Battery, Charging, and Starting Systems Services
The battery, charging, and starting system in your vehicle plays a pivotal role in ensuring your car or truck starts when you turn your key and runs properly while you’re out on the open road. Thankfully—regardless if you have a dead battery or a malfunctioning alternator—our certified technicians at Kennedy Transmission can fix it!
One of the many components to your charging and starting system could be the culprit, including your:
- Battery cables and terminals
- Relays and fuses
- Drive belts
When you bring your vehicle to Kennedy, our staff offers quick, hassle-free testing on each component of your charging and starting system to find out exactly where the problem lies, diagnosing your ride and repairing it as quickly as possible.
In order to understand why your vehicle’s battery, charging, and starting system isn’t working, we’ve broken down each element to showcase their dependent relationships with one another.
How Your Charging and Starting System Operates
The Battery Powers Your Vehicle
Your vehicle’s battery stores chemical energy that is converted to electrical energy, providing enough force to get your engine up and running. The battery is supported by the starter and maintains its charge through your alternator while your vehicle is on, which is why these systems are grouped together. Indicator lights on your dashboard may warn you when the battery level is getting low. It may just need to be charged for a short period of time, or it may need to be replaced.
Here are some more signs that it may be time to get a new battery (Note: these may indicate issues other than your battery):
- It’s been 2-3 years since you last replaced your battery
- Your engine is turning over, but the car isn’t starting
- Your car starts one day, but not the next
- Your engine isn’t turning over, and your lights and radio aren’t working
- It takes a lot to get your engine started the first time
- You must jump your battery to get your car started
Pro Tip: If you’re having battery troubles, pop the hood and make sure the black and red plastic terminal covers are not hiding corrosion. If you see a significant amount of white or blue build-up, scrub off the corrosion with some baking soda and a wire brush. Follow up by wiping it away with a clean, dry rag.
Battery Cables and Terminals Transmit Energy
The cables connected to the terminals of your battery transmit energy to your engine. The ends of your battery cables—including the positive and negative ends—are connected to the matching terminals on the top of your battery. The opposite end of your positive cable is typically connected to the starter or the fuse box, while the opposite end of your negative cable is connected to the engine or attached on your vehicle’s frame.
From loose connections to corrosion, your battery cables could be the root cause of your starting issues. Inspect both ends of your cables from time to time. If you find loose connections, make sure to tighten them. If you spot corrosion, grab your wire brush and baking soda again and scrub it off.
Relays and Fuses Receive the Charge
When you turn your car on, the battery transmits an electrical current through its terminals and cables into the starter. Depending upon your make and model, your vehicle may have a starter fuse or fuse box that the current travels through before reaching the starter. To discover how this system is set up in your car or truck, it’s important to review your owner’s manual.
Relays and fuses in your starting system regulate the output of energy into your engine and electronics. Relays are switches that allow small currents to pass through to your vehicle’s accessories, reducing the amount of wiring required through larger contact areas. Fuses are the protectors of your vehicle’s wiring and electronics systems. If one part of your car draws too much energy, a fuse will field that surge, blow, and prevent energy from flowing—protecting that part from damage.
Pro Tip: Both relays and fuses can go bad or be blown, which would prevent electrical energy from making its way to crucial parts of your starting system. Locate your owner’s manual to discover where your starting system’s relays and fuses and check them regularly to see if they are operating properly. If you can’t find your relays or fuses, stop by Kennedy for a quick inspection.
The Starter Turns Your Engine
Once the charge reaches the starter through a fuse or fuse box, this electric motor begins to rotate, allowing a mixture of fuel and air to flow into your engine’s cylinders so the spark plugs can begin combustion. When you insert your key and turn the ignition, that’s the starter’s cue to pull a current from your battery and use that energy to get the cylinders in your engine moving.
Given the intricate nature of this system, there are a few signs of trouble that may be similar to a dead battery or malfunctioning alternator:
- The motor is slow to turn or doesn’t start at all
- You hear a whining noise instead of the engine trying to crank
- Smoke coming from under your hood when you attempt to turn on the car (and possibly while driving)
Pro Tip: When something is wrong with your vehicle’s starting system, you’re usually able to drive it to Kennedy yourself. However, if you see smoke coming from underneath your hood, you’ll need to tow your car to a repair shop. The smoke you’re seeing may be coming from a starter that is drawing too much power, and if you keep feeding it, you’re going to end up causing a lot more damage than the cost of a tow.
Drive Belts or Serpentine Belts Power the Alternator
While drive belts or serpentine belts power your steering pump, water pump, and air conditioner compressor, they also power the alternator. Once your engine is up and running, the rotation of the crankshaft will turn the belt pulley, which generates force for your alternator to function.
The Alternator Charges Your Battery
Your alternator produces an electrical current to keep your engine running. It’s also powerful enough to operate pretty much every electrical system in your car, including your radio and lights.
In order to start, the alternator needs a jolt that is offered up by the battery. After that, the alternator works constantly to provide electrical currents to your battery, spark plugs, engine cylinders, and more.
Because of the setup of this system, it may not be immediately clear that your alternator is to blame for problems. Some signs may include:
- Your lights are dimming, and your automatic windows are slow
- Your warning lights have come on (battery signal, ALT, or GEN)
- Your new battery is not keeping a charge
- Whining or grinding noises
- Electrical system problems
- Smell of burning rubber
Pro Tip: The belt in your car is what keeps the alternator turning. If the belt has slipped or come loose, you will experience poor alternator performance. Burning rubber is a notable sign that the belt has come loose. Pop the hood and take a small whiff. If you’re smelling the burnt rubber but the belt itself looks good, all you need is a quick tightening of your belt and you should be ready to go.
Repair Your Battery, Charging, and Starting System at Kennedy
The certified mechanics at Kennedy Transmission auto repair shops are expertly trained in the complete service and repair of car and truck batteries, charging, and starting systems. If you think you are having problems with any of the components of this complex system, bring your vehicle to one of our repair service centers and let us help. Find a shop near you today!