Alternator Repair & Replacement Costs: Detailed Estimation

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Edgar Moulton.

05.07.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

Table of contents

Your car battery alternator and making sure it functions correctly is vital to your car’s ability to drive. If you think you’re having issues with your alternator, read on to see some reasons and symptoms of a failed alternator and decide whether to repair or replace it. 

How Much Does An Alternator Replacement Cost?

The alternator is an essential part of your car. Its job is to turn mechanical energy from your engine into electrical energy in the form of an alternating current, which is where it gets the name “alternator” from. It’s attached to the engine and is driven by the serpentine belt (also called the “drive belt”) and rotates magnets (also called “brushes”) over copper wire (also called “coils”) which generates the electricity required to power the electrical components in your car. 

It’s the alternator’s job to power your car radio, headlights, windshield wiper, and even recharge your car battery.

A faulty alternator will result in a car not starting or stalling (if it’s already running), which can be not only inconvenient but dangerous. The following are times when you will want to pay the price for an alternator replacement cost.

  • If you have trouble starting your car more than once. A faulty alternator won’t charge the battery, and if you have a dead battery, your car won’t start. 

If you used jumper cables to start your vehicle, and it ran fine, but then the next time you went to start your car, it didn’t start again, it’s likely because the alternator wasn’t charging the battery. If this happens more than once, it’s almost certain it will happen again because of a faulty car alternator, costing you peace of mind each time you want to start your car.

  • It fails a load test. This requires a voltmeter, so it’s unlikely you can do it yourself, and it’s best to have it done by a mechanic. With the engine off, a fully charged battery should read between 12.6 and 13.2 volts. Even with the engine on and at idling speed, it shouldn’t read lower than 12 or higher than 14 volts. If it’s lower than 12, your alternator isn’t charging your battery. If it’s higher than 14, your alternator is giving your battery too much voltage, which will damage your battery over time. If it fails a load test, paying a full alternator price will ensure you have a fully functioning alternator that won’t ruin your battery and can power everything it needs to power. 

Unlike a head gasket repair, the labor involved with replacing an alternator isn’t very high. In this case, the parts are more expensive than labor. To get a better idea of the costs involved, scroll down to see some average prices of how much it costs to replace an alternator.  

Average New Alternator Costs For Popular Cars 

So how much does an alternator cost? The cost to replace an alternator will vary on quite a few variables (car make/model, location, the difference between getting it fixed at a mechanic or a dealership, etc.). Here is a table of some of the most commonly owned cars in the USA and the average cost to replace an alternator in them. We have broken it down by parts plus labor, giving you a more accurate description of the replacement of an alternator. 

Model

Labor

Parts

Total

Ford F150

$39-50

$133-305

$172-355

Chevrolet Silverado

$79-100

$256-401

$335-501

Ford Focus

$142-181

$254-407

$396-588

Toyota Camry

$79-100

$271-649

$350-749

Toyota Corolla

$47-60

$216-649

$263-709

Nissan Maxima

$71-90

$272-382

$343-472

Nissan Altima

$68-96

$252-362

$339-458

Honda CR-V

$102-131

$289-915

$391-1046

Honda Civic

$110-141

$255-458

$365-599

Honda Accord

$63-80

$245-453

$308-533

Ford Fusion

$110-141

$232-337

$342-478

Again, these are just the average costs of an alternator, and it may be more or less expensive depending on many factors. 

Should You Repair Or Replace Your Alternator?

The difference between alternator repair costs and replacing an alternator costs will vary, so it’s worth it to look into repairing it before dropping more cash on replacing it. It may even be worth it to look into rebuilt alternator prices before doing a complete replacement. 

It’s okay to repair your alternator when:

  • It’s a worn belt. The serpentine belt is what makes the alternator rotors spin. Because it’s under constant tension and friction, this is a potential failure point. Lucky for you, if it’s just the belt, it means your actual alternator is functioning properly, and it’s just the belt that spins it that needs to be replaced. 
  • It’s a bad diode. A diode is a “one-way valve” for electricity. It should let electricity flow in one direction, providing only a little resistance. In the opposite direction, it should have infinite resistance. If there is a lot of resistance or no resistance at all in both directions, it’s likely you have a damaged diode. These are cheap to replace, but you will likely need a mechanic to do it for you. 
  • Worn coils and brushes. Because these two parts use friction to create electricity, they will wear down over time. (Think of very fine sandpaper constantly rubbing on wood — the wood will eventually wear down, as will the sandpaper.) The same is happening to the coils and brushes as they spin inside the alternator. Coils and brushes aren’t very expensive to replace, but it’s not an easy DIY job. It’s best to have a skilled mechanic do this for you. 

