The alternator is one of the most important parts of a car, many considering it to be the heart of the car. It is part of the electrical system of a vehicle and is practically the component that supplies electricity throughout the running or operation.
When the car starts, the battery is the one that provides the energy required, then the alternator comes into action. It charges the battery continuously, providing the necessary voltage for all electrical and electronic components of the machine.
Components that require electricity are lights, windows, the radio, windshield wipers, and other components. When an alternator breaks down, the car will run only as long as the battery has power, not being able to recharge it. Usually, when an alternator is malfunctioning, your lights will start to fade or a ”Check Battery” warning light may appear.
How Much Does Alternator Replacement Cost?
Replacing an alternator costs on average anywhere between $320 and $850. However, this price is determined by factors like the make and model of the car you drive, whether the alternator is brand-new or refurbished, the auto shop you go to, and so on.
In the case of a replacement, only for the parts themselves, you will spend between $85 and $400, again, depending on the make and model of your car and not including the labor. Besides purchasing the parts, you will need to consider labor costs.
However, when it comes to installation, some cars may take longer and this can increase the costs considerably. On the Auto Zone website, you can find a varied list of 3,500+ alternators. Their prices go from $100 to $400. There are other websites as well, where the prices are between $400 and $1,150.
In the table below you will find the the cost to replace the alternator on some of the most popular makes and models as well as the average labor costs.
|Make and Model||Average Price Range (with labor)|
|Honda Odyssey||$450 to $630|
|Toyota Camry||$320 to $520|
|Ford Focus||$300 to $460|
|Mercedes Benz E350||$300|
|Chevy Suburban||$330 to $600|
|Nissan Quest||$300 to $440|
|Hyundai Elantra||$260 to $400|
|Ford Escape||$300 to $460|
|Chevy Silverado||$350 to $600|
|Nissan Altima||$350 to $430|
|Toyota Sienna||$330 to $600|
|Honda Accord||$270 to $520|
|Ford Fusion||$400 to $550|
|Toyota Corolla||$250 to $600|
First, a mechanic will check the charging system, the state of the battery, and any corrosion of the battery cables. After the examination, if the alternator looks like it might be the problem, the electric output of the alternator will be measured. After this test, the mechanic can decide whether the part can be refurbished or a new one needs to be purchased.
In order to replace the alternator, the first thing that has to be done is to disconnect and remove the car battery, to avoid any electric shock. After locating the alternator, the belt tensioner and the serpentine belt are loosened and removed, along with the wirings, connectors, and some bolts.
With all these parts being removed, the alternator can be freed from the brackets. In order to install the new or refurbished alternator, the same steps will be followed but in reverse order. Finally, the output will be tested to see if it charges properly. An average labor time is of around two to four hours, depending on the make and the model of car.
What are the extra costs?
Some mechanics might also recommend that you change the serpentine belt as well after it has been removed in the process. But this only happens if it has been a long time since it was installed or is too worn out. The battery cables might also need to be replaced with new ones if they are corroded.
If the measurements of the final test are not within the right parameters, other examinations may be needed, which means additional expenses to consider for testing and part repair or replacement.
Signs of a bad alternator
The earliest sign of a failing alternator or one that does not work properly is the dim light of the headlights or when they start to flicker. You will notice this either when you accelerate or when you slow down. Under normal operating conditions, the headlight will remain at the same level.
Another sign might be that the operation of electric windows is slower than usual. At the same time, the electrical door locking system, seat heating, or wiper operation may be affected. If the battery is low or not working at all, it is a sign that the alternator will soon fail. If one of the components fails or no longer works properly, unusual sounds might be heard. A sound of grinding or cracking can indicate a problem with the alternator.
One of the reasons your car either doesn’t start at first or starts harder is a faulty alternator. Of course, a dead battery or one that will soon give up completely may be the reason as well. Therefore, you will need to remove the battery-related cause to consider a faulty alternator.
The overall lifetime of an alternator is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. It is very common to need to replace it after the maximum estimated operating life. Be careful when you buy aftermarket components. Those will not last as long as the original part. The way you drive may also decrease its lifespan.
Saving money on the cost to replace an alternator
In order to save some money, a remanufactured or rebuilt alternator would be ideal. Finding a good mechanic able to do this kind of job, may save you between 20% and 40% from the cost of a new alternator. There is a difference between these two types.
Whilst a remanufactured alternator will be assembled by a local mechanic with new internal parts and a new case, a rebuilt one will only have the damaged parts replaced. Keep in mind that you can still receive a warranty for up to three years for a remanufactured one.
If you decide to acquire a new one, based on our research, an aftermarket piece may be more advantageous than an OEM part purchased from a dealership.
If you are in doubt about the cause of your car malfunctioning and you’re not sure the problem is the alternator, do not hesitate to search for professional help. You may change the wrong part and this will cost you extra money. Also, there are some car workshops that will test your alternator for free.