It’s easy to blame your battery when your car doesn’t start. But it might really be a problem with your alternator or starter. IThe Madison auto repair technicians at one of Auto Care's seven NAPA service centers can help you with that.
You were headed to Vilas Park this morning. Or, at least you were, until your car refused to start. Not only is that frustrating in general, it seems as if you bought a battery not too long ago. You don’t understand why it’s failing now.
It might not be your battery. Although your battery generally gets the blame – and it usually is the problem – when your car refuses to start, there might be a difficulty with the alternator, the starter, or with some combination of the three.
Nationwide.com insurance offers these symptoms to help you tell the difference between a dead battery and a failing alternator:
“Are the dashboard lights dim? First, check the dashboard battery gauge. The battery should be giving a charge, even while the vehicle is off. If the dashboard lights are dim, something is likely wrong with your battery. Try turning on your windshield wipers, lights or automatic windows. Then make sure these are all turned off and once again try to start the car.
“Check for battery corrosion. If it still won’t start, use a rag to carefully wipe away any corrosion on the battery and have someone jump-start it. After running the motor for a while, turn the car off. If you can’t get it to restart, this is a sign the alternator is doing its job of keeping the battery working while the motor is running, but the battery isn’t retaining the charge when the alternator has stopped.
“The car battery could be old. As batteries age, they become less able to retain a charge because the metal inside corrodes. On average, car batteries last between two and five years. Eventually, the level of battery charge diminishes to the point where, no matter how much power the alternator gives to it, the battery can’t hold enough power to start the car. …
“If the above steps reveal that the battery is working, it’s time to take a closer look at the alternator. There are certain bad alternator symptoms to look for, find out how to tell if your alternator is bad:
“Dim interior lights. While running the car, note the brightness of the interior lights. If the dashboard gradually dims, the alternator is likely at fault.
“Dim or overly bright headlights. Do you notice your headlights running brighter as you accelerate and dimming as you stop? This is often caused by the alternator not keeping the battery adequately charged.
“Growling noises. Did you hear a growling sound before the trouble started? That sometimes occurs before an alternator fails.
“Smell of burning rubber or hot wire. Are there signs your alternator is overheating, such as the smell of burning rubber or hot wires? If so, it’s time to replace it.”
Itstillruns.com offers these ways to tell if your starter is bad:
Try to start the car, and pay attention to the lights in your instrument panel and interior. Are they dim?
“Listen for a chugging sound while cranking. While a certain amount of chug is normal, particularly at low cranking speed, a chug accompanied by dimming and brightening lights may indicate a mechanical failure in the motor’s bearings. If this is the case, you may be able to get by for a while by hitting your starter with a hammer from underneath in order to break the starter shaft loose. But, probably not.
“Listen for the solenoid click. Starter solenoids typically let off a very noticeable click when they engage; this is the sound of the gear drive engaging and the electrical contact closing. If you hear a click, you can all but rule out the solenoid as a mode of failure. A series of rapid clicks indicates a solenoid rapidly engaging and disengaging. Most of the time, this indicates a lack of power from the battery, but it can indicate a problem with the solenoid.
“Listen for grinding and freewheeling. A grinding noise indicates that the starter’s drive gear isn’t disengaging from the flywheel’s gear teeth, or isn’t engaging the flywheel completely.”
Admittedly, some of the symptoms named above could fit whether it’s your battery, alternator, or starter. The easiest thing for you to do is to call for help from the trusted Madison auto repair experts at one of Madison Auto Care's seven conveniently located NAPA service centers - Clausen Auto, Handel Auto, Genin’s Auto, Capitol Tire, Odana Tire, Hansen’s Auto, or Aeschbach Auto.
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