The Fix-It Club includes many Car Care Fix-It Guides to help you keep your car running longer at lower cost. A critical electrical component that can be replaced by a handy do-it-yourselfer is the car alternator. A car alternator converts some of the engine’s power into electric power for storage in the battery. If your car’s battery is in good condition and can hold a charge, but doesn’t, the alternator may not be doing its job.
Before replacing an alternator, check the car’s owner’s manual or service manual for specific information about the alternator. For example, many have fuses that can be replaced or breakers that can be reset without replacing the alternator. See the Fix-It Guide on how to replace car fuses.
An alternator, as far as the car owner is concerned, is a commodity. That is, don’t even think about repairing it yourself. If it doesn’t work, replace it as a unit. A service manual (or your own hard-earned maintenance experience) can show you how. On most cars, loosen the alternator or accessory belt adjustment and remove bolts that mount it to the side of the engine.
Remember to spend a few dollars more for a quality alternator because you don’t want to have to replace it again next year. Your best bet is one from an OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) or the local new car dealer’s parts department.