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How Long Does an Alternator Last?

Discussion Topic: how long does an alternator last, have a look at our details to get information.

“I am collecting data on alternator failure for the 2011 Fusion with the 2.5L engine. Currently, the vehicle has reached 180k miles with its factory alternator, and I am considering performing preventative maintenance. So far, I have not encountered any electrical issues during the 100k miles that I have owned it. However, I have a suspicion that the alternator might be overdue for replacement, even though there are no obvious signs of failure.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could share your experiences regarding alternator replacement frequency for these cars. In my previous encounters with older Japanese vehicles, it has been rare for an alternator to last beyond 180k miles. Thank you in advance for your input.”

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How Long Does an Alternator Last?

The average lifespan of alternators typically ranges between 80,000 and 150,000 miles, equivalent to about seven years. Several factors play a role in determining the longevity of your alternator on the roads of Blasdell.

Factors that influence alternator lifespan:

  • Quality of the alternator
  • Driving conditions
  • Power drain on the alternator

As for the cost of replacing an alternator, it varies depending on the vehicle model. Due to this variability, we are unable to provide an exact cost for alternator replacement. However, our team is more than happy to assist you by providing an estimate for your specific vehicle.

How is an Alternator Made?

The design of an alternator has remained consistent for decades, regardless of the car make and model. It consists of an aluminum case that houses all the critical components. The choice of aluminum material is intentional as it does not magnetize, ensuring the alternator functions without interference.

The assembly features a front-mounted alternator pulley. Cars with a V-belt utilize a single deep groove in the pulley, while those with a serpentine belt have a flatter surface with multiple shallower grooves.

Within the case, the stator consists of three windings made of copper wires. It is fixed to the inner surface of the case and delivers generated power to the battery.

Connected to the pulley by a shaft, the rotor is a magnetized rotating mass. It acts as an electromagnet, generating an alternating current electrical field in conjunction with the stator.

To meet the power requirements of your car’s devices, the rectifier converts the alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC).

Controlling the power flow from the windings to the conductor is the voltage regulator. Older vehicles, predating 1980, often had external voltage regulators mounted in the engine compartment. In modern alternators, the voltage regulator is internally located within the alternator itself.

Additional components such as bearings, wiring, brackets, and brushes ensure the alternator’s reliable performance over many years.

How Long Does an Alternator Last 1

Why an Alternator Can Fail

The alternator, designed for longevity and dependability, can often seem indestructible. However, this is not always the case, as certain internal parts can wear down or experience sudden failures. These issues can result in decreased electrical output or even complete malfunction.

A common problem in alternators is worn brushes, which reduce conductivity and lead to various alternator issues. Additionally, the alternator’s lifespan can be shortened by excessive energy demands from the battery and electrical system, causing it to charge at maximum capacity.

Failed or corroded sections of the rotor can also result in decreased output, necessitating a repair. Furthermore, a regulator issue can cause overproduction or underproduction of electrical energy. Corroded or broken electrical connections within the alternator can disrupt the flow of current.

It’s important to note that alternator failure doesn’t always imply a lack of charging. Bearing failures, caused by an overtightened belt or wear, can start as annoying noises but may eventually lead to misalignment of moving parts and catastrophic failure.

Signs of a Bad Alternator

When an alternator malfunctions, it exhibits various symptoms that can vary based on the cause of the failure. Some common signs of a bad alternator include:

Battery light: This light indicates a charging system fault, rather than a problem with the battery itself. It illuminates when the alternator output deviates from the normal operating range, either above 15 volts or below 12 volts.

Dim lights: Dimming of headlights and interior lights is a typical symptom caused by the insufficiency of the standard 12 volts of power.

Whining noise: A struggling alternator may emit a whining sound when it cannot meet the car’s power demands.

Burning smell: The slipping of the alternator belt on the pulley and overheating electrical connections can lead to a distinctive burning odor.

Engine stalling: Insufficient voltage to sustain critical systems can cause the engine to stall while driving.

Dead battery: A battery that fails to charge can often be attributed to an alternator that is incapable of generating power.

It’s important to note that some of these symptoms could also be a result of other issues. Therefore, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial to avoid unnecessary repair expenses.

Failing Alternator vs. Battery

To determine whether your vehicle’s battery or alternator needs replacement, here are a couple of methods:

Test the battery: Turn on the headlights without starting the car. If the headlights are dim, it’s an indication that you need a new battery.

Test the alternator: Start the car and observe the headlights. If the lights fade in and out, it’s a sign that your alternator needs to be replaced.

Additional method: If your vehicle requires a jump-start, disconnect the cables after jump-starting. If your vehicle dies immediately, it suggests that your alternator requires replacement.

How Much is an Alternator?

Alternators typically have a lifespan of 80,000 to 150,000 miles, equivalent to about seven years. However, factors such as driving habits and geographical conditions may contribute to premature wear. In the event of failure, purchasing a replacement alternator becomes necessary to maintain optimal performance on Hilton Head roads. Wondering about the cost? On average, a new alternator can range between $500 and $1,000, with the exact price depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

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How Do You Change an Alternator?

Replacing an alternator in a car can be a straightforward process that takes about an hour or so, provided that there are no obstructions in the way. To ensure safety, start by disconnecting the negative cable from the battery. Then, remove the serpentine or alternator belt, followed by disconnecting the wiring from the alternator itself, being careful not to damage any plastic connectors. After that, remove the fasteners securing the alternator to the engine.

Next, choose an exact replacement alternator based on the car’s year, make, model, and engine size. Install the new alternator, making sure everything is properly connected. Connect the battery cable, start the car, and test the alternator to ensure it is working correctly.

If you need assistance finding the right parts or trustworthy advice for your DIY job, don’t hesitate to reach out to an Brad’s Car Tunes associate. Additionally, if you prefer not to handle the alternator replacement yourself, you can explore our list of preferred shops in your area that can help you get the job done.

Timothy Ballard

I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.

1 thought on “How Long Does an Alternator Last?”

  1. How Long Does an Alternator Last? You may also be wondering about the lifespan of an alternator. Typically, most alternators have an average lifespan ranging from 80,000 to 150,000 miles or approximately seven years.


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