An alternator is a maintenance-free unit. In some cars, it can last for up to 10-15 years without any repairs. If an alternator fails, the car may still run for a short time on battery power. However, the engine will stall as soon as the battery charge is depleted. Replacing an alternator with a new OEM part is expensive, but there are alternatives.
Another symptom of a weak charging system is when the dash lights and headlights dim at idle, but become brighter when the engine is revved. This problem could be caused not only by a weak alternator, but also by a failing battery, poor connection at the battery terminals or a loose serpentine belt. A whining/buzzing noise coming from the alternator is another symptom of alternator troubles. In some cars, it could be caused by a noisy alternator bearing.
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