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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.
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!
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.
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.
Quick recap! Let’s go over how the battery, starter, and alternator play an important role in your vehicle’s starting and charging systems:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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!
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 jiffylube.com to ensure the service is available at the Jiffy Lube location near you.