Let’s Talk About Alternator Repair Costs

Some common points of failure on the alternator are:

  • Bearings (that allow the rotor to spin) 
  • Coils
  • Brushes
  • Serpentine belt
  • Voltage regulator
  • Diode

There are way too many parts to all the different cars to give you an average on what replacing each of these parts would cost. If you can’t repair it yourself, you’ll have to pay the mechanic for labor, too.

If an alternator replacement is too expensive for you to afford, but a simple repair won’t fix the issue, it’s worth looking into a rebuilt alternator. If someone opted to replace their alternator when it could be fixed, the garage will likely replace their alternator and then keep and rebuild their old one. Then, they’ll sell it as a rebuilt (or refurbished) alternator. Rebuilt alternators are somewhat common and, if they’re repaired correctly, offer a good alternative to replacing one. Some refurbished alternators even come with a warranty. Only buy a rebuilt or refurbished alternator from a mechanic you trust.

5 Signs Your Alternator Has Problems

So how do I figure out if I’m having trouble with my alternator? Well, there are a few tell-tale signs that your alternator is having issues. Here are the most common ones.

  1. Car won’t start/dead battery. It isn’t the alternator that provides the power to start your car engine — that’s the battery’s job — but it’s the alternator’s job to charge the battery. If the battery is dead, it may be because the alternator isn’t working and can’t charge the battery. Of course, if your car won’t start, it could be something other than the alternator (a dead battery or starter motor, for instance), but it could be your alternator.
  2. Squeaking or grinding noise from underneath the hood. The alternator's brushes rotate along the copper coils to create friction that is turned into electricity by the alternator. If the alternator isn’t working properly, you’ll hear some odd noises coming from your engine area. Sometimes noises mean you’ll need an alternator bearing replacement, as bearings are the parts that allow for smooth rotation of the alternator.  
  3. Weak output from electrical systems. All of your car’s electrical systems — radio, power steering, headlights, windshield wipers, air conditioning, power seats, power windows, etc. — are powered by the alternator, not the battery. If the lights on your dashboard or your headlights are dim (especially when the car is at idle) or any of your electrics aren’t working, it’s likely you’ll need to pay the new alternator cost. 
  4. Multiple dashboard warning lights. The engine is controlled by an ECU (engine control unit), which runs on electricity. If it’s not getting the electricity it needs to function properly, it may cause multiple warning lights to appear on your dashboard, such as the “battery” sign, “ALT,” or check engine light. If you see multiple warning lights appear on your dashboard, it might be because the alternator isn’t powering the ECU well enough to function correctly. 
  5. A burning smell from underneath the hood. An overworked alternator will work harder to pump electricity through its wires to the electrical systems in your car. If the flow of electricity isn’t exactly as needed, it can cause the wires to overheat and emit a burning smell. The serpentine belt (that turns the alternator) is rubber and under constant tension and friction, situated right near the hot engine. If it’s cracked or worn out, it may be the cause of a burning smell, and it’s likely time for you to get your alternator replaced.

Junkcarsus is a Reputable Junk Car Buyer Working for 12 Years

If you’ve googled “How much is it to fix an alternator?” and you’re shocked at what alternators cost, it may be worth deciding if it’s worth fixing, replacing, or depending on the rest of the condition of your car, just selling it for junk and taking cash instead. In some instances, the cost of an alternator replacement will cost you more than the car is even worth. Don’t waste your time or money trying to change an alternator on an old beater any longer. If you have an old junk car that isn’t running properly anymore (even if it’s something other than an alternator), contact us for a top dollar instant offer to see how much cash we will give you for your junk car! 

At JunkCarsUS, we have been in the car scrapping business for over 12 years and are the number one junk car buyer in the USA. Over the years, our team of experts have simplified the process into three easy steps.

  1. Contact us! Give us a call at (855) 547-1550 or fill out an online application to let us know you’re interested in selling your junk car. If you give us the make, model, year, mileage, and condition of your car, we’ll give you our cash offer on the spot.
  2. Accept our offer! We have a highest price guarantee of any junk car buyer in the USA to ensure you get as much money as possible for your junk car. Once we have given you our offer, we will NEVER go back and try to change it!
  3. Arrange for FREE towing! There are absolutely NO hidden fees when you work with us, which means everything (including towing) is included. Just tell us where the car is located and when is the most convenient time for you for us to pick it up and one of our trusted tow truck drivers will arrive on time and safely tow it away at no cost to you.

We will take nearly any vehicle in any condition, including ones with broken alternators! No matter how damaged and no matter how many problems with it, we will give you a more than fair price for it!

But what about paperwork?

Our team of experts has been doing this for so long; it’s super easy for us to fill out all the paperwork for you. When you give us the information over the phone, we will fill it all out and give it to the tow truck driver for when he comes to pick up your car. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line, and he’ll hand your cash right over to you.

Give us a call TODAY at (855) 547-1550 and change your worries over an alternator replacement bill into cold hard cash! 

Edgar Moulton.

05.07.2021

Edgar Moulton. Car Expert

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