How Much Does an Alternator Cost: Should I Repair or Replace?

Symptoms of a bad alternator are usually apparent quickly. In most cases, the alternator may simply need repairs. But if the damage is too extensive, they might need to be replaced. Automotive parts can be confusing to understand, so here’s more information about when you might need to replace or repair them and how much does an alternator cost.

What Is an Alternator?


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An alternator, also known as a synchronous generator, is the electrical generator that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy in the form of alternating current (AC), hence the name alternator. It’s a vital component of every automotive system and can be costly to replace.

The alternator generates power in a copper coil via electromagnetic induction, which is when the magnetic field surrounding it rotates.

What Is the Role of The Alternator?

Role of The Alternator

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Alternators charge your car’s batteries, which store the power that is needed for the car’s systems and start-up. Your car requires DC power in order to work; however, DC generators don’t produce sufficient voltage. That’s why AC technology has been incorporated into the car’s power generator since the 1960s.

There’s a diode at the end of the alternator called the rectifier. This diode converts the AC power generated into DC so it can be stored in the battery and used by the vehicle’s systems. It powers your headlights, windows, start-up, and much more.

5 Signs Of a Bad Alternator

Signs Of a Bad Alternator

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Here are some signs you may have a damaged alternator that needs fixing or replacing.

#1. Dim or Bright Lights

A failing alternator will provide inconsistent voltage to your car’s devices. The car’s headlight is the first one you will typically notice. If it’s overperforming, underperforming, or flickering, that’s a sign there’s something wrong with the car’s AC generator.

#2. Dead Battery

Since the alternator charges your battery, another surefire sign there may be something wrong with it is when all systems using your battery power fail to work.

#3. Trouble Starting

Your car requires power to start up, which comes from the stored power in the battery. If you’re facing issues starting your car, it may be due to a dead or poorly charged battery, which is a sign to check the alternator.

#4. Burning Smell

If you detect an unpleasant burning odor of rubber or wires, it may be an indication the parts of your alternator have physically deteriorated. And since the alternator’s drive belt is under constant tension and is located very close to the engine, over time it can wear out.

#5. Battery Warning

Your car’s dashboard should have a light indicator to warn when something is wrong with the battery. Alternators are designed to put out between 13.5 and 14.5 volts, so if the voltage drops, the battery warning may start flashing.

How Much Does an Alternator Cost?

Alternator Cost

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According to Consumer Insurance Report, a new alternator could cost you anywhere between $500 and $1000, and that includes the labor required to replace it. The price may be higher for premium models.


How much does it cost to repair an alternator depends upon two factors — the type of damage and the car’s model. Naturally, high-end luxury or sports cars are more costly to repair and may require specially imported parts.

For something as simple as replacing the alternator belt, it may cost between $100 and $150, excluding the diagnostic fee. If it’s just an ordinary repair job, you pay an hourly rate to the garage, which should be approximately $50.

Is It Worth Replacing an Alternator?

Alternators have to be replaced at some point in the life cycle of every car. Depending on the make of the car, it could be after the first 1000 or 10,000 miles.

And while you certainly can drive with a bad alternator for a while, it’s probably not the best decision. Without electricity, your car can fail and leave you stranded, which is not a fun situation to be in.

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Sandra Holbrook

Sandra Holbrook

Sandra is an elementary school teacher turned columnist. Backed by many years of experience with social interactions under challenging circumstances, her work focuses on the importance of conversational wellbeing.

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