Can You Jumpstart a Car with a Bad Alternator?

As a car owner, you may have had a discharged battery at one point or the other. Several factors like a parasitic drain, corroded battery connections, lights left on overnight, or battery not holding a charge can cause your battery to die and be unable to start the car.

In a case like this, the only feasible solution is to jumpstart the car and head on with your journey. But can you jumpstart a car with a bad alternator?

You can successfully jumpstart a car with a bad alternator as far as the battery has enough charge to keep the car running. However, the vehicle will shut off once the battery runs out of charge and won’t stay running if you jumpstart it again. Overall, it is best to replace a bad alternator.

Can You Jumpstart a Car with a Bad Alternator?

Alternator Working Principal

The battery and the alternator work in unison to provide the required electricity to run your car. While the battery provides the power to start the engine, the alternator keeps the engine running while recharging the battery to start the car next time.

The alternator powers all electronic and electrical components in the vehicle, such as the headlights, radio, dashboard instruments, heated seats, power windows, electric steering, and windshield wipers. The alternator provides these components with direct current (DC).

The alternator works by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. Here’s how it achieves this. The engine pulley is connected to the alternator via a drive belt. When you start the engine, the drive belt spins the alternator pulley along with the engine pulley.

The alternator pulley spins the alternator rotor shaft, which rotates some magnets around a coil. The magnets turning around a coil produce alternating current, which is abbreviated as AC. The AC is then sent to the rectifier in the alternator. The rectifier converts the alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC), which is needed to power your car’s electrical systems.

Generally, alternators are designed to last the lifespan of your car engine. But that’s not always the case. The alternator can fail much earlier due to exposure to water, heat damage, wear and tear, faulty parts, overuse, or wiring issues.

How do you know the alternator is bad?

Without a good functioning alternator, your car won’t run for long if it starts. Why didn’t I say your car won’t start? Will a car start with a bad alternator? If your battery is charged, the vehicle will start even with a faulty alternator. However, it won’t stay long before it dies.

It is difficult to tell if a car battery or alternator is faulty because of how they work in harmony. However, If you jumpstart a car and it dies shortly afterward, you have a lousy alternator. So if you are wondering, will a car with a bad alternator start with a jumpstart? You now know the answer. Meanwhile, here are the possible signs of a bad alternator in a vehicle.

  • Battery warning light is on
  • Battery not holding charge
  • Trouble starting the car
  • Slow or malfunctioning accessories.
  • Screeching or whining noise after starting the car
  • Smell of a burning rubber
  • Dim or overly bright lights

If you notice one or more of these signs, do not draw to a conclusion yet. Instead, diagnose the alternator to know if it is bad or not.

how long will a car run with a bad alternator

Can you Drive the vehicle with a Bad Alternator? 

The short answer is yes. Technically, you can still drive a vehicle with a bad alternator, but it is not advisable, especially on newer vehicle models, because they require more electricity than older models.

How long will a car run with a bad alternator? If the battery is weak or close to the end of its shelf life, you’ll only cover a few miles before it dies, and the car will shut off. In most cases, the car will exhibit some electrical issues when the battery charge gets low before shutting off the vehicle. Therefore, it is important not to drive with a bad alternator unless you are heading to a nearby mechanic shop for alternator replacement.

What Happens When an Alternator goes out while Driving?

The car alternator is known to start charging the car battery as soon as you start the vehicle. However, it does much more than that. An alternator runs the electrical and electronic system components in a car.

So, if the alternator dies while driving, the battery is left to handle all these system components alone without receiving an electrical charge to stay alive. When the alternator dies while driving, the car will suddenly lose power due to low electric power, the battery light will appear on the dashboard, and the engine will start stalling before the car eventually turns off. When the vehicle shuts off, you can’t start it again without jumpstarting it, replacing the battery, or fixing the alternator.

In this case, the car will turn off once you jumpstart and remove the jumper cables because the battery does not have any electric charge left to keep the car running. Replacing the battery will only give it a temporary fix. So, you have seen what to do if you are looking for a temporary fix for bad alternator. The only permanent solution is to fix or replace the faulty alternator.

Can You Jumpstart a Car with a Bad Alternator?

Now to the big question, can you jump-start a car with a faulty alternator? While you can jump-start a car with a dead alternator, you should know that this is just a temporary relief. If the alternator is faulty, it won’t prevent the vehicle from starting, and it won’t recharge the battery as well. So, the car will shut off once the battery runs out of charge.

If you jump-start the car again this time, it’ll shut off immediately after you remove the jumper cables because both the battery and the alternator are dead. Plus, jump-starting a car with a bad alternator may cause potential damage to the car’s electrical system components.

Final Words

In summary, if you have been reading to this point, you’ll no longer ask, can you jumpstart a car with a bad alternator? Long story short, you can jumpstart a car with a bad alternator as a temporary relief and not a permanent fix. The wisest thing to do when your car alternator becomes faulty is to fix or replace it.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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