Everything to Know About a Car Alternator
If you are not a car enthusiast, there are high chances that you must not be aware of the word alternator. However, it is a common term which you might have heard around the discussion of electronic appliances’ technicalities. The general definition of the alternator is a device that is used to convert mechanical energy into electrical one. The main principle of an alternator is alternating current. Alternator carries out the same function in a car.
The common perception is that an engine carries out all the functions in a car. However, it is not entirely accurate as the alternator also plays a major role in making the car work. The question that arises here is, in what way does it contribute to the car? Well, take a look at car components such as the radio, headlights, brake lights, windshield wipers, automatic windows, and etc. They all require electricity to function. Where does that electricity come from? The answer is from an alternator.
Also, an exciting fact about this part is, you can buy a used alternator if the current one malfunctions. A used one comes cheap but performs well if it’s a good one.
Let’s get into the details to know the complete basics of an alternator.
An Alternator is Not a Battery
It is possible that now you are confused about how an alternator is different from a battery. They seem to perform similar functions, but the fact is, the battery performs functions such as starting the car. A battery also contributes to providing energy to the car when it isn’t running. However, an alternator performs when the car is being driven. During driving or a running car, almost all the electrical functions are performed by an alternator.
An alternator is a type of generator whose purpose is to generate electricity for your car. Now, where does that electricity is used? The answer is, in electrical functions of your car, out of which the most important one is recharging the car’s battery. Every car that has an internal combustion engine will have an alternator. This means the alternator will not be present in the hybrid cars.
An alternator size is around 15-20 inches. If you open and take a look around the engine part of your car, you will find an alternator mounted right at the front. Another way to recognize an alternator is to look at a part with a belt around it. The main components of an alternator are described below:
– As the name suggests, the voltage regulator maintains the voltage an alternator produces. It keeps track of the voltage passed down to the battery and other electrical components of your car. This is a critical function as mistakes here can damage many small but essential parts of your car.
Stator and Rotor
– These two components alone in an alternator are responsible for electricity production. The stator contains a rotor inside it. Rotor has a cylinder shape and is first surrounded by magnets, then a stator connected to copper wires. Rotor spins create movement in magnets which in turn creates electricity in the copper wires of the stator.
– While producing electricity, the alternator tends to heat up a lot. This heat can affect the efficiency that is why there are cooling fans. These fans make sure alternators do not exceed the set heating limit. It keeps the car and engine both safe. The aluminum case of the alternator also proves to be a tremendous cooling aid. The newer models of cars now have internal fans instead of external ones.
– It has a simple function to convert the voltage to a suitable range for the battery to recharge.
Functioning of an Alternator
The alternator sure produces electricity, but that electricity production is started through the belt on the side of an alternator. This belt receives the rotation from the crankshaft of the engine. So, the engine is where the process of alternating starts.
If we are to conclude, the alternator sometimes tends to malfunction too. It is common but no big deal. You can find an alternator from someone who’s looking to sell their car fast for cash. In many such cases, the alternator is functional, and hence you can make good use of it.