How Much Does An Alternator Cost?

Some of us have had the unfortunate experience of having our car break down in the middle of a busy road, not knowing what to do or how to get to safety. The feeling is scary.

It’s very difficult to determine which of your vehicle’s components is causing problems by simply looking at the outside. If you have noticed that your vehicle’s headlights are getting dim, it could be because of issues with either the alternator or your battery.

If the car alternator is not functioning, it could cause you to become distressed and discombobulated. We urge you not to procrastinate; replacing your car’s defective alternator is likely the most effective and economical option.

The question is, How much does an alternator cost? 

The price of a car alternator can vary depending on what car model you own. In some vehicle models, the average cost of an alternator runs around $180-200, whereas, in other premium vehicles, it may cost over $1,000 or more. 

On average, the price of a car alternator usually falls around $300 – even so, this isn’t always the case as there are vendors online who sell them for as low a price as $160 while others will charge more than $600.

Read on to know about how much an alternator cost and how to go about an alternator replacement.

It is good to note that this price range is not the same everywhere. Your specific situation may differ from the estimates you see here depending on where you live, taxes, the shop you visit, etc. Any other repairs done on your vehicle will impact your final cost.

Alternator Repair Cost

Most auto parts stores stock specific alternators for the various models of vehicles. Still, the parts can vary greatly in price from store to store because prices are affected by factors like popularity. 

The replacement cost of a typical alternator is roughly $500, but this may not be the case if you have a luxury vehicle as the alternator price can be as high as $1000 for luxury vehicle brands. Other low-end vehicles can have their alternators replaced for as low as $180, too, to give you an idea. 

Furthermore, An alternator repair cost can vary if an auto mechanic repairs it as opposed to doing the repairs yourself.

Also, an alternator can be expensive to replace if you go to a dealer to get the replacement parts.

 Get help from an automotive repair shop specializing in problems like these. They might be able to supply you with some cost-effective alternator replacement parts instead of bringing the car back to the dealer, who will have costly OEM parts.

After an alternator replacement or repair, it is important to consider the other parts of the vehicle’s charging system as they might have gone bad as well. 

As a result of a failing alternator, there will most likely be signs of corrosion on the battery terminals, too. The serpentine belt may also need replacing due to wear and tear, which all adds up to the costs associated with ensuring your car is working properly.

What Is An Alternator?

An alternator is an essential part of the charging system of a vehicle. It works in conjunction with the battery to ensure that your car’s engine can run as smoothly and precisely as required with no interruptions.

An alternator is important for keeping a vehicle’s battery charged. It ensures that the engine runs smoothly by providing the power needed for all the electrical systems to function in unison.

The battery in your vehicle supplies power; however, as you may have guessed, it cannot hold a significant amount of energy enough to power your vehicle for a long time. This is, therefore, why you need an alternator to keep the battery recharged.

What Does An Alternator Do?

In simple terms, an alternator is a device that transforms the mechanical energy produced by your vehicle’s internal combustion engine into electrical energy, which is used to power various electronic appliances in the vehicle. 

The spark plugs ignite a mixture of petrol and air that gets burnt within the cylinder, which then causes the pistons to move up and down.

The motion of the piston expels gas from the carburetor, so as fuel is introduced into the mixture, this forces each piston to come to a halt, thereby causing your vehicle’s engine to turn. 

That turning motion generated by your engine ultimately turns the alternator. And since it harnesses kinetic energy (due to continual movement), an alternator provides electricity while charging car batteries and powering various connected electrical components simultaneously, which all depend on electricity for their functioning.

How Does An Alternator Work?

The alternator is an important piece of equipment on a car. The alternator’s job is to produce power for the vehicle when it generates electricity from an attached belt or the serpentine belt. 

The alternating current (AC) produced by the alternator goes through a voltage regulator and a rectifier that acts together to ensure that the generated power stays at an appropriate amperage while in use.

Alternators convert direct current from the engine belt into alternating current. The rectifier diodes inside an alternator change this alternating current into a direct current which is then used by the car’s electrical system.

How Long Does an Alternator Last?

Alternators typically last for eight to ten years, or between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. However, wearing out an alternator prematurely is something you should avoid.

Some common causes of premature alternator failure include poor quality (cheap materials are often used for the rotor), drain on power by other electronic devices in your vehicle, and extremes in driving conditions—low or high temperatures along with rapid acceleration/deceleration cycles will quickly use up a battery’s charge and can lead to alternator failure.

