how that could be, he said it was charged up in the wrong direction. I remember connecting a batter charger, and it had a message on it, "Reverse The Cables. Probably it'll be worth to go to a local auto parts and have it checked for free, just in case.

      I fixed my alternator by tapping on it lightly with hammer. Pretty sure water had splashed up to it from very wet roads and the brush was stuck. There can be many reasons for a lack of charge: alternator failure voltage regulator, stator problems, slip rings worn out, etc , but make also sure your battery still can take the charge, check the alternator belt.

      You may want to take the alternator to a local auto parts store to get tested. I have a not very old bosch alternator and it has lost its charge? That is a tricky fault to diagnose.