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What Electrical Component Is Behind My Starting Problem?

Every vehicle owner dreads the moment they go to start their vehicle and get nothing for a response. Car starting failures are often a result of an electrical system problem, and it usually narrows down to the battery or alternator. Read on to learn more about what these parts do and how one or the other can be causing your starting failures.

Battery vs. Alternator

In simple terms, the battery is the powerhouse, and it holds the electrical charge needed to start the ignition process. When your engine is turned off, electrical accessories like your lights, power windows, and other parts draw power from the battery. On the other hand, the alternator is the electrical component that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy to be stored in the battery. It generates power to recharge the battery when the engine is on. It keeps the vehicle's electrical accessories running when you're on the go and when idling. Both are necessary to keep your electrical system running and engine to start smoothly.

Signs Of a Bad Car Battery

Vehicle batteries can last anywhere between 3-5 years. When they go out, they will typically demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • No sounds from the ignition when you turn the key
  • Slow engine starts
  • Battery corrosion
  • Electrical warning light on

Signs Of a Faulty Alternator

The warning signs of a worn alternator are similar to those of an aging battery. Here are some of the signs:

  • Failing electrical accessories
  • Dim headlights
  • Car starts but cuts out when the engine is idling
  • Dead battery
  • Burning smell

Since the alternator is responsible for charging the battery, the battery may die first when your alternator gives out. Plus, failing batteries tend to require jump starts. But if the alternator has gone out, the car may still be able to start, but only until the battery is entirely drained.


If you need help diagnosing your electrical problem, please bring your car to Honest Wrenches so that our experienced technicians can examine your battery and alternator. Feel free to give us a call or fill out our online appointment form today.

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