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My Car Won’t Start: Is it My Battery or My Alternator?

If your car is having trouble starting or turning over, it typically has something to do with your car’s battery or its alternator. Because the operation of one directly affects the operation of the other, determining which of the two is causing the issue can be a bit tricky. Thankfully there are a few things you can look for and some signs that can point you in the right direction in determining if the problem is your battery or your alternator.

Continue reading to learn more about determining whether it’s a battery issue or a problem with your alternator.

Signs it’s Your Battery

The signs of a dead battery are pretty easy to spot and are typically straightforward. Firstly, you can try using a voltmeter. If you don’t have one, look for the lights on your dash and radio. If they don’t illuminate when your key is in the ignition and turned on, your battery is likely dead. If you try to start your vehicle and nothing happens, your battery is probably dead. As for a battery that’s going bad (and will soon be dead), you may hear a clicking sound as you try starting the car. If you see the battery symbol light lit up on your dash, something is probably wrong with your battery. Another sign your battery is going bad is when its wires and cables are split, or its contacts are corroded.

Signs it’s Your Alternator

The easiest way to know there’s a problem with your alternator is when the indicating dash light is lit up or to use a voltmeter. Outside of that, some things to look for are headlights that dim and trouble with your stereo system output. If the car has started but stops or stalls once running, it could be a bad alternator. Squealing sounds coming from your engine could indicate an issue with your alternator bearings. Another way to test if your alternator is giving you grief is to turn on your radio to a low number AM station that does not play music. Once you’re on a music-free station, hit the gas. If the sounds start to go staticky or it whines, it’s likely your alternator.

Replacing the Bad

Replacing either a battery or an alternator can be done at home with the right replacements, tools, and a little time. Doing it yourself can save you a bit of money if you know what you are doing. You might want to leave it to the professionals, however, if you aren’t confident. Typically, alternators are easily accessible and can be swapped out quickly. You can use a rebuilt or second-hand alternator or, of course, a new one. Battery changes are usually straightforward. Many auto-part stores offer free battery installations when a battery is purchased at their store; contact your local store to see if they have any offers anything like that.  

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Contact RKX Tech for all your hard-to-find and unique parts and accessories for your Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. Please contact us with any questions or technical issues you may have regarding your Volkswagen or Audi.

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