How to Know if You Need a New Chevrolet Car Battery or Alternator
You probably don’t give much thought to your car’s battery. Why would you? It’s tucked away in the corner, squeezed out of the prime space beneath the hood of your vehicle, quietly going about its business — that is, until you hear the labored sound of your engine trying to start or that dreaded clicking noise with no response from your engine.
The truth is, your battery is an essential part of your vehicle’s operation. At Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Tennessee, we know exactly how important your battery is to your engine, and you. That’s why we test your alternator and battery as part of a comprehensive multi-point inspection on every service visit, free of charge. View our inventory of New Chevrolets, or If you have any questions, give us a call at 931-548-1370 today!
What Makes My Chevrolet Battery Special?
The power your battery provides is the literal spark that gets your car running and keeps it running with the help of your car’s alternator. When it fails, your vehicle does absolutely nothing.
Your car’s electrical system is simple and, at the same time, complex. Your battery contains chemical energy. This chemical energy is converted to electrical energy when you turn your key. This electrical energy is sent to the vehicle’s starter, which distributes the electrical energy through the spark plugs, igniting your engine’s cylinders. Now your electrical energy has been converted to mechanical energy. Like magic, your car is running.
But your electrical system doesn’t stop working. Your battery continues to provide power to your engine’s spark plugs, your radio, your lights, and all your other electric-powered systems. So why doesn’t it eventually run out of power and die like those pesky flashlight batteries?
Your Chevrolet Alternator’s Function
Enter the alternator, a clever device that creates electricity. This is an integral part of the cycle of energy in your vehicle’s operation. Chemical energy converts to electrical energy and then converts to the mechanical energy of your engine that moves your car. At this point, the alternator enters the loop through a belt-and-pulley system.
Your alternator converts the mechanical energy back into electrical energy. Once converted, the alternator sends this electricity back to the battery for storage. The circle is complete. And that’s why your battery doesn’t simply die after a week.
What Causes a Chevrolet Battery or Alternator to Fail?
Over half of all vehicle breakdowns can be traced to a failed battery. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new battery, but it could. Many people mistakenly believe the primary cause of battery failure is manufacturer defects, but that isn’t true.
It’s more likely that your driving habits are the problem. That’s not to say you’re a bad driver. It’s more about the natural chemical process that batteries undergo. If you drive short distances, especially in heavy traffic, this can contribute to sulfation, which is a natural byproduct of the recharging process. The shorter the drive, the more sulfation occurs. Longer drives produce less sulfation and provide a full charge to your battery.
Cold weather is another thief in the night that steals your battery’s potency. Science has proven that your battery is over 30% weaker at temperatures around freezing. That number doubles to 60% at zero degrees. If your battery is already compromised, it is far more likely to fail in cold weather.
Your alternator can also cause your battery to fail. An alternator is simply a generator that takes static electricity developed from an internal mechanism and sends it on to your electrical system. Alternators are maintenance-free, but they do wear out over time. Most alternators will last five to 10 years or longer.
If you’ve ever left your lights on overnight, you know what this means. Your battery doesn’t have the alternator recharging it when the engine isn’t running, so the lights drain on the battery until there’s no electricity left. A set of jumper cables or a battery-powered jump kit can get you back up and running. If your alternator is fine, then the battery will recharge.
Symptoms of Chevrolet Alternator or Battery Failure
It’s important to be aware of the possible signs that your alternator or battery is failing. Here are some symptoms.
One symptom of these two parts failing is your engine straining on startup. Accessories such as your radio or heater won’t work while you’re starting your car. In this scenario, when your car starts, these systems return to normal function if your alternator is working properly. If not, your alternator isn’t generating power and needs to be replaced.
Your Engine Won’t Start
If your battery is the culprit, then these symptoms will return every time you start your car until your battery runs out of power. Then you turn the key and nothing happens. That’s because Father Time always wins in the end. A battery’s life can last between two and five years, depending on your driving habits and environmental factors. In the end, your battery will die just because of age no matter what.
Corrosion is part of the natural aging process and usage of batteries. Batteries contain metal plates, along with acid, which is a corrosive substance. This corrosion, otherwise known as sulfation, eventually degrades the metal, leading to failure.
Signs of Corrosion
Often you’ll see blue or green blooms of what looks like algae or mold sprouting from your battery terminals. Although it’s natural, it also prevents your battery from receiving a full charge. You should check your battery terminals every time you change your oil, and clean this corrosion if you see it. It comes off with a gentle scrub. It should improve your battery’s charging ability, but in some cases, the damage might already have occurred.
Have Your Chevrolet’s Electrical System Checked At Stan McNabb Chevrolet In Columbia, TN
You should bring your vehicle in right away if your car ever needs a jump. The surest way to know if it’s your alternator or your battery is to perform a quick test. At Stan McNabb Chevrolet, we will test your battery and alternator and tell you right away which is to blame.
You’ll receive a detailed explanation and a breakdown of the cost. In many cases, these items are still under warranty so there is no cost. You can contact our service department to schedule service and have one of our expert mechanics take a look. We’ll have you back to your busy life in no time.