How a Problematic Alternator Can Affect Your Industrial Vehicle’s Performance

Truck on driving on highway - How a Problematic Alternator Can Affect Your Industrial Vehicle’s Performance

You’re cruising down the highway, trying to make good time on your arrival to deliver the promised products to a business owner. It’s getting late, and you’re only about 50 clicks from the destination when you notice your company’s truck headlights dim and a burning smell wafts through the compartment. The cause can typically be found within one of two items: a problematic alternator or the battery.

Which one is it?

Diagnosing which component is responsible—alternator or battery—is relatively easy.

  • Jump-start your vehicle and remove the cables as soon as possible.
    • If the vehicle dies shortly after this is performed, the problem lies with the alternator.  If the vehicle continues to run, it is most likely the result of a dead battery.

Alternator: Know Your Role

Though an alternator contains few parts, it plays a vital role in the function and operation of your company’s industrial vehicles. Here’s why: the alternator’s function is to turn mechanical energy into electricity. This electricity is used to power seemingly basic accessory functions, like the radio or headlights, to more obvious ones, like charging the battery to ensure you can make those deliveries.

Faulty Parts

Alternators typically tend to be one of the first electrical vehicle components to go, and when they go, it’s the battery that starts working overtime. Let’s take a look at some common problems of poor quality/on-the-fritz alternators.

  • Faulty wiring
  • Battery may not be charging properly
  • Check for a blown fuse and/or the alternator warning light (it may be burnt out).
  • Inspect the cable that connects the battery to the alternator, as it could be loose, or damaged.  This can prevent electricity produced from the alternator to effectively reach the battery.
    • Note: if faulty wiring is not found to be the cause, it could simply be a poor quality alternator.
  • Ineffective battery:
    • The battery could simply be of bad quality
    • A perfectly functioning alternator cannot facilitate a charge to a bad battery.  In many cases, bad batteries tend to overload a good alternator with unnecessary surcharges (i.e. the battery is faulty or dead, making the alternator work even harder to relay electricity, depleting its energy sources).
  • Poor rectifiers (also known as diodes):
    • May simply be bad, or non-functioning
    • Can easily be replaced and can be checked with an ohmmeter to ensure it is functioning properly (i.e. converting AC current to DC current).
  • Brushes:
  • Dirty, worn out, or damaged
  • Typically an easy fix as the brushes can either be cleaned or replaced, depending on the extent of damage.
  • Bearings:
    • Can break down with dirt and heat
  • Worn out belts:
    • The alternator belt is loose or appears worn out
    • Is easy to identify and replace

Alternator Testing and Replacement

When you’re unsure about the energy being supplied to specific parts, like the headlights, radio, or power windows, it’s a good idea to test the alternator’s efficiency. At Elreg, we can help you with any industrial vehicle needs to keep you safely on the road. From diagnosing a problematic alternator to finding you quality, reliable part replacements, we are committed to helping you stay on the job and deliver on time. Contact us today!