Starters and Alternators
The starting and charging system powers all lighting, audio systems, power accessories such as windows/locks/seats, the on-board computer, switches, sensors, relays, etc. The three most important components are the batteries, starters and alternators.
The starter is usually mounted to the rear of the engine or the front of the transmission housing. It consists of an electric motor that powers a starter drive. There is a special pinion gear designed to engage with the ring gear of the flywheel or torque converter. Many of today’s starters also use a reduction gear to increase the torque output of the starter. The starter cranks the engine when the ignition switch is turned to the start position. The starter drive uses an over-running clutch that spins freely if the engine starts while the starter is still engaged. This reduces the likelihood of damage to the starter drive and ring gear.
If you question the functionality of your starter, you may request a Battery, Starting, and Charging System Test (see below for details). This test will determine whether your car’s starter is drawing its normal amount of current. Excessive current draw usually means a worn starter and results in hard-starting.
The alternator generates direct current for recharging the battery and for powering vehicle electrical loads. It consists of a spinning set of electrical windings called a rotor, a stationary set of windings called a stator, a rectifier assembly, a set of brushes to maintain electrical contact with the rotor, and a pulley. All of these parts except the pulley are contained in an aluminum housing. Today’s alternators use compact, electronic voltage regulators that may be housed inside the alternator or the voltage regulator function may be handled by the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM).
It is recommended to have the alternator’s drive belt tension checked periodically. A loose belt can reduce alternator output and run down your car’s battery. A Battery, Starting, and Charging System Test will likewise determine whether your car’s alternator is putting out the proper amount of current and voltage. Alternators are designed to recharge the battery after slight discharging such as engine starting; the alternator is not designed for charging heavily discharged (“dead”) batteries. Relying on the alternator to charge a heavily discharged battery can overload the alternator and cause damage. In such cases, use a battery charger instead. An alternator problem can cause a discharged battery, poor accessory and light operation, frequent bulb replacement, repeat voltage regulator failures, erratic engine operation, or a dashboard warning light to illuminate.
Free Battery Test
Upon request, Archer’s Action Auto will provide a complimentary amperage check of any vehicle battery. You will be provided a printed slip from our battery tester stating the expected cold cranking amps (CCA) compared to the actual CCA your battery is storing. If your battery needs replacement, 95% of the time we will install a new one for free. Rare exceptions occur if the battery is ‘buried’ in an inconvenient location and our mechanics must spend significant time replacing it.
Most factory batteries can be expected to last 3-4 years. Our shop uses NAPA extended-life batteries which are warranted for 75 months (6+ years). If a NAPA battery does not last this long, the price of your new battery is pro-rated down depending on the lifespan of the old one.
Our other starting and charging services include the following: Voltage regulators, Fuses, Relays and Ignition switches.