Is Your Alternator Draining Your Battery?


Your car battery isn’t the powerhouse you might think. Many people think it’s the car battery that powers the electrical components while you’re driving. It’s actually the alternator that makes the electricity for your car. The battery starts you car and provides power to the electrical components when the engine is off. For example, the car battery keeps the digital clock running when your car is turned off. Understanding how the alternator works can help you when you’re having problems with your car or motorcycle battery.

How Does an Alternator Work?

The alternator is a component of your car’s engine about the size of a coconut. It takes the mechanical energy from the belt and rotors and transforms it into electricity that powers your windshield wipers, headlights and car components that use electricity. The alternator also charges the battery. The power from the alternator flows into the battery, allowing the battery to use that power to recharge. Alternators generate a lot of heat when they produce electricity. Older alternators were made with an external cooling fan. Technology has improved. Newer alternators have an internal fan.

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How Does a Car Battery Drain?

One easy way to drain your car battery is to leave the lights on when the engine is off. The best car batteries can run the radio presets, your security alarm and clock without any problem to the battery. It’s when you try to run other electrical components when your car is off that your battery drains. Car batteries lose power when the alternator doesn’t push out enough voltage. It takes between 13.5 and 14.5 volts to keep your battery charged. Alternators with bad diodes can cause your battery drain. Finally, old batteries drain quicker than newer batteries. You should be replacing your car battery every four to five years. As the battery gets older, it may not hold a full charge when the alternator isn’t running. Your battery should have a manufacturing date on the case to let you know how old it is.

Best Ways to Charge Your Car Battery

When your car battery dies, you may ask a friend to give you a jump. This can get your car started, but to fully charge your battery, you’ll want to drive your vehicle around for 30 to 40 minutes. You can also use a car charger to charge your battery. When you’re buying a car charger, make sure that it is compatible with your car battery. You’ll want to make sure you know how to use your car charger correctly because you don’t want to over-charge the battery. Some chargers automatically stop when the battery is fully charged, while you have to manually turn off some chargers. You can also bring your battery to AutoZone for a test to see if your battery can be charged or not. AutoZone can charge most batteries in about 30 minutes. The technicians can help you choose the right battery for your car if you need to replace it. For more information on how to install a top post car battery or for buying new car or motorcycle batteries, ask the technicians with AutoZone.


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