What Impacts the Lifespan of Your Alternator (and What to Do About It)

Transit bus alternatorsNo matter what industry you’re in – commercial trucking & refrigeration, mining industry or even transit bus transportation – one thing is consistent:

Your vehicles work hard; usually for extended periods of time and under less than ideal weather or road conditions.

Compounding the stress your alternator experiences is that it’s exposed to the elements.

Besides everyday usage, there are other factors which can shorten the lifespan of your alternator.


The problem:

Alternators (as the source of maintaining the charge for your battery) are a component of your electrical system.

And like most electrical devices (such as, say, a laptop computer) heat is problematic. Here’s why:

  • Increased electrical resistance caused by heat means the alternator must work harder to produce the same workload
  • Additional strain is placed on vital electrical components, mechanical and/or moving parts and lubrication

As a stand-alone device, an alternator produces a tremendous amount of heat. Then, you’ll need to add the surrounding engine heat it’ll absorb.

During warm-up, your alternator will lose approximately 10% of its operating efficiency.

Think about it: By the time an alternator is ready to go; it can only function at 90%.

Lastly, the harder an alternator works, the more strain it places on other engine parts too; namely drive belts and bearings.

A solution:

Delco introduced a brushless style alternator (available at Elreg Distributors Ltd.) which can produce lower amounts of heat with:

  • Fewer moving parts means less friction, motion and resistance resulting in longer life
  • Brushless means contaminates that enter the alternator from the engine compartment cannot clog up brushes

Take a look at the advantage Delco Brushless Alternators can offer your fleet.

Improper sizing

The problem

Equipment and vehicle manufacturers supply alternators sized to the calculated electrical load requirements.

However, if electronics and electrical equipment is added, the load requirements change and can therefore make the original alternator inadequate.

What happens then?

An alternator that’s not big enough to meet electrical demand will be overloaded and made to work beyond its capability; ultimately resulting in its premature failure.

Something else to consider: If a vehicle’s full load prevents the alternator from keeping a full charge on the battery, then:

  • Battery life goes down. Even though the alternator is working harder to maintain the battery. It simply can’t keep up.
  • The electrical system in your vehicle will suffer potentially causing other systems to become inoperable.

A solution:

Contact Elreg Distributors to learn about upgrading your alternator to one with higher output.

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Common charging system problems

A lot of times the automatic assumption when a charging system is not functioning is that the alternator is faulty.

This is usually not the case.

Here are some common charging system problems that will prevent your vehicle/equipment from operating properly:

  • Batteries are not fully charged. Alternators are not “battery chargers”, they are meant to maintain batteries. Always ensure your batteries are in good condition before assuming the alternator is not functioning. Test your batteries independently of the charging system.
  • Poor connections can be caused by corrosion or dirt. Ensure all cable connections are clean and secure.
  • Poor cables can also cause excess resistance. Ensure your cables are not corroded internally or have any breaks or frayed wire.
  • Poor ground to chassis can also create excess resistance. Ensure your chassis ground (if applicable) is clean and rust free.

All of the connections and cables between the alternator and batteries create resistance that can prevent your batteries from being maintained with the proper charge.

A well maintained charging system will ensure that the resistance is minimized through proper cables, connections, and ground.

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