Although the alternator is a simple part that contains only a few components, it is vital to the operation of your Mitsubishi Outlander. Essentially, the alternator is responsible for turning the mechanical energy of the engine’s crank shaft into electricity through a process known as induction. The wires located within the alternator cut through the magnetic field, which then induces the electrical current your car needs to power its accessories, including your radio, headlights and interior lights. The alternator also has the job of making sure the battery remains fully charged at all times so that it can not only have the power to start the car but to keep the car running as well.
Since the alternator is both connected to and vital for other systems in your car, any problems with the alternator can have a significant impact on its function. However, there are five telltale signs to watch for that could indicate a potential problem with the alternator.
Symptoms of a Failing Outlander Alternator
It starts with a few telltale signs: a few flickering gauges, dimmed headlights or a dash light that comes on just for a moment. Perhaps you notice a growling sound coming from under your hood, or there’s an odd smell radiating from the car. Rest assured that your Outlander is not possessed; rather, it’s more likely one of many potential alternator issues. If you fail to identify and rectify the situation, you will probably experience car trouble ranging from slow or hesitant starting up to a completely dead vehicle. Here are some signs that your alternator is in need of repair or replacement.
Smells, Sounds and Sights
Grouped together, these symptoms are signals from your senses. Although they’re less definitive than a warning light, these signs of a failing alternator can help warn you of a possible alternator problem.
First, if you smell hot wires or burning rubber, it’s a good indicator that your alternator is failing. A pulley that isn’t freely turning or isn’t aligned properly will cause increased friction on the belt which, in turn, results in more heat and the smell of burning rubber. An overheated alternator may cause a “hot wire” scent as it pushes too much power through the stator and rotor.
Next, you may hear a whining or growling noise before your alternator completely dies. The alternator in your Mitsubishi Outlander is powered by either a serpentine belt or an accessory belt as well as a crankshaft pulley. On average, the crankshaft pulley rotates about two to three times slower than the alternator pulley. This produces the required power needed for idle and lower engine speeds. If the pulley is incorrectly aligned with the belt, the whining or growling noises will let you know there’s an issue.
Finally, a quick visual check will let you know whether your alternator needs replaced. Look for excessive wear, cracking and other signs of aging that can give you an idea of whether a problem will happen in the near future. The belt may be missing completely, or it could be hanging off the engine block and flapping around the compartment. Also check to make sure the belt has enough tension to properly run the alternator, but keep in mind that not enough tension is just as bad as too much.
Since the alternator is responsible for supplying the vehicle with the power it needs to function, when it is on its way out, so are the accessories that rely on that electricity for power. You may notice erratic symptoms that range from dim lights to extremely bright dash lights and headlights, to tachometers and speedometers that appear to die for no reason at all. Other accessories such as power windows and heated seats may slow down as well.
The exact symptoms you’ll notice will depend on how well the alternator is producing power and how close it is to the end of its life cycle. Also, it will depend on how each vehicle is programmed. For instance, most newer vehicles are programmed with a priority list for where electricity is to be transmitted in the event of an alternator problem. For example, a priority list may include the heated seat to be turned off, the radio to be turned off, and the headlights will then turn off. The reason behind this priority list is that drivers would still need to see in order to pull safely off the road, but they definitely wouldn’t care about what’s playing on the radio or a heated seat in the event of an issue.
Most cars built in the last 10 years are equipped with a warning light that can signal when there’s an issue with the alternator. In the majority of vehicles, this light is shaped like a battery, although some may display a “GEN” or “ALT” sign, indicating generator or alternator, respectively. Although most people see this light and immediately think there’s a problem with the battery, that’s not actually the case.
The light is actually linked to your Outlander’s computer system that monitors the alternator’s voltage output. If the output increases or decreases below a preset level, the dash light illuminates. Once the output is back within range, the light stays unlit. A flickering light may indicate early states of an alternator problem, or maybe the light comes on when you’re using accessories. For instance, if you’re driving at night and your headlights are on, everything appears to be running smoothly. Once you turn on your windshield wipers, the warning light comes on, but when you turn off your wipers, the warning light goes away.
Whether you’re driving through the mountains of New York or taking in the sights of the Big Apple, it’s important to perform all routine maintenance as scheduled to avoid the risk of a problem with the alternator. Although alternators can fail due to normal wear-and-tear, catching an issue early could save you time, money and headaches down the road.