An alternator is a generator, an electrical generator that’s found in most electronic devices. It converts mechanical energy to electrical energy, this is done in the form of an alternating current.
It’s also a major component of the car’s charging system. It keeps the car’s battery charged always and also supplies the engine with electrical energy to power all the electronic devices in the car.
However, what happens when an alternator gets weakened? can a weak alternator cause poor engine performance?
A weak alternator can cause poor engine performance because the alternator generates electricity that powers the car’s electrical system and when it is not generating enough power, the engine performance is diminished.
What is a Weak Alternator?
The alternator converts the mechanical energy generated from the car to electrical energy which powers all of the electrical systems of the car.
When an alternator is weak, it cannot convert enough energy and so the electrical system of the car doesn’t have enough power to function normally which results in the poor performance of the car’s engine.
When your car’s alternator is bad or weak, you will start to notice a few signs that point to a weak alternator. The most obvious and first sign you’ll get is an inconsistent supply of electricity into the electronic devices in the car.
The headlights begin to dim and get brighter they’ll begin to flicker as the engine’s speed increases and decreases.
Another thing that might happen when your car’s alternator is weak is that, when you leave your car for a while or all night, you might end up with a dead battery.
This happens because the alternator, all through the time that the car was functioning would not charge the battery because it’s weak. Although a dead battery doesn’t necessarily mean that the alternator is faulty.
Can a Weak Alternator Cause Poor Engine Performance?
Yes, of course, a weak or bad alternator will cause the engine to perform poorly because all the electrical components of the car’s engine depend on the alternator for the supply of electricity.
A weak alternator would not supply enough electricity to the car’s ignition system which would result in the vehicle not starting up.
The engine’s computer and fuel system would also not function properly if the alternator is weak because all of these systems depend on the alternator for electrical supply to function and when they don’t function well, the car’s performance becomes poor.
When the output of electrical energy is reduced, these systems begin to malfunction which will result in the poor running of the engine.
What Other Problems Can a Weak Alternator Cause?
Other problems a weak alternator can cause to a car are:
1. Bearing Failure
In an alternator, there are several moving parts and they are very instrumental to the proper and optimum functioning of the alternator.
When the alternator becomes weak, you will begin to hear noises coming from inside the alternator which points to the fact that the bearings are failing already.
These noises if left unchecked, will lead to the failure of all the other parts of the alternator.
2. Battery Draining
An alternator supplies power to the electrical system of the car and also charged the battery as the car is being used.
When an alternator is weak, it can no longer charge the battery fully and keep it in that state. So as the alternator gets weaker, it cannot supply enough power to the electrical system so the car’s engine begins to draw power from the battery.
Drawing power directly from the battery will cause the battery to be drained completely of all the electrical charge in it because there’s no alternator to charge it.
3. Poor Functioning of the Electrical System
The Electrical system of the car is made up of the fuel system, the computers on the board, and the ignition system.
When the alternator is weak, the right amount of electrical energy is not being supplied to these systems and this would sometimes cause these systems not to function at all and would cause the engines to stall and function poorly.
4. Driving at Low Speed
When the alternator is working perfectly and it’s in a good condition, it will normally supply an output of up to 3.2 horsepower, when it’s not in a good condition the output is reduced.
When driving, you can drive at a high speed because the alternator is supplying the right amount of energy, so when it’s weak, you cannot drive at a high speed because the output horsepower has been reduced.
How to Prevent Your Alternator from Getting Weak.
To prevent your alternator from getting weak;
- Check the Belts Regularly: Sometimes when the alternator gets bad, it is caused by bad belts, loose belts, or missing belts. It’s quite easy to notice or detect a broken belt so you should do a belt check now and then. You’d check for cracks and excessive wear and any other sign that the belt is wearing out already.
- Keep Water Away from the Alternator: In the process of driving or when you’re trying to clean your car, don’t allow water to get into the alternator.
- Car owners and drivers should also avoid driving into or through water bodies that are deep enough to get into the alternator or splash into it.
- Check the Alternator Regularly: You should get your alternator checked regularly because the shaft bearings that allow the rotor in the alternator to spin can wear out sometimes. These worn-out shaft bearings usually cause noise that is heard when the alternator is getting weak or bad.
Risks of Driving with a Weak Alternator
The risks of driving with a weak alternator are:
Loss of Power Steering
For cars that are recent models or an old version that has an electrical power steering, driving with a weak or bad alternator can cause you to lose the car’s power steering.
Replacing the power steering is the only solution in this case and expenses such as this can be avoided by not driving the car when the alternator is weak until it is fixed or replaced.
When a car with a weak alternator is being driven, this can cause the engines to overheat and cause very serious damage to the engine. Rebuilding an engine is quite expensive so this should be avoided.
Water Pump Issues
When an alternator is weak as a result of loose, missing, or broken belts, this causes issues with some other parts of the car’s engine including the car’s water pump.
The water pump won’t work effectively once it already has issues as a result of broken or loose or missing belts.
The alternator is an important part as reiterated earlier and should be treated with care, signs that the alternator is getting bad should be taken seriously.
The car shouldn’t be driven once the alternator gets worse until it has been rectified by a qualified and professional mechanic.