Imagine you are in a hurry of dropping your kids in school, then to your office. At that critical hour, your car is not starting or the engine failed in the mid-way..!! Would be a nightmare..!!
This problem would be worse if you can not detect where is the problem. Well, your battery or alternator might be the culprit behind this situation. A battery is the energy provider to ignite the engine first time whereas the alternator converts the energy and recharges the battery during the running car.
A complete knowledge can make your way to avoid this unwanted situation as well as help to take necessary steps by recognizing the signs of a faulty battery and alternator.
Let’s hop in then..!!
We can not think of running a car without having a battery as this is the source of power that sparks the engine to keep running the car. It is located near the motor; on the left side of the engine. It contains chemical energy and supplies the starting power to start spinning the engine.
One of the vital elements of your car, an alternator is a type of generator that works to keep charging by supplying electricity to your battery while running the car. It is generally spotted in front of the engine that contains a belt around it.
The charging machine of the battery of your car contains some key elements to act properly. Some of them are Rotor and Stator that work to produce electricity to charge the battery. The Voltage Regulator maintains the accuracy of the voltage level of the electricity, where the Diode Rectifier converts the voltage from the alternator. The cooling fan keeps the heat under control as the alternator produces extreme temperature while doing all these procedures.
We all know that battery produces energy from the reaction of the chemical inside it. The chemical energy is converted to electrical energy and sparks the engine to start spinning. In case of the failure of your battery, there is no way to start your car at all. The energy is again converted into mechanical energy after the engine starts and your car starts functioning.
After the start of your car, the electrical system still runs to continue the production of energy; the battery continues to supply power to the engine; stabilizes the voltage to keep running the engine smoothly.
On the other hand, an alternator is a very efficient machine that not only produces electricity to run the engine but also recharges the battery while the car is running. A belt-and-pulley system is used to convert chemical energy to electrical energy and also to convert mechanical energy.
While the alternator supplies electricity to the engine to continue functioning, it also converts the mechanical energy to electrical energy and sends the energy to the battery storage. This is how your car’s battery gets recharged and does not become down very early.
Differences Between Battery and Alternator | Battery Vs Alternator
Battery and alternator, both of these are very crucial components of a car to start and continue to run smoothly. The main task of these machines is to produce, convert and store energy to start the engine and run the car properly. However, there are many differences between these two effective machines in some contexts.
The construction of a car battery is a wet cell battery that is made with multiple cells (6 cells) and the main elements of the battery are lead metal as cathode and sulfuric acid liquid as an electrolyte in every cell. Modern car batteries are maintenance-free which means this battery does not need any water during its active lifespan. But some batteries are intolerant in deep discharge and the batteries with AGM can handle deep discharge.
On the other hand, an alternator is a type of generator, so it is made according to the design of a generator. The mechanism of an alternator is to convert chemical energy to electrical energy and also mechanical energy to run all the systems in the car. It also recharges the battery with chemical energy.
There are myths about the failures of batteries and alternators among the people that only the manufacturing defects are responsible for the failure of their battery. But this is not the only and actual reason.
Driving duration of your car can put a great impact on the health of your battery. If you are living in densely populated areas where traffic occurs very frequently can contribute to sulfation. Short length driving can occur more sulfation which is an obstacle to recharging the battery fully.
Faulty or old alternator can be the culprit to put you in an unwanted situation. Though its working procedure is just like a generator that converts chemical energy to electrical and mechanical energy and also stores the energy in the battery, 10+ years old alternator may not be able to recharge your battery while driving.
Low Temperature of the weather is another possible reason that can put your battery efficiency down on a great scale. Freezing temperature can lessen your battery’s efficiency up to 60%, so be aware of having a higher ranked CCA(Cold Cranking Amps) to ensure better performance.
Mistakenly putting the lights on or any other electrical component running without the engine running can put the battery drained.
“Oh c’mon.. Not now..!!” or “Wish I detected the flaw earlier..!!” all of us have gone through the situation. Well, this regret or disturbance can be erased if you get to know the following symptoms of the car battery.
- Delayed Engine Start: If you notice that your engine is struggling to crank or taking extra time to crank, then you need to think about the health of your battery. Better to check the condition of the battery.
- Weaker Engine Light: Weaker or dim engine light may appear if the battery is not efficient enough. This means your battery can not supply enough energy to the engine as well as other parts of the car.
- Unpleasant Odor From Battery: The sulfur odor is very pungent or like a rotten egg which you may smell if your battery has any leakage. This might cause corrosion in the posts that result in battery failure.
- Battery Corrosion: Battery corrosion is normal around the positive and negative terminals of the battery. Though corrosion helps to increase the charging ability of the battery you should keep it checked regularly because sometimes it can cause damage to the battery.
- Swelled/Bloating Battery: Due to excessive heat production from the battery can cause swelled. It will be looking like the battery need a strict diet..!! Jokes apart.. It’s time to change your battery if you notice something like that.
- Old Is Not Always Gold: Average lifespan of a battery is 3 to 6 years but if it is used with proper guidelines you can get more time to use your old battery but at a time you just need to replace the old one with a new one. Yes, the age of the battery might put you in hassle at any time.
The very first and simple way to check the alternator of your battery is to start the car and then disconnect the positive terminal of the battery. If you found your engine still working, then the alternator is fine otherwise its condition is not up to the mark.
However, if your car starts after the first attempt but after a few seconds the engine stops functioning, the problem is in the alternator, not in the battery. Sometimes you can get a burning smell from the friction from the belt.
Modern cars have a particular indicator that signals while something is not good in the alternator. The light on the dashboard becomes dim gradually indicates that the alternator is not in good condition.
A battery can run a car without the backup of the alternator for a few minutes to hours. It depends on the stored energy in the battery, the age of the battery and electrical functions available in the car, etc. The battery can not back up for a long time because of too many electrical functions, for example, headlights, dashboard light, indicators, and so on.
In the case of modern cars, it is more difficult for the battery to run all the systems without an alternator which may lead the battery energy to run out faster.
- Is it Ok to use a bad alternator with a new battery?
No, it is not a good idea to start your car with a bad alternator, because the alternator will not be able to recharge the battery fully and your new battery can be damaged very quickly.
- Can I jumpstart a car with a bad alternator?
Yes, a car can be jumpstarted with a bad alternator and the car will run perfectly for some time. But your battery will be drained because there will be no recharge option for the battery.
- What does a bad alternator sound like?
It depends on which part of the alternator is having errors. Whining noise is quite common in a faulty alternator. You can also hear Grinding or Squeaking type noise coming from the engine compartment.
- How does a weak battery affect a car?
A weak battery will struggle to start your car’s engine but once it is started, now the duty on the alternator to keep the car running. So, it will not affect too much except cranking the engine at first.
To run a car properly, the battery and the alternator, both of the machines have a great contribution. You can say these are complementary to each other. Working procedures are different from each other but any faults in the battery or alternator will affect the engine highly. Therefore it is very important to know the symptoms and differences between Battery vs Alternator.