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The alternator is an essential part of the engine, powering the battery and helping to keep the electrical system functioning properly. If your alternator fails and needs repaired or replaced, you won’t be able to start the engine. If you suspect there may be a problem you should take it to a qualified mechanic immediately.
The alternator replacement cost can be quite high, with prices running between $133 and $915 for a new alternator. The work itself is quite straightforward, so the cost for labor is normally quite low in comparison to other automotive services. The alternator cost will range from $200 to $700 just for the part itself! To have a new alternator fitted at a garage you can expect to pay between $172 to $1046 with an average cost in the mid $500 range, depending on the part used and the model of car you own.
Alternator Repair Cost Comparison
Repairing your alternator is usually best left to a skilled mechanic, and in some cases they may recommend a full alternator replacement if it’s the best option for your car. Below are some example pricing from some of the leading auto shops in the country, as well as the alternator costs for parts from some leading online retailers.
|Parts & labor||12 months||$271 – $824|
|Parts & labor||12 months||$172 – $943|
|Parts & labor||24 months||$263 – $1031|
|Parts||6 Months||$147 – $531|
|Parts||Limited||$130 – $757|
|Parts||Limited||$213 – $945|
What Is the Alternator?
The alternator is a major component of the electrical system, working to generate power to charge the battery and supply power to the various electrical systems in your car. It’s attached to the engine of the car and is driven by the serpentine belt, otherwise known as the drive belt.
In general, the alternator shouldn’t require any regular maintenance and will usually run for up to 12 years without the need for any repairs. In the event it fails, the car may run well for a while thanks to the existing charge in the battery – but once the battery energy is depleted, you’ll start to experience some serious issues.
The various electrical systems in the car, such as the lights and the stereo, will deplete the battery over time if your alternator is faulty. When the battery runs out of charge the car will no longer start, and there’s not much you can do other than repair the alternator or have it replaced.
Benefits of Alternator Repair
Without a functioning alternator, your car won’t start, so it’s an essential part of the engine. Having a fully functioning alternator will ensure your battery stays full, all the electrical equipment in your car works properly and allows you to start the car on the first try.
A malfunctioning alternator can cause issues with your lights, leading to reduced visibility at night at potentially a serious accident. It can also cause problems with the indicators, the stereo, the satellite navigation and the various other electrical items we rely on now when we’re driving.
When Should You Have The Alternator Repaired?
You’ll know there’s an issue with your alternator when the battery-shaped warning light on your dashboard comes on while you’re driving. You may notice that when you turn the ignition this light comes on for a short period of time, but it should go off as the engine starts running. If the light remains switched on after the engine has been running for a couple of minutes there’s a good chance you have an issue with the charging system in your car.
While this doesn’t automatically mean it’s an issue with the alternator you should try to get the car to a garage to diagnose the exact cause of the warning. There’s a chance your battery will run down and your car won’t start, which could leave you stranded, so it’s best to have it checked out. It is also a good idea to do this because the alternator repair cost is less expensive then an entirely new unit. Another sign of a potentially faulty alternator is that your headlights may be dim as your car idles, but become brighter as you reach higher RPMs. Again, your mechanic will be able to diagnose the exact cause of the issue so take your car to a garage before it becomes more serious.
When you take the car to the garage they will test the charging system with an AVR test, which will tell them is there’s a weakness in the system or if the system has failed completely. If the charging system isn’t working at all, further tests will be able to determine if the problem is the alternator, the drive belt, an issue with a fuse or a problem with the wiring.
Common alternator issues are the contact rings wearing out, the carbon brushes wearing out or the voltage regulator failing. If the alternator can be rebuilt, these parts are usually removed and replaced with new ones. If the alternator is beyond repair, a new one will be installed.
What Is Done During Alternator Repair?
- The first step is to disconnect the battery – failing to do so will likely mean you ground a live wire, which can seriously damage both you and the car
- When the battery has been disconnected, the wires should be removed from the back of the alternator
- Next, the belt will have to be removed from the pulley, which is the most challenging part of the repair
- The tensioner pulley will have to be moved enough to slip the belt off. This can usually be done with a wrench, or some cars have a screw-type tensioner which can be used to release the tension gradually
- Once the belt has been removed, remove the bolts connecting the alternator to the bracket and take out the old alternator
- To install the new alternator simply reverse the removal steps
How to Save Money on Alternator Repair
A full alternator replacement can be quite costly, depending on the model of car and what part is used by the garage. Aftermarket parts are usually substantially cheaper than an OEM part from a dealership, so it can be more cost effective to go to an independent mechanic.
Some garages will provide rebuilt or reconditioned alternators as an alternative to a brand new one. If looked after properly, an alternator can last upwards of a decade, so it’s not uncommon for them to be taken from older cars and repurposed. This is usually substantially cheaper than buying a new part.
It can be cheaper to have the alternator rebuilt instead of replaced, but this process can take quite a while so many people opt for the straightforward replacement. Rebuilding the alternator yourself can be done, but it’s fairly intricate work and can be quite time intensive. Rebuild kits can be purchased online, usually for under $50, if you’re inclined to attempt a rebuild yourself.
The other option is to get a range of quotes from local garages and compare the prices. There will be a difference in price depending on what parts they use and how long they expect the job to take, so you may find a big difference from place to place.
Sample Alternator Repair Costs
Below are a range of sample alternator replacement costs for some of the most popular cars in the country, with expected costs for parts and labor. It should be noted that these prices should be taken as a rough guide to what you might expect to pay, as the cost to replace an alternator will vary depending on the parts used and your location.
|Ford F-Series||$39 – $50||$133 – $305||$172 – $355|
|Chevrolet Silverado||$79 – $100||$256 – $401||$335 – $501|
|Ford Focus||$142 – $181||$254 – $407||$396 – $588|
|Toyota Camry||$79 – $100||$271 – $649||$350 – $749|
|Toyota Corolla||$47 – $60||$216 – $649||$263 – $709|
|Nissan Maxima||$71 – $90||$272 – $382||$343 – $472|
|Nissan Altima||$68 – $96||$252 – $362||$339 – $458|
|Honda CR-V||$102 – $131||$289 – $915||$391 – $1046|
|Honda Civic||$110 – $141||$255 – $458||$365 – $599|
|Honda Accord||$63 – $80||$245 – $453||$308 – $533|
|Ford Fusion||$110 – $141||$232 – $337||$342 – $478|