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Car Maintenance Basics: Alternators and Starters


Nobody thinks about what makes their vehicle tick when they get in and turn the key or push the button. There’s a lot going on under the hood and everything has to work together in order for you to get the kids to soccer practice on time. Let’s take a closer look at two of those critical components: The alternator and the starter.

All About The Alternator

You may think that the majority of your car’s electrical power comes from the battery. But it’s actually the alternator. Its job is to take vehicle’s mechanical energy and turn it into electrical energy. This supplies the power for your engine fan, headlights, ignition coils, the air conditioning, the radio, and some parts of the fuel injection system. It’s important that you have your trusted mechanic check your alternator regularly because it can fail without you knowing it because the battery will take over for a bit.

Understanding The Starter

The starter uses the opposite kind of energy as the alternator. It turns the electrical energy of the car into mechanical energy. The energy comes from the battery and makes the crankshaft turn, which is how your car begins to move. Unlike the alternator, your starter will give you some warning signs when it’s going bad. You may notice:

  • Grinding. When your starter isn’t engaging properly, you could hear a sound like the one your car makes when you accidentally try to start your car when it’s already been started.
  • Freewheeling. You’ll hear a whining noise when you attempt to turn the engine on, but the engine won’t actually turn over.
  • Smoke. This scary signal means too much power is being pulled through the electrical supply to your starter. You might also detect a burning smell.
  • Oil. If your mechanic notices that your starter is soaked with oil, it’s a definite sign that it’s life is short.

Maintenance = Prevention

In many cases, regular maintenance by an auto technician can prevent a nasty surprise. It’s much better to have an issue with your alternator or starter fixed before you break down on the side of the highway. The professionals at Conrad’s have the skill and expertise to monitor your alternator and starter and help you determine when they need a repair or require replacement. Give us a call today and let us give your power-supplying vehicle components a look.

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