Charging Systems

The charging system in most cars hasn’t changed much in over 40 years.  It consists of a battery, alternator, regulator (normally part of the alternator) and the interconnecting wiring. The charging system is designed to maintain the charge in the vehicle’s battery and provide a source of electrical energy when the engine is running.

In the event the charging system malfunctions or stops working, the charge in the battery would soon be depleted, leaving the car with a “dead battery.”   If the battery is weak and the alternator is not working, the engine may not have enough electrical current to fire the spark plugs, so the engine will stop running.

When a battery is “dead”, there is not necessarily a problem with it.  A dead battery is simply that, dead and has no charge.  It can normally be brought back to life by recharging it with a battery charger or by running the engine for a period of time so that the alternator can charge it.

The main component in the charging system is the alternator.  The alternator is a generator  which produces Alternating Current similar to the electrical current in your home.  The current produced by the alternator is converted to Direct Current inside the alternator.  The voltage regulator in the alternator regulates the voltage the alternator produces and keeps in between 13.5 and 14.5 volts to ensure that electrical components in the vehicle are not compromised or damaged by voltage spikes. Late model cars are equipped with a warning system to alert the driver of a fault in the charging system. Normally, a warning light will show on the dash that is the shape of a battery if the charging system is malfunctioning.

Your cars alternator is powered by a belt that is driven by the rotation of the engine’s crank shaft.  Most late model vehicles have a serpentine belt that drives multiple pumps or components under your hood. Older cars often have more than one belt and each may be responsible to drive different components. If the belt that drives the alternator fails, the alternator will no longer charge and the warning light will show on the dash. Your engine will continue to run until the charge in the battery draws down. Once depleted, the battery will require additional charge from the alternator following the replacement of the failed belt

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