There's nothing like that sinking feeling when you turn the key and nothing happens in your vehicle. A lot of us are quick to blame the battery. But it may instead be your alternator that's failing.
Your battery supplies power to start your vehicle, but the alternator is what sends power when your engine is running. The good news is alternators last a fairly long time, and it's not unusual to get seven years out of one. But they can give up the ghost thanks to the harsh conditions in the engine compartment.
Alternators have bearings inside them that keep things turning smoothly. Debris, liquid, dirt and more can team up with the high temperatures your engine generates to cause those bearings to seize up. That's not good, and if that happens, you may even be able to hear the bearings grind.
Other symptoms of a dying alternator are a squealing noise in the engine compartment or your headlights may go dim and bright, dim and bright. You might even notice an electrical smell. Any of these signs warrants a trip to your service facility.
Here's something else to think about. If your alternator's bearings have seized up and the unit's shaft is not turning freely, that can destroy the belt that's attached to it. So don't be surprised if your service advisor says both parts have to be replaced.
There are different grades of alternators you can buy, but consider just how important this part is to keep your vehicle running. Your service advisor will give you options based on your driving style and vehicle. Remember, if you notice any of those symptoms that may signal a failing alternator, have it taken care of before you wind up stuck somewhere at the side of the road.