How Much Does It Cost to Replace an Alternator?
Last Updated on June 25, 2022
The alternator plays a crucial role in the operation of your vehicle.
You should expect to pay $300 to $900 to replace an alternator in your vehicle. The cost of alternator replacement varies based on the type of vehicle and the quality of parts used.
How much does it cost to replace an alternator? How much should you spend on alternator replacement? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the cost of alternator replacement.
Table of Contents:
- What Is the Alternator?
- Signs You Need Alternator Replacement
- Alternator Replacement Cost
- Consider Replacing the Serpentine Belt with the Alternator
- Factors that Impact Alternator Replacement Cost
- How Does the Alternator Work?
- Can I Drive with a Bad Alternator?
What Is the Alternator?
The alternator supplies power to your vehicle’s electrical components, including your vehicle’s battery, by turning mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Any time you use your headlights, air conditioner, power seats, or turn signal, your alternator is converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. It’s like a miniature power plant hidden in every vehicle.
If you have problems with the alternator, then your vehicle cannot function. That’s why you may need to replace your alternator.
A typical alternator lasts 40,000 to 100,000 miles. If you plan on keeping your vehicle for more than 5 years, then you should expect to replace your alternator. It is a normal and expected part of car maintenance.
Signs You Need Alternator Replacement
Some alternators display warning signs before they need to be replaced. Some of the warning signs of a bad alternator include:
- Unusual noises from the engine, including squealing noises or whirring noises under the hood
- Sudden stalling problems
- Difficulty starting the vehicle
- Dimmed headlights
- Warning lights on the dashboard, including an illuminated battery light or check engine light
- Issues with electrical components of your vehicle, including power mirrors, radios, air conditioners, and other electrical components
A dead battery can also be a sign of a bad alternator. The alternator charges the battery while you drive the vehicle. If the alternator is performing poorly, then it won’t recharge the battery completely. If you frequently deal with dead battery issues, then it could be a problem with the alternator.
Pay attention to burning smells when driving: if you smell a pungent, burning rubber smell, then it could be a belt slipping along the alternator pulley. A burning electrical smell, meanwhile, could indicate a fault inside the alternator.
It Costs $300 to $900 to Replace an Alternator
Including all parts and labor, it should cost $400 to $600 to replace an alternator in an average vehicle.
The cost of alternator replacement includes:
- $100 to $350 for components, including the new alternator
- $100 to $200 in labor
The cost of the alternator varies based on your vehicle. Common, domestic vehicles tend to have cheaper alternator replacement costs than foreign or exotic vehicles.
The cost of labor, meanwhile, varies based on the complexity of the project and the cost of labor in your area.
Some alternator replacement jobs also require you to replace the serpentine belt, which can add another $30 to $60 to your bill.
Most drivers should expect to pay $400 to $600 to replace an alternator. However, some drivers could pay as little as $300, while other drivers could pay as much as $900.
Consider Replacing the Serpentine Belt with the Alternator
The alternator runs using the serpentine belt, also known as a drive belt. This belt drives the main pulleys, allowing the alternator to turn mechanical energy into electrical energy.
When the mechanic is replacing the alternator, they need to remove the serpentine belt as well. That’s why many drivers choose to replace the serpentine belt when replacing the alternator.
The serpentine belt can degrade over time. It could show signs of cracking or wear and tear, for example. Because the mechanic has already removed the serpentine belt to replace the alternator, it takes a little extra time to replace the serpentine belt.
If you intend to replace the serpentine belt, expect it to add $30 to $60 to your bill.
Factors that Impact Alternator Replacement Cost
Alternator replacement costs vary based on several factors, including:
Year, Make, and Model of Vehicle: Some cars have cheap components that are easy to source. Others have rare, exotic, or hard-to-source components. You could pay as little as $100 or as much as $500 for a replacement alternator based on the year, make, and model of your vehicle.
Engine Size: You need an alternator to match your engine size. Your car only works with an alternator that matches its exact engine size.
Amperage: Some alternators produce less amperage than others because they’re smaller and are designed for cars with lower power requirements. The smaller the alternator, the less high-value material (like copper) is found within the component.
Mounting Style: Alternators have different mounting styles, and your mounting style needs to perfectly match your alternator for it to work.
1 Wire Versus 3 Wire Alternators: Older cars tend to have 1-wire alternators with cheaper price tags, while newer cars tend to have 3-wire alternators that are new expensive.
Part Warranty: Some alternators have a multi-year warranty, while others do not. Depending on the quality of the part, you could pay more or less for your alternator.
Based on all of these factors, you could pay as little as $300 or as much as $900 for alternator replacement.
How Does the Alternator Work?
The alternator is mounted on the engine. A serpentine belt or drive belt attaches to the engine to create power.
As the belt spins, it creates electricity. The alternator uses a built-in voltage regulator and rectifier to adjust the current to your vehicle’s needs.
The alternator produces an alternating current (AC). Then, the rectifier diodes within the alternator change it into usable direct current (DC).
Can I Drive with a Bad Alternator?
Repairing your alternator should be a top priority. It’s a crucial component of your vehicle. Alternator problems could leave you without electricity – and crucial electrical components – when needed most.
If your alternator has stopped working, then your alternator may no longer charge the battery or run any electrical components in your vehicle. In this situation, your vehicle depends entirely on the battery, which is no longer being recharged.
After your alternator fails, you may only have 30 to 60 minutes of battery life (with a typical 12V battery). Drive your vehicle to the nearest auto shop for an alternator replacement.
Final Word on Alternator Replacement Costs
It costs $400 to $600 to replace the alternator in a typical vehicle. Prices vary based on vehicle type, alternator type, and your local cost of living.
Most drivers pay $400 to $600 for alternator replacement, although some drivers pay as little as $300 or as much as $900.
Contact local repair shops and ask for alternator replacement quotes to ensure you’re getting the best price for your alternator replacement.