Your battery may start your Volkswagen, but it needs another auto part to charge it in the first place: your original alternator. As part of your VW charging system, it runs many different electrical systems under your hood. In fact, it lights up your dash display and headlights, makes your power steering work, rolls your power windows up and down, runs your windshield wipers , and keeps your car radio playing. Alternators even warm heated seats.
How do Alternators Work?
They turn mechanical energy into electricity, during a process that starts with your engine and a drive belt. The belt runs a pulley, that pulley turns a rotor shaft, and that shaft spins a set of magnetic coils, a movement that generates alternating current (AC power). A rectifier captures the power and turns it into direct current (DC power). Your vehicle can then start and remain running. Unfortunately, though, even Volkswagen alternators can go bad eventually, often without warning. The causes of a bad alternator range from broken-down parts and bad jump-starts to age. You can even cause alternator failure yourself, simply by trying to install incompatible accessories.
Common Signs of a Bad Alternator
Luckily, the symptoms of alternator problems are easy to spot. They include flickering headlighting, car radio malfunctions, a burning smell, engine whines, a dead battery, and even total electrical system shutdown. If you think your VW has alternator issues, inspect it, and test its charging system. When do you change an alternator otherwise? Every 80,000 to 150,000 miles, roughly. That's about every 7 years. However, double-check your owner's manual for a maintenance schedule to be sure.
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