Taking Care of Your Dodge Charger Alternator
Dodge Charger alternator problems are fairly common, and you will likely experience an issue with the alternator at some point in your car’s lifetime. Since the charging system plays a critical role in everything electrical, if it’s not working properly, it may cause significant electrical problems. Let’s take a look to see what alternators do and how you can tell if something isn’t right.
What is an Alternator?
The main purpose of an alternator is to maintain your car’s battery. It uses power from the engine to create electricity and sends that electricity through the engine drive belt, or serpentine belt, over to the battery to keep it fully charged. This is why it’s critical to ensure the belt is secure and replace it when it breaks. A typical alternator lasts about 100,000 to 150,000 miles, or roughly seven years. Several factors can affect how long an alternator lasts, including how many electronics are being used inside the car, conditions in which the car is driven and the quality of the part.
You use a lot of electrical power when you drive, whether you're traveling down I-95 while blasting the radio, using your windshield wipers during a South Carolina rainstorm or keeping your lights on. If you didn’t have an alternator, the battery would drain from all of this electricity usage within a matter of minutes. To prevent this from happening and to keep the battery fully charged at all times, we use an alternator.
What are Some Signs of Alternator Problems?
Make no mistake about it: It can be tricky to diagnose Dodge Charger alternator problems without tools. Alternator problems often seem like battery problems and vice versa, so how can you tell what’s really going on? Some of the most common things to look for include:
1. You need to jump-start your car multiple times. In addition to being an annoying inconvenience, one of the first signs that your alternator is failing is that you must jump-start your car on a regular basis. Although the battery is responsible for providing the power to crank the engine and turn on the car, it’s the alternator’s job to make sure the battery stays fully charged. If the alternator is having problems, it won’t be able to keep the battery charged. In turn, the battery won’t be able to keep up with the load required to start the engine multiple times, and the battery will eventually die.
2. You notice dim or malfunctioning lights. Another symptom of a possible alternator problem is flickering or dim lights. If you notice anything strange related to the brightness of your lights when you drive your Charger, it could be a sign that your alternator isn’t generating enough power to meet the car’s electrical needs. The flickering and/or dimming may happen when you do certain things such as turn on another light, turn up the volume on the radio or press the gas pedal.
3. Your battery light is on. One of the most common signs that your alternator is failing is an illuminated battery light on your dashboard. This light will typically come on when the vehicle’s computer system detects that the system’s voltage has dropped below a certain level. When the light comes on, it usually means that the alternator has failed and can no longer handle the car’s electrical requirements. A lit battery light also indicates that your car now has limited battery life since it is pulling electricity straight from the battery instead of the engine. Depending on how long the light has been on and the condition of the battery, you should be able to drive your car before the battery dies. When this happens, your car will turn off, and you will need to have the vehicle serviced to get it back on the road again.
How Can You Check Alternator Voltage?
You will need a digital volt ohmeter, or DVOM, to check if your alternator is working properly. This tool allows you to easily and quickly see exactly how much voltage your alternator is generating. First, turn off your engine. Put the red lead of the voltmeter on the battery’s positive post, and place the black lead on the battery’s negative side. Make sure your voltmeter is set to read DC volts. If the reading is 12.65 volts or higher, the battery is fully charged. If it is lower, you either have a faulty battery or alternator problems.
Next, remove the leads from the battery and start your engine. Place the leads back on the battery in the same way, making sure you don’t get them caught in the engine or the serpentine belt. Now, read the voltage while the engine is running. It should clock in somewhere between 13.5 and 14.5 volts. If it does, breathe easy and know that your alternator is just fine. Instead, you may need to test, and possibly replace, your battery.
How Can You Repair a Defective Alternator?
Although repairing an alternator isn’t terribly hard, you will need a serpentine belt diagram to help you put the part back on properly. To troubleshoot, repair and maintain your Dodge Charger, you’ll need repair and diagnostic information that is specific to the car. Use your user’s manual or, if you don’t have it, a quick Google search will pull up the manual for the exact year you need.
The actual repair process requires you to disconnect the battery and remove the serpentine belt before unbolting the alternator and removing the wiring connectors. Then, once you’ve removed the malfunctioning alternator and replaced it with a new one, simply do everything in reverse to re-install it. If you’d prefer to have a repair shop perform the repair, you can expect to pay between $400 and $500 for the part and labor.
How Can You Maintain Your Alternator to Prevent Costly Repairs?
As is the case with any aspect of a car, there are a few maintenance tips to think about that can prevent your Dodge Charger alternator from suffering an early demise. In fact, there are many things drivers may do that can cause their alternator to fail, including installing an aftermarket accessory inside that overloads it or jump-starting the car the wrong way.
A tight serpentine belt can cause damage to the bearings on the alternator, resulting in premature wearing, and fluid leaks in the alternator may also wreak havoc on the system. When the alternator fails, the electronics within the vehicle try to draw their power off the battery instead, which can cause a dead battery as well. That’s why, more often than not, the alternator is the problem in the first place--not the battery.
If you notice the battery light is on, it’s important to get your system checked out as soon as possible. Whether you're taking the family to Myrtle Beach or driving down the road to pick up some MOD Pizza, if your headlights are dim, take your car for a charging system test as soon as possible to determine what is going on with your vehicle’s electrical system.
The alternator is among a car’s more important parts as it provides electricity for the entire vehicle. Any alternator problems can quickly turn into issues with starting and running the car, which means you could be stranded on the side in the not-so-distant future. If you suspect that your Dodge Charger alternator may be failing or you notice any signs of a potential problem, it’s important to run a diagnostic test to check out your system and determine if an alternator repair or replacement is necessary.