What Can Damage an Alternator?

What Can Damage an Alternator

Basically, the alternator plays an important role in vehicles by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy that keeps the battery charged so it can fire the car starter. Once the car starts, the alternator works continuously to keep the battery charged. If the alternator fails, the battery will eventually lose its charge and you will no longer be able to drive your car. But the question is, what can damage an alternator? let’s find out

What Can Damage an Alternator?

There are several issues that can ruin an alternator:

  • Using jumper cables wrong,
  • Overloading the charging system with too many accessories,
  • Leaking fluid, or
  • A tight belt that can damage bearings.
  • Weak Battery
  • Water Damage
  • Bad Or Incorrect Wiring Can Damage an Alternator
  • Reversing The Polarity of The Alternator Connections

Well let’s dive in to the possibility of what can damage an alternator and more.

What Can Damage an Alternator

Can Jump-Starting Ruin an Alternator?

Well, yes and no. When your car jumps over the dead car, the following will happen. Assuming you connected the cables correctly. As soon as you disconnect, your alternator will recognize the new load and want to deliver a full charge. But when you make the jump with your car idling, your alternator isn’t spinning fast enough to give it all it can. So, it heats up. And yes, you can end up blowing out your alternator by jumping on someone else’s car.

This came from the experience of many drivers who would jump start their cars and then let them run for the alternator to charge the battery. Modern alternators are not very good at this and many have a warning label on the packaging that says “This alternator is not a battery charger”.

The best way to charge the battery is to use a charger first or after errands turn off the car and plug in a regular charger. I carry a spare battery booster with me in winter just in case.

Can A Weak Battery Destroy An Alternator?

This is a very interesting question and the answer to this question is a big “NO”. A poor-quality battery, a weak battery, or an incorrectly sized battery cannot harm the alternator. An alternator is a special or very important thing in a vehicle. It is a dynamo or an electric generator.

A weak battery cannot affect the alternator, but a bad or weak alternator can damage the battery very quickly. A bad battery will also affect an alternator as it puts more stress and strain on the alternator during operation and sometimes destroys the alternator as well.

Having a bad battery put more pressure on the alternator does nothing to keep the vehicle healthy and operational. It is true that you must use a good quality battery as this will help keep the engine in good working condition.

Using a low battery or a smaller battery will result in a loss of performance. You will feel that the power supply to your motor is not good and you need to use an alternator. It is possible for a weak battery to require too much current from the alternator, which over time can lead to alternator failure due to overload.

Related Posts: Do You Have a Bad Car Battery or Alternator?

Can A Loose Belt Damage An Alternator?

The alternator belt is what transfers the mechanical energy to the alternator to create the electrical energy needed to maintain the correct system voltage to power the electrical systems in the vehicle.

If the belt is too loose, it will cause the alternator to slip, often making a squealing noise, which means the alternator won’t rotate enough to provide the correct charging voltage. This slipping can cause the alternator and the battery to work harder. which over time can lead to alternator failure due to overload.

If the belt is too tight, it will cause excessive side loads and overheat the bearings. This in turn causes noise, decreased output and even the seizing of the alternator.

Luckily, the alternator belt replacement cost is quite economical and will only cost you around $20 for the belt, along with about 30 minutes of labor.

Can Water Damage An Alternator?

Your alternator is very well protected from things like rain and driving through deep puddles but sitting in deep water has the potential to damage your alternator if it is not dried out quickly.

Submerging an alternator in water is not a good thing. It can allow rust to grow on the intricate parts inside of the alternator. If rust grows, then it could cause them to become misaligned and malfunction. As a result, it will not be able to charge your battery.

Luckily, alternators – especially modern ones – are designed to withstand an average amount of contact with water and won’t be damaged by water or moisture in normal conditions.

Can Bad or Incorrect Wiring Damage an Alternator?

There are lots of wires in the vehicle which deliver power to the alternator. If one of these wires were to become damaged or worn out, then it could cause the alternator to fail at its job and the battery to not get charged.

Any problems within the wires, cables or connections at either end can reduce or stop electricity from getting through. Occasionally, a symptom of this issue might be brighter lights, as the alternator produces more energy to overcome the resistance in a bad wire or a broken or loose connection.

This symptom is usually accompanied by the smell of hot wires, too. Higher resistance within a wire creates heat, similar to the way an electric burner on a stove heat up by resisting the flow of electricity.

Alternators use diodes to rectify alternating current produced by the alternator into direct current. When one or more diodes go bad or a stator winding fails, the alternator can cause all kinds of problems. AC voltage leak can cause your lights to dim and drain power from your battery, for example. Usually, you can detect this leak by measuring AC voltage at the alternator or you can visit our guide for How To Test an Alternator with a Multimiter?

Reversing The Polarity Of The Alternator Connections

Reverse polarity, at the battery, in a 12-volt electrical system on a car can cause a variety of effects including damaging the alternator, diodes and the numerous microprocessors on a vehicle such as those in the powertrain control module (PCM).

As far as other fuses, they are numerous not to mention fusible links, circuit breakers, and all of the individual electronic components themselves in many circuits that could have failed due to reverse polarity.

When you start noticing certain issues, it’s time for an alternator replacement. You can go to your local auto shop to get this work done. But you should be prepared for a hefty bill. Find out more about How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Alternator?

What happens when alternator goes bad?

A bad alternator will result in a discharged (dead) battery and cause a vehicle to not start or run. Alternators are designed to maintain a battery’s charge, not to recharge a dead battery. Your alternator’s job is to maintain a consistent charge on your battery. Draining your car’s battery is not advised.

There are a few signs that indicate the alternator is starting to fail:

  • Battery Warning Light on Dash or the “ALT” or “GEN” light illuminates on the instrument panel.
  • Dim or Overly Bright Lights.
  • Slow or Malfunctioning Accessories like power windows, power locks, air conditioning, radio, GPS, etc.
  • Trouble Starting or Frequent Stalling.
  • Growling or Whining Noises.
  • Smell of Burning Rubber or Wires.
  • The battery will lose its charge or Dead battery.

For more information, please read 7 Warning Sign of Bad Alternator. To avoid alternator damage, ensure your alternator belt is in good condition and ensure your wiring and connections are properly maintained.


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