As a result, you may not notice any symptoms of a failing alternator until your battery is dead or nearly dead. If the battery does die, there will be no power to start your vehicle —and it won’t start until you have a battery installed.

If the alternator is failing, however, there are some symptoms you can watch for to know when it’s time to have your alternator checked by a mechanic.

Also Read: Spark Plug Replacement Cost

What are the Common Bad Alternator Symptoms?

Here are the most common signs of a bad alternator

1. Noises from the Engine Bay

As the alternator spins, its bearings allow the attached components to rotate. In some instances, if the bearing does not properly fit or becomes worn down (or if another part is damaged), it could cause odd sounds to occur.

A seized rotor causes the vehicle to make a loud, grinding sound. Pay special attention to the sounds your car makes; it will alert you of any potential areas of concern and what’s going on within your vehicle as it happens so your mechanic can address and fix them accordingly.

2. Car Won’t Start

A bad alternator can cause a car battery to be drained as it does not recharge it. This will lead to a vehicle not being able to start.

It is not a typical symptom as there are a lot of different possibilities that can cause a car not to start. It could be related to the alternator or battery or any other problems such as a bad spark plug or a bad starter, to name a few.

3. The Electrical Systems Wont Work

The car’s engine relies on the alternator to generate enough voltage required for all the other electrical components to function, such as Bluetooth, stereo system and navigation, touchscreen entertainment consoles, heated seats, and mirrors.

If you notice that any of these electrical components in your vehicle is not functioning properly, the culprit could be the alternator.

A bad alternator can cause Low power voltages in your vehicle while driving and prevent sufficient power from being sent to other parts of the vehicle.

4. Warning Lights on the Dashboard

Due to the absence of power in your car, it is possible to see warning lights appear in the vehicle’s dashboard. These may include the “battery light,” “check engine,” and “ALT” indicators, among others.

This is a sign that your alternator mighty be faulty and needs immediate replacement

5. Burning Smell

In the most severe cases, the friction of certain parts inside a worn-out alternator or problems with the electrical system may lead to a smoky smell. It is best to take a break and inspect what’s going on under the hood of your car.

6. Stalling Engine

In the case of newer vehicles, a bad alternator that cant produce energy for the car can pose other serious issues. Your car may even stop completely while you’re driving because modern fuel injectors require energy to function effectively.

This is something to keep in mind if your engine has been bothering you recently.

The correct quantity of petrol needs to go through the combustion chamber at the right time to enable the engine to operate without any problems.

Any problems with this could cause combustion process breakdowns and prevent your vehicle from running as smoothly as possible.

Also Read: Timing Chain Replacement Cost

How To Test An Alternator

How To Test An Alternator
Credits: Tricky_Shark / Shutterstock

The following steps address how to test an alternator with a multimeter

  1. Get a multimeter.
  2. Make sure your multimeter is set in DCV (DC Volts) at or above 15.
  3. Check that your alternator’s terminals for positive and negative are in good condition.
  4. Attach the multimeter’s black cable on the negative terminal and the red one on the positive terminal.
  5. Find an alternator with a reading of about 12.6.
  6. Begin driving and check for reading somewhere between 14.2 and 14.7.
  7. A reading higher than 14.7 indicates that the battery is charging too much, while a reading below 14.2 means that the alternator is not charging the battery enough.
  8. Switch the radio, lights and fog lights, the fans, and other electronic devices on, making sure that the voltage reading isn’t lower than 13.
  9. After you have shut off your car, ensure your car’s reading is higher than 12.6.

If one of these readings is wrong, your alternator has a problem, and you should take your car to an auto shop for repair.

How To Replace An Alternator (Step by Step)

Follow the steps below for an Alternator Replacement

  1. Park your vehicle and pop the hood.
  2. Unplug the battery’s negative cable.
  3. Unlock the tension belt.
  4. Take off your serpentine belt.
  5. Take off the wiring harness and connectors.
  6. Remove the alternator and loosen it.
  7. Install the brand new alternator and make sure it aligns with the bolt holes.
  8. Replace your serpentine belt.
  9. Check that the belt’s tension is set correctly.
  10. Make sure the negative battery cable is connected.
  11. Use a multimeter to measure the alternator’s performance.

