Car alternators are an essential part of a functioning vehicle. When your alternator breaks, the first thing that probably comes to mind is: how much is this going to cost me? Because cars have so many moving parts, the cost to replace a part can be as low as $5 or as high as $10,000 or more. Where does an alternator fall on this scale? We've done the research to give you an estimate on how much an alternator costs to replace.
On average, alternators cost about $60 to well over $300. This depends on what type of car you have, so prices can vary quite a bit. Taking it to a professional will add other fees.
Keep reading below as we break down more information on replacing an alternator so you are well-equipped to handle any problems you may encounter.
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What Do Alternators Do?
Alternators play a pivotal role in a vehicle. They supply the vehicle with all its electrical power, which helps all the parts communicate with each other and run smoothly as a cohesive unit. The alternator translates power generated by the engine into energy for the battery and other parts.
Having a properly functioning alternator is essential. The car cannot function at all without an alternator, so you could not even start the vehicle, much less drive it.
Where Can I Buy An Alternator?
One of the most affordable places to buy an alternator is in Walmart's auto shop. They have plenty of options to choose from. Let's look at a few to compare prices.
Chrome Chevy Alternator
This is one of the more affordable alternators meant for certain chevy cars. Most alternators like this one support a single wire hookup, so installation does not require the disassembly of your vehicle. Still, we always recommend taking your car to a professional to have them replace it. You may save money by purchasing the alternator yourself and bringing it with you.
Honda Accord 2013-17 2.4L Alternator
Honda vehicles are known to last forever. This alternator is priced at over three times the Chevy alternator. However, purchasing a high-quality part can assist your Honda in doing what it is best known for: lasting a long time. Even though this part costs $200, it is still a great purchase overall as it is relatively cheaper than a lot of alternators.
DB Electrical AND0339 Alternator
Many of the alternators Walmart sells are aftermarket, meaning they are not made at any specific car manufacturer's building. They are made by different companies that specialize in alternators, or other car parts. This can end up being a plus, because this specific model can be installed in Acura, Honda Odyssey, Pilot, and Ridgeline. This price lands right in the middle of the other two at $107, making it a relatively cheap part to replace considering how important it is to a vehicle.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Alternator?
Because an alternator is such a vital part of the electrical system in a car, you can expect there to be a lot of visible symptoms of a bad alternator. For one, always look for a check engine light, battery light, or other more specific lights in new models of cars. These are typically your car's first method of letting you know there is a problem. If you ignore these lights or they aren't functioning correctly, you may experience other physical problems in your car.
The headlights may stop functioning correctly and either dim or go completely out. Or worse, you may notice other parts go out, such as the infotainment center, or radio. In cars with more technology, you may even experience worse problems. If your gauge cluster is entirely electronic, it could just completely go dark. If your alternator entirely stops working, your entire battery may die soon after since it has no way to charge, which can be dangerous.
What Happens When An Alternator Goes Out While Driving?
Another terrible symptom you may experience is your car stalling or dying while driving down the highway. This is especially dangerous as this can cause an accident in a matter of seconds. If your alternator completely dies on the highway, your car will more than likely immediately shut off, leaving you stranded. In this case, you should pull over onto a shoulder or in a parking lot as soon as you can. Never stop in the middle of a road. If you can't help it, get out of your car once you've made sure it's safe, and run off the road.
How Long Does It Take To Replace An Alternator?
Without a professional's help, it will take at least two hours to replace an alternator. This is because it requires you to move some parts to get to the alternator, such as the belt. The belt is an essential part, and taking it on and off correctly requires knowledge that usually only mechanics have. For this reason, we always recommend getting it done by a professional.
If a professional is replacing your alternator, you can expect it to take 2 hours or up to a few days depending on how busy they are. Some shops can get on it right away, and others will be too busy. On average, you can expect it to be completed in a day or two.
How Often Do Alternators Go Bad?
Alternators can last anywhere from 100,000 miles to 150,000 miles or more. This depends on what kind of car you have and how old it is. Most of the time, an aftermarket alternator will not last as long as the original alternator that was built for your vehicle. If you want to get the most life out of your alternator, your best bet is buying the stock alternator made for your car.
This is not guaranteed, so there is always a chance it may last much shorter than 100,000 miles if your vehicle is already an older car. Parts break faster on older cars.
What Other Fees Come With Replacing An Alternator?
If you take your vehicle to a mechanic to get an alternator replaced, don't expect the price to be the same as buying one from Walmart. You will have your alternator professionally installed, which is a good idea, but you will also pay a little more money for the whole process. On average, it costs around $400 to have it replaced at a shop. This is because they charge labor fees.
We recommend doing this because it saves you time and possibly money in the long run. If you cannot install it correctly, it may break, and you would have to buy another one. Worse than that, it may cause any of the other parts it affects to break, and then you'd be spending a lot more than $400.
In a world as unpredictable as this, you shouldn't have to worry about whether your vehicle has been properly serviced. Instead of purchasing and installing one yourself, buy one from Walmart and take it to a mechanic. An alternator is one of the most critical parts of your car, so making sure you purchase a quality alternator and have it installed by professionals is key to your peace of mind.