Battery or Alternator? Knowing the Signs of Failure for Each

You settle in behind the wheel and turn the ignition key. Instead of the engine firing up, you hear that dreaded ticking noise. Are you stuck with a dead car battery or something worse? Our Waite Park, MN auto pros can help you troubleshoot this aggravating automotive headache.

Why Won’t the Car Start?

Your car’s battery doesn’t keep the engine running all by itself. It depends on the alternator for charging through a continuous cycle that generates and delivers electricity. When the engine won’t turn over, you can usually blame one of the starting system components.

Jump-start the battery and remove the cables. If the engine still runs, you have a battery problem. You might be able to recharge it, but it may need replacing. If the engine dies after removing the jumper cables, you’re looking at a different component failure.

What Are the Signs of a Bad Battery?

  • An engine that won’t start is an obvious sign, but there are other clues to battery problems.
  • It takes several tries to start the engine.
  • The dashboard battery gauge indicates a low charge.
  • Dashboard lights are dimmer than normal.
  • Lights intermittently lose their brightness as you drive.

Could It Be the Alternator?

If jump-starting the battery doesn’t keep the engine running, you probably have an alternator problem. Before it fails, you might notice these trouble signs.

  • Headlights shine brighter when you accelerate and dim when you slow down.
  • Power windows and seats operate more slowly than normal.
  • Growling engine sounds get louder when you turn on the heater.

Should You Take the Car to Your Mechanic?

If you think the problem is a drained car battery, try charging it overnight, but make arrangements for a ride the next day just in case. If you suspect it’s another component failure, don’t risk getting stranded on the road. A professional auto technician quickly diagnoses and solves chronic start-up problems. From measuring battery voltage and cold cranking amps to checking generator diodes and output, your mechanic can pinpoint the trouble and recommend the best solution.

We’re Here to Help You Get Started

Whether you need a new battery or an engine overhaul, we’re here for you. Just stop by our Waite Park, MN service center or any of our other Kennedy Transmission locations across the state. You can always count on our auto service pros to help you get started.

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