How To Repair An Alternator?

alternator repair
Credits: kanemme6 / Shutterstock

There are many good reasons why you might consider looking for help regarding an alternator replacement. For one, it is not something that anyone should attempt without the proper experience or knowledge.

For you to ensure your vehicle will run properly again, you have to have confidence in your skills as a mechanic before you can attempt to replace your alternator yourself.

In addition to the necessary replacement parts, you’ll need patience as well to be able to repair the alternator.

The first step involves taking the alternator out of your vehicle. This process is detailed in the previous section.

Next, you’ll need to have the plastic cover taken off so you can see any issues present with your alternator’s internal bearing. Inspect the bearing for signs of damage.

Depending on your model, this could be either a rubber or a magnetic one. It needs to move freely but not spin out of control when it’s operating; otherwise, you should consider replacing it with a new magnetic one that is easier to install or buy another new one altogether.

Next, take the resistors off to get access to and remove the rectifier. You need to disconnect the previously soldered wires before undoing the screws to remove the mounting of this part.

Then you may replace it with its replacement – by soldering up the wires for them to be reconnected once more.

Next, It is essential to wash the armature shaft before changing the brushes because otherwise, you will not be able to get them secured back into the correct positions.

First, ensure that you are replacing the springs properly and then place them back in the right spots to ensure a proper fit. After that, you just need to upgrade the voltage regulator. 

Congratulations! Being able to fix your car’s alternator is a huge relief, isn’t it? There are only a few steps left, and you’re almost done.

First, reassemble the alternator and put it back into its place. Then connect the alternator belts, and make sure it spins again to verify that everything has been repaired successfully.

Watch this video to help you repair your alternator

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does An Alternator Cost?

How much does an alternator cost depends on the type of vehicle. In some models, they can run as low as $180 and for premium vehicles, they can run over $1,000. The average cost is approximately $500.

Is It Worth Replacing An Alternator?

While alternators can last for more 100 000 miles or more, their inner components rotate while the engine is running and they become worn with time. There is a good possibility that at some point during your vehicle’s life cycle, your alternator will need to be replaced.

Can I drive with a bad alternator?

In the event that your alternator is failing or has become damaged, it is likely that the vehicle is able to drive for only a brief distance and for a shorter duration which allows you to drive to a repair shop or an automotive parts store to get an alternator replacement.

How Much Should It Cost To Replace An Alternator?

If your vehicle is experiencing electrical issues, it’s an indication that you require the replacement of your alternator. When you consider the cost of the new alternator and the labor involved, it is recommended to pay between $180 and $1000 for a brand new alternator replacement for your vehicle.

Can You Jump A Car With A Bad Alternator?

Although jump-starting a car with an alternator that is damaged is technically feasible, If you jump a car with a bad alternator, do not keep jumper cables attached to vehicles for any longer than you need to since it could cause the destruction of sensitive electronics.

Can A Bad Alternator Destroy A New Battery?

Yes, a bad alternator can destroy a new battery. An inefficient alternator could overcharge and damage the battery. A charging alternator that is not fully charged will make the battery empty, which speeds the process of failure.

What Causes An Alternator To Fail?

Alternators are made up of a variety of moving components, and when they wear out and are exposed to high temperatures, the internal components could wear out, which can cause the alternator’s condition to become worse. A very frequent problem that you’ll encounter when using an alternator is a malfunction in the bearings.

Do You Have To Replace The Battery When Replacing The Alternator?

It’s not required to replace the battery when replacing an alternator, but it’s common for a battery that is old to fail when an alternator ceases to function.

What Can Damage An Alternator?

Driving in a car in waters in a depth that’s deep enough to flood the alternator may harm the bearings on the shaft of the alternator as well as the brushes and electronic components inside the unit too. Water may also cause corrosion, which in time can damage the bearings and wiring within the alternator.

How Far Can I Drive Without An Alternator?

If the alternator’s output was low for a lengthy period of time before failing, it is possible that the vehicle will not be able to travel far. If you own an energized battery with a high capacity that is fully charged, you can travel up to 100 miles at the very least during daylight hours, with the battery by itself.

Conclusion – How Much Does An Alternator Cost?

If you need to replace your alternator, you will want to know how much it will cost. This will help you plan out how you will pay for the replacement.

If you need to replace your alternator, it is important to have a professional mechanic do the work to ensure that the work is completed correctly.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

Leave a Comment