Dying Battery or Failing Alternator? How to Tell the Difference.

You may notice your vehicle is having a hard time starting up. Maybe it won't fire up at all, or it takes a really long time to warm up on a cold morning. Perhaps you are experiencing other electrical issues like dimming lights or problems with the car's electronics (stereo, A/C, windows, locks, etc.). 

These could be signs of any number of electrical issues. You may simply have a loose wiring connection, corroded port or damaged wire. In most cases, these problems can be traced back to either the car battery or alternator, which is what keeps the battery charged when you run the engine. How can tell if you have a dying battery or a failing alternator? Below are a few distinctive symptoms you can look for, but you will probably also want to have your vehicle inspected and tested by an automotive repair expert to determine the true source and extent of the problem.

Signs of a Dying Car Battery

A weak battery will generally make it feel like cranking the engine is a sluggish when you try to start the car. You may also notice there aren't certain sounds or lights when you turn the car on, which is often the result of a battery that is too low on its charge. In addition, these symptoms could happen because of a corroded connection or loose/damaged wire. 

You can check the battery and see if one or both of the terminals is highly corroded. This is a clear sign of battery damage. You may also try jump-starting the vehicle if you are having trouble getting it started. If that works temporarily and you encounter the same starting problems again later, then you are likely dealing with a dying battery that will need to be replaced.

Signs of a Failing Alternator

Many of the symptoms will be the same for a failing alternator. You may be having a hard time getting the engine started up, or it may not turn on at all. One sign of a bad alternator is when you are driving and the electrical power slowly fades. This means the alternator isn't doing its job to keep the battery charged. You might also notice a squealing sound coming from your engine, which could be the alternator bearings struggling. Power drainage with your lights or stereo system when driving is another sign of a failing alternator.

If the vehicle isn't starting up, but all the electronics seem fine, you could have a problem with your starter, spark plugs or within the engine itself. 

Battery Warning Light

Lastly, you may see the battery light come on and this means the vehicle isn't getting enough electrical power. However, this could be a battery that needs to be replaced, an alternator issue or something else. With any signs of power loss, you should get your vehicle checked out soon in order to have the problem identified and repaired before it leads to further problems.

If you are in the Northern Delaware area, call Fox Run Auto at (302) 597-9205 for all your auto repair needs. You can also schedule an appointment online.


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