Starting Problems? Is it the Battery or the Alternator?

Every motorist dreads the moment they try to start their vehicle and hear either nothing or the sound of the starter motor turning over without the engine catching. Delayed starting, or failure to start, is often down to a fault in either the battery or the alternator. Here we cover what the battery and the alternator do, as well as signs that your engine problems could be down to one or the other.

The Function of the Battery and the Alternator

Simply put, the battery provides the electrical charge needed to instigate the ignition process, as well as power the vehicle's electrical systems when the engine is switched off. In contrast, the alternator converts mechanical energy into the electrical energy that's stored in the battery. It also generates the power that's needed to keep the vehicle's electrical systems running when you're on the move or the engine is idling.

Both are essential to ensure your vehicle starts and runs smoothly.

Signs That you Have a Faulty Battery

Some, or all, of the following symptoms, could indicate your battery needs to be replaced.

  • No sound when you turn the key to trigger ignition.
  • Slow or unreliable starting on colder days.
  • Dimming lights when the ignition is triggered.
  • Evidence of battery corrosion.

Signs That you Have a Faulty Alternator

In a similar way to a failing battery, an alternator failure means there's no sound when you try to start the vehicle. There may also be no lights or other operational electrical systems.

A failed alternator may cause your car to cut out whilst the engine is idling and then not start again.

Faulty alternators frequently trigger warning lights on your dash - if you notice one of these, prompt attention is required.

Note that if the problem is the battery, you'll be able to jump-start the car and complete your journey. If the alternator has failed, the car may start, but will only drive until the battery is drained - this is often no more than a few hundred yards.

Visit our friendly auto repair shop today to get your battery and alternator checked and replaced if necessary.

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