October 30, 2012

batteries and alternators

Batteries and alternators are causing trouble again.

If your alternator stops charging, you have about 50 minutes of driving time left if your battery is in good shape.  If you know it stopped charging, turn off everything you possibly can and still safely drive. (Don't turn off the lights at night. : ))  As the battery runs down on power you will notice different things acting weird.  The A/C will stop working, the gauges on the dash will act funny, and finally, the radio will quit working.  About that time the engine will start to run poorly and eventually stop.  

If your dash board doesn't have a voltage gauge, but just a light, chances are that it will not come on if the alternator stops charging.  Those lights are made to come on if the alternator belt breaks, but for some reason they usually do not come on when the alternator stops charging.  Therefore, keep an eye on how the electrical accessories are operating.  Things that take more power(like the air conditioning system), will be affected first, then things like the radio(which take very little power), will start giving trouble.

If you have a voltage gauge.  Wonderful.  It makes understanding what is happening with your alternator much easier.  If the gauge slowly goes from the normal range to the red you need to have the alternator checked out.  If it stays in the normal range and fluctuates up or down depending on if you have the lights on or the air conditioner, that is ok.  It is operating normally.

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