When an Alternator Burns Out: Why it Happens and What to Do

When an Alternator Burns Out: Why it Happens and What to Do

A car alternator is one of your vehicle’s most essential components. If it fails, you’ll be stranded on the roadside with no way to power your vehicle’s electrical needs. Your alternator could burn out for several reasons, from car accidents to overheating to loose wiring. Still, there are two common causes of an alternator burning out: overcharging and defective parts. This article covers what causes alternator burnout, how an alternator works, and when you should consider talking to a mechanic about replacement.

What Is an Alternator?

An alternator is a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. It is usually found in cars and trucks. The alternator gets its name because it creates alternating current rather than direct current. This alternating current is converted to a direct current to power your car’s devices.

What Causes a Car Alternator to Burn Out?

Alternator burnout is caused by excessive heat buildup. When an alternator burns out, there are usually a few causes. Either the voltage regulator has been damaged, something has gone wrong with the wiring, or the battery is malfunctioning.

Voltage regulators ensure your battery stays charged by regulating the flow of electricity from the alternators to charge the battery and provide power to other components. In the case of a battery with a bad cell, or a deeply drained battery, the battery can draw a large amount of current from the alternator, leading to overheating and potentially burnout.

How Can you Tell if Your Car’s Alternator Has Burned out?

Your car’s alternator is controlled by a series of sensors and regulators that communicate with the car’s Engine Control Module (ECM), which makes it a highly efficient part that rarely has problems. However, if you notice that your lights or stereo suddenly start flickering, this could signify that you have a problem with your alternator, and you should see a mechanic as soon as possible.

Likewise, if you smell burning rubber coming from under your car’s hood, this is an indication that your car’s alternator may be overheated. While many other factors can cause this burning smell, a burned-out alternator is one. If you notice this smell in combination with other signs of alternator failure, such as low voltage or dim lights, chances are the alternator is the culprit, and you should get your car to a professional right away.

Photo by Nottpossible from Getty Images via Canva Pro

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