So, you’ve just replaced your alternator and now you’re not sure if it’s working properly? The easiest way to test the alternator on a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (most vehicles) is to temporarily disconnect the battery from the vehicle and test the alternator while the engine is not running. Since most cars don’t have an electrical load on them when they are off, this will allow you to determine if your alternator is charging properly or not.
How to Test Alternator with Engine Off
A bad alternator can leave you stranded, so it’s important to know how to test it. You can test your alternator with or without your car running.
If you have a digital multimeter, you can use that for an accurate reading. Otherwise, use one of these methods.
If you don’t have your engine running, attach one end of a jumper cable to a known good ground and attach the other end to your negative battery terminal.
Then check for voltage between your alternator case and positive battery terminal or starter solenoid.
If you have 12 volts or more, your alternator is functioning properly. If you don’t have any voltage present, your alternator is bad and will need replacing.
Another way to test your alternator is with your engine running. Start your car and disconnect both battery cables.
Then remove one of them from its post, so you have only one cable connected. This will leave you with a temporary single-battery system.
Connect a voltmeter to that post on your battery, and it should read about 14 volts with your engine idling. If it doesn’t, or if you get a voltage reading that falls below 12 volts, then you need to replace your alternator.
You can also test your alternator using a digital multimeter. First, disconnect both battery cables, just as you did with your engine off test.
Then connect one probe of your multimeter to each post on your battery, and it should read around 14 volts. If it doesn’t, then something is wrong with your alternator either it isn’t producing voltage or there’s a short that isn’t allowing current to pass through it.
If you’re testing your alternator with an analog multimeter, set it to 20 volts and place one probe on each battery post. You should have a reading between 0 and 20 volts (unless there’s an error in your test setup). If you don’t, then you need to repair or replace your alternator.
What Is The Easiest Way To Test An Alternator?
Using an ammeter, measure whether or not your alternator is charging by checking to see if the current is flowing through it.
If no current is running through your alternator, you will need to replace it. For those who are unfamiliar with using an ammeter, simply follow these steps
When using an ammeter, do not attach it to either side of a battery.
Doing so could result in electric shock. Rather, connect it to a terminal on your alternator, and turn your ignition key to accessory mode without starting your engine.
Next, see if any current is flowing through by checking whether or not your needle moves over. Current running through indicates that your alternator is charging properly.
If you notice that your needle is moving, then there is a problem with your alternator. If it’s moving backward, then your alternator is not working properly and you should get it replaced as soon as possible to avoid damage to your car battery.
Otherwise, remove your ammeter from its connection and close any exposed doors.
Does An Alternator Work When The Car Is Off?
An alternator is used to help power your vehicle’s electrical systems. If your car battery is dead, your alternator will not be able to keep up with all of your car’s electrical needs, so you should first make sure that you have a good battery in place.
You can test an alternator by turning on all electrical accessories and then moving around inside your vehicle while it is parked.
If you find that everything still works when your car is off, then you should focus on your alternator.
How Do I Test To See If My Alternator Is Bad?
A common cause of car battery failure is an alternator going bad.
To properly determine if your alternator is bad, you need to test it by using a digital multimeter.
You can buy a digital multimeter at any auto parts store. The meter should come with basic instructions on how to use it, but here’s a quick overview
One of the tests you can perform is to take a reading on battery voltage while you turn on your lights and other accessories.
If your alternator is bad, it won’t put out enough electricity to support your vehicle’s electrical needs, so when you start up those lights and other accessories, they will drain your battery.
Your multimeter should be able to read below 12 volts for a bad alternator. A good alternator should produce 14 volts at least when everything is turned on in your car.
ALSO SEE: How to Test Alternator with Screwdriver
Can You Test An Alternator Without Removing It?
Actually, yes. The real question here is whether or not you can test it properly. When a car’s engine is running, there’s enough juice moving through your alternator to power most on-board testing equipment.
When you remove an alternator from a running vehicle, though, you don’t have that full charge and your tester might not be able to provide an accurate diagnosis.
Do Alternators Work At Idle?
One of the most common questions asked is whether or not an alternator works when your vehicle is idling.
The answer is yes, but only up to a point. Many people believe that if they idle their car for a long period it will somehow hurt their alternator. However, your alternator does not produce power based on how high RPMs are at idle; rather, it produces a consistent amount of power based on its electrical load.
Will Alternator Charge Battery While Off?
No, it will not. The alternator only charges while your engine is running; otherwise, there would be no way for you to tell if it’s working or not.
The only way you can test an alternator without turning on your engine is by physically removing a wire connected to your alternator and attaching it directly to a battery. If you hear any kind of humming noise then you know that your alternator is working.
The problem is that if you were to do that, your battery would get drained and you’d have no car or lights. If it doesn’t work, then you don’t know whether or not your alternator is bad; after all, it could just be a dead battery.
Without taking precautions such as isolating your wiring and putting infuses and/or breaker switches, doing such a test can be dangerous if not deadly.
The other thing that you can do is attach your alternator directly to a battery using some jumper cables.
If it charges, then chances are your alternator is fine. If it doesn’t charge, then either you need to replace your battery or fix whatever issue is preventing the charging process from occurring.
This method also comes with its own set of risks including shorting out both batteries and causing a fire.
Do Alternators Turn On And Off?
Yes. An alternator is an electric generator, and generators produce electricity when they turn in one direction.
When an alternator is connected to a battery, current from the battery flows into it.
The alternator then transforms that current into direct current (DC), which can be used by electrical systems in vehicles.
To start producing electricity, a generator must spin in one direction, but once it is spinning, it will continue to produce electricity until something stops it.
If your alternator is connected to a battery and there is no need for power in your vehicle, you can test it by turning off your engine.
Then listen for any noises and look for signs of electricity flowing from one wire or terminal to another.
The alternator produces a buzzing noise when it’s working, but you may also hear other sounds such as clicking or clunking noises.
If you hear a buzz but don’t see or feel anything else, it means your alternator is working. If you can’t get your hands on a battery or jumper cables, you can also test an alternator by using your vehicle horn.
Turn on your ignition, but don’t start your engine. Press and hold down your horn for at least 20 seconds. If you hear a buzz or clicking sound coming from your alternator, then it’s working.
Turn on your ignition, but don’t start your engine. Press and hold down your horn for at least 20 seconds.
If you hear a buzz or clicking sound coming from your alternator, then it’s working.
If your alternator isn’t working, you’ll need to replace it. The process is similar whether you choose an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part or a compatible aftermarket product, although if you opt for an aftermarket alternative, some wiring modification may be required.