Is Your Chevy Alternator Worn Out?

Your car is kept charged and ready to run by three different components that include the battery, voltage regulator, and the alternator. Without the alternator, your vehicle cannot generate the power it needs to turn over its own battery or operate like normal. Find out what role the alternator in your Chevy Trailblazer plays in your vehicle's everyday function and learn what you can do to protect this vital engine component.

What is an Alternator?

The alternator is one of the three parts found in your Trailblazer's charging system. Specifically, it helps provide power to the battery and also generates the power to operate your vehicle's electrical components like the inside dome and door lights, headlights, radio, and other interior components. 

This part actually gets its name from the alternate current that flows in your Trailblazer's charging system. It is located in the front part of your engine by the crankshaft and operates in part with the help of the serpentine belt. 

It is mounted to your engine with a series of brackets. The first bracket is attached tightly while the second one is allowed to be looser to work along with the drive belt.

How Does an Alternator Wear Out?

What can cause your Trailblazer's alternator to wear out and need to be replaced? Like all mechanical components in your vehicle, the alternator is vulnerable to wear and tear over time. In fact, no alternator regardless of the make and model of car is designed to last forever.

As such, your alternator can wear out simply because it has reached the point of usefulness for which it was originally designed. Auto repair experts agree that alternators generally last for about seven years and then need to be replaced by a new one. 

They likewise can last for 100,000 to 150,000 miles of driving. After you have reached that mile limit, you may notice that your alternator goes out on you and needs to be replaced.

Second, alternators can become damaged quickly if they are allowed to get dirty. Your car is exposed to dust, dirt, and other road debris regardless of where you drive it. This debris can get your alternator dirty and cause it to wear out faster. 

Finally, the alternator in your Chevy Trailblazer is made up of mechanical components that run and rub against each other each time you drive your vehicle. If those parts inside the alternator are allowed to get too cold or too hot, they can contribute to the alternator failing. Unfortunately, you may be able to do little to prevent the parts from overheating if you drive your Trailblazer often or for long distance trips.

What are the Signs Your Alternator Needs to be Repaired or Replaced?

Your Trailblazer may give you numerous clues that it is time to take care of or replace your alternator. Common alternator warning signs for your Chevy Trailblazer include:

a weak or dead car battery

headlights or interior lights that are dim when turned on

dashboard warning lights like ALT (for alternator) or GEN (for generator)

the odor of burning rubber

weird sounds like whining or grinding when you start or drive your vehicle

signs of damage like loose connections or bolts around the alternator that are too tight

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is important that you take immediate steps to have your alternator inspected and either repaired or replaced if necessary. If you allow it to reach the point of malfunctioning completely, you could compromise the integrity of your Trailblazer's charging system and face huge repair bills to get your vehicle back on the road.

How Can You Protect Your Alternator?

So how can you protect your alternator and extend its life inside the engine of your Trailblazer? As noted, you cannot prevent this part from reaching the end of its usefulness for which it is designed. However, between the time that you purchase the alternator or your vehicle and the time that it dies on its own, you can take preventative measures that could safeguard it and help it last as long as possible. 

For starters, you should maintain and replace the other two components in your vehicle's charging system. If you allow the battery or the voltage regulator to malfunction or suffer damage, you put the integrity of your alternator at risk as well. Rather than continue jump starting a dead battery or driving with a compromised voltage regulator, you should repair or replace those parts quickly to protect the life of your alternator.

Next, you should keep your alternator clean from dirt, dust, and debris. Washing your engine removes road debris that could be clogging up and damaging important engine parts including your alternator. It is generally recommended that people hose off their engines every few months when the weather is agreeable and not cold enough to cause the water to freeze before it dries.

Third, you should routinely inspect the connections around your alternator to ensure that it is attached securely and that the connections are not too tight or too loose. If you are not capable of this task, you should take your vehicle to a licensed mechanic. The mechanic can inspect the alternator and its connectors to ensure that this part is securely in place.

Finally, you should keep an eye on your odometer and make a note of how far you have driven with the alternator in your engine right now. As it nears the 100,000-mile mark, you may consider replacing it soon especially before it reaches the 150,000 mile limit. 

Likewise, if you have driven the Trailblazer for seven years with the same alternator, it may be time to consider buying a new replacement for it. As you shop for a new alternator for your vehicle, you should only consider those that are for sale through authorized and licensed Chevy parts dealers. Buying a new alternator designed for use in Chevy Trailblazers and other Chevy vehicles ensures that you get a high-quality part that will serve you well.