Posted under Car Engine

You put your key in the ignition, a quick flick of the wrist, and your car starts up without you giving it a second thought. It’s simple and effortless, right? In reality, this “simple” process is the result of several elements of your vehicle working in tandem. The dream team of your battery, starter motor, and alternator starts up your vehicle and then recharges your battery. Let’s take a closer look at the roles each of these parts play and how they work together to get you on the road.

What Does the Battery Do?

The battery is responsible for several of the most important functions of your vehicle. For one, it stores electrical energy and powers the starter, ignition, and other crucial components during startup. Secondly, the battery supplies short-term power to your vehicle’s electrical components when your engine isn’t running. Ever wondered why you can still listen to the radio after you take the keys out of the ignition? The battery provides that power!

What’s the Importance of a Car Starter?

To put it bluntly, the starter motor gets the engine running. It’s an electric motor equipped with a small gear (pinion) attached to the end. When activated by the ignition switch, the pinion gear meshes with the larger (ring) gear that’s connected to the engine. The starter motor converts the battery’s electrical energy to mechanical energy to crank the engine. Then, the starter motor automatically disengages after the engine spins faster than the starter.

How Does a Car Alternator Work?

While the battery is crucial for starting your vehicle when it’s off, it’s the alternator that charges your battery and supplies power to your vehicle’s electrical components while the engine is running. Without it, you will not be able to operate your headlights, run your wipers, or crank up your stereo and sing along to your road trip playlist very long before your battery goes dead.

The alternator operates by turning mechanical energy into electrical energy. When the engine starts, it powers a drive belt that spins a pulley attached to the alternator. The pulley turns the alternator’s rotor shaft, which spins a group of electromagnets around a coil that generates Alternating Current (AC). Then, this AC flows through the rectifier — a device inside the alternator that converts AC to Direct Current (DC). DC is used to operate the vehicle’s electrical system.

Indications That Your Battery, Alternator, and/or Starter Are Not Operating Properly

Quick recap! Let’s go over how the battery, starter, and alternator play an important role in your vehicle’s starting and charging systems:

  • The battery stores electrical energy.
  • The starter motor converts this energy into mechanical energy to crank the engine.
  • After the engine has started, the alternator generates an electrical current to replace what the starter draws from the battery during startup and supports electrical loads while the engine is running.

So what are some indications that one or more of these components aren’t working properly? Keep an eye out for these common warning signs:

  • Dim or overly bright lights — If you encounter this issue, your alternator might be providing inconsistent voltage to your lights, causing them to periodically go from bright to dim and vice versa.
  • Battery light comes on — When your battery light illuminates on the dashboard, it indicates something’s wrong with your vehicle’s battery or charging system.
  • Slow or no cranking — You could be dealing with battery or starter issues if you experience slow cranking during startup or all you hear is clicking when turning the key in the ignition.
  • Engine stalling — How do you tell if an alternator is bad? Your alternator might be failing to keep your battery constantly charged if your engine stalls while driving. Yikes!
  • Slow accessories — If you notice your windows, power seats, or other electrical accessories are slow to react, you may have issues with your battery or alternator.

How to Ensure Engine Parts Are Functioning Properly?

Routine maintenance is key to ensuring your engine parts are working correctly. Here are a few things you can do to keep your engine performing at its best:

Check for Battery Corrosion

Battery corrosion can diminish battery performance because it can interfere with the electrical connection to your vehicle’s critical systems. If you notice any white or greenish substance on or near the battery terminals, you can clean it with a brush and a mixture of baking soda and water.

Tighten Your Cable Clamps

The cable clamps that connect the battery to your vehicle can loosen over time, which may trigger the battery light on your dashboard. Pop open your hood and ensure your clamps are securely fastened. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions if they seem loose.


Check the Alternator

If your battery seems okay, check the alternator. You can purchase a multimeter at your local auto parts shop and perform an alternator test. However, unless you’re really handy, leaving this procedure to the professionals is best. Stop by your local Jiffy Lube, and we’ll be more than happy to assist you!

A Jiffy Lube technician replacing a vehicle's battery

Ensure Your Vehicle’s Engine Is Working Properly with Jiffy Lube

The battery, starter motor, and alternator are all essential parts for your vehicle’s startup and electrical system. If you’re having trouble starting your vehicle or dealing with electrical issues, there could be something wrong with one of these components.


Don’t worry! You can rely on Jiffy Lube. We offer a wide range of engine and battery services to help get you back on the road quickly. Trained service center technicians will present you with all the diagnostic outcomes, allowing you to decide when and how to proceed. If battery testing indicates an issue, we can suggest additional battery, starting, and charging testing and services. Even if you just need to change your oil, basic battery testing is included with every Jiffy Lube Signature Service® Oil Change.


NOTE: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube service centers. Please call ahead or check to ensure the service is available at the Jiffy Lube location near you.