There is no fun in being stuck by the side of the road, and the alternator is one of those small components that can get you into such a mess. Well small as it may be, the alternator plays a very crucial role in your car. The common misconception is that the electrical components in your car rely on the battery for them to function. This is not the case. Your battery just provides the power needed to jump-start the starter motor and get the engine running. After that, the alternator takes over and runs all the electrics while charging the battery at the same time. For more insight on your alternator's efficiency, here are some few tests that will help you know how healthy it is:
The Voltmeter Test
Just like most of the other components on your car, the alternator also needs attention and regular check-up to see that it is running efficiently. The simplest test you can carry out requires a voltmeter, which will help you measure the voltage output of the alternator. Just follow these few steps.
Turn the engine on and switch off all electrical components of the car such as the audio-visual system, headlights and indicators.
Examine the tachometer on the dashboard and make sure the engine is at an ultimate idle. The tachometer is one of the gauges on your dashboard and it shows the engine's performance in terms of revolutions per minute (rpm).
Connect the voltmeter to the terminals of the battery and check out the voltage. It should read about fourteen volts. Now turn on the headlights and other devices, and then check the reading. It should drop down to around twelve volts. If the voltage goes anything below twelve, then the alternator needs some assessment.
The Battery and Alternator Test
There is a very thin line between your alternator and the battery. The connection is close to an extent where you can get a new alternator, yet it's the battery that requires a makeover. This test will come in handy when you cannot switch on the car normally because of power problems. Jump start the engine and take off the jumper cables immediately. If the car continues to run, then it means that the alternator is okay and you have to recharge or replace the battery. However, if the car dies shortly after taking off the jumper cables, then your alternator is the culprit. It does not have the stamina to keep things going after taking off your alternative source of power. Call in your mechanic and have your car serviced immediately; otherwise, you risk damaging your battery with time.