What's that part? - Alternator

What is an alternator?

Alternators are used in modern automobiles to charge the battery and to power the electrical system when its engine is running. It does this by turning mechanical energy into electrical energy with a pulley system. The first car to use an alternator was an unusual system fitted to the early Ford Model T.

The alternator has four main components: The Stator, Rotor, Diode and a Voltage Regulator. When the alternator belt or V-belt spins the pulley on the alternator, the rotor inside the alternator spins. The rotor is basically a magnet or group of magnets that spin inside a nest of copper wires. These wires are called the stator, and the magnets spinning within the stator creates electricity. The next step in the chain is a diode assembly that changes the electricity from AC to DC current that your battery can use. There is a final step in the chain, the voltage regulator. The voltage regulator is basically a gatekeeper that will shut off the flow of juice to your battery if the voltage goes above a certain level, usually 14.5 volts.

How often should they be replaced?

Because there are so many factors that can affect its life, it's hard to say exactly how long an alternator can actually last. It depends on the car, the engine, the conditions in which it's used, how much electrical equipment it's regularly operating and so on. Some cars may lose an alternator at 40,000 miles while others may continue to operate well after 100,000 miles.

How will I know when to replace my alternator?

When you put your key in the ignition and turn the key. Instead of the motor roaring to life, all you hear is a click-click sound. Nothing happens, no matter how many times you try to turn the key. This means your battery and perhaps your alternator has bit the dust and you will need to contact Barton Ford for a new one.

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