The alternator is basically a device that takes mechanical energy from the engine and produces electrical power. Later, it changes the harnessed alternating current to the direct current that the battery can store.
Although the idea of alternating current was known from the 1830s, it took about 40 years for the general purpose alternator to be introduced to the public in the late 1870s. Alternators were mostly used to help with the use of arc lamps in those days.
Automotive alternators were first used during the World War II to power radio and other related equipment on specialized vehicles. After the war, other vehicles with high electrical demands were fitted with the optional alternators. These kind of vehicles were mostly ambulance, police and firefighter trucks, even tho, there also were some taxis with the alternators.
Ford, General Motors and Chrysler were among the first to use alternators in their commercial vehicles.
The automotive charging system
To simplify automotive charging system, we say that it is composed of three major components. Voltage regulator, the battery and an alternator.
The battery is one of the crucial components of the system. It stores the electric power so it can keep the electronics running when the engine is off. Battery also helps with the process of starting the engine. And, when the engine starts working, the alternator kicks in and takes over.
The voltage regulator
Voltage regulator keeps voltage under control. Too much or too little voltage from the alternator can damage the car battery and other components. It determines when and how much stored power is needed in the battery.
The alternator is basically a device that takes mechanical energy from the engine and produces electrical power. Later, it changes the harnessed alternating current to the direct current that the battery can store. More about it, in the following text..
How does the alternator work
To understand how the simple alternator works, you must know that it consists of four main parts:
- The rotor: basically a spinning set of magnets;
- The stator: a nest of copper wires;
- The diode: converts AC to the DC; and
- The belt: used to spin the rotor.
While the engine is running, the belt connected to the crankshaft spins the pulley on the alternator which makes the rotor to spin. The rotor is located inside of stator. As it spins, it produces electrical power from the mechanical energy. – The effect known as Electromagnetism.
When the electricity is produced, it is conducted to the diode which changes it from the alternating current to the direct current that the battery can accept and store. The next step is controlled by the voltage regulator. Basically, as the battery drains, the voltage regulator allows the right amount of electric current to flow into the battery.
How to notice a bad alternator
When the vehicle alternator is going bad, the driver will notice a reduced electrical capacity. This will often result in dim headlights, not working radio, window raising switches not working and various other things. And, if the alternator is too weak to charge a battery at all, the engine will not be able to start.
Want to learn more about this topic?
If you would like to learn more about alternators, I’d suggest you to read these articles:
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