Are you concerned that your alternator may be failing? The typical lifespan of an alternator is between 5 and 8 years. If you keep your car past that time, there is a possibility you will need to replace this part no matter how much preventative maintenance you do.
The alternator is part of the electrical system, and it provides power to the battery while your engine is running. It works by turning mechanical energy into electrical energy. Have you ever had to jump-start a battery? If you want the jump to be beneficial, you are expected to either drive the car or leave the engine running for a bit. The reason we need to leave the engine running is because the alternator will recharge your battery while you are driving.
If you turn the car off immediately after the jump, the battery has not been recharged, and you will be in the same place as before you had the jump start done. This is a simple but relatable example of what the alternator does.
Recharging your battery is not the only thing your alternator does. The alternator powers most of the electronic components of your car while you are driving. These components can include the radio, dashboard lights and indicators, power windows, power locks, electronic steering, headlights, windshield wipers, and heated seats.
How to Prevent Alternator Failures
Alternators can last anywhere from 5 years through the lifetime of your car. As with most other replaceable parts of a vehicle, the best way to prevent damage and failure is to ensure regular inspections and maintenance.
You should only take your vehicle to a repair shop that specializes in BMWs or who specializes in European or German cars. Not all auto-mechanics will be able to provide the same type of care and service for your vehicle. You should choose a garage who works on your brand and model all the time. These specialty garages usually have intense training in foreign cars. In addition, they use special tools made just for high-end vehicles, like your BMW.
It is also advisable that you use the highest quality, manufacturer-recommended parts in your car. Finally, make sure you get regular checkups and inspections, preferably at least twice a year.
Common Signs of Alternator Failure
- Dimming or flickering headlights: Any issues you have with your headlights is a red flag for failure. If your headlights flicker or dim, your alternator may be on the way out. If this is happening, pay attention to when this happens. Often, when the alternator is to blame, the lights will dim while you are slowing down and get brighter when you accelerate.
- Stalling car or difficulty starting: If you have to attempt to start the car multiple times to get the engine to turn over or your car stalls out, you may have a problem with your alternator. This could also be related to a dying battery. You should bring your car to a mechanic to determine which of these issues is the problem.
- Malfunctions of electronics in your car: The alternator helps to control the electrical elements in your car. When you start having electrical malfunctions, this is a sign your alternator is dying. If your car’s power windows or locks start working slower than usual, or you experience issues with your radio, or windshield wipers you should call your mechanic.
- Unusual sounds: When you are using things like window wipers or the power windows, you might notice whining or grinding
- Bad or unusual smells: Another sign is a foul smell coming from the alternator, including the smell of burning rubber. This smell comes from the belts not rotating correctly due to lack of electrical power.
When you require a new alternator, it is in your best interests to call professionals. Since the alternator controls the electrical aspects of your car, you do not want a mistake that could either put you in danger or cost more money down the road.