The alternator plays a pivotal role in every vehicle with an internal combustion engine. It’s the one responsible for recharging your vehicle’s battery when driving. Apart from that, the alternator is also in charge of powering most of the electrical systems in your car, including the radio and headlights.
According to auto experts, alternators have an average lifespan of seven years or about 100,000 to 150,000 miles. An aged alternator will most likely misbehave and start failing. Apart from that, how the alternator is used is another factor that could make it go bad.
With a failing or bad alternator, it’s not advisable to drive your vehicle. If you must drive the car, the best you can do is to go a short distance. A vehicle with a fully charged battery can still be driven on a short distance for about 30 minutes.
Is it okay to drive with a bad alternator? How many miles can I drive with a bad or failing alternator? What happens if the alternator goes out while driving? What exactly are the risks attached to driving with a bad alternator? As you read further, you’ll find answers to these frequently asked questions.
Can I Still Drive With a Bad Alternator?
As you already know, the alternator is the car component responsible for recharging your battery. As such, if the alternator goes bad, there’s absolutely no way you can recharge your battery – it will end up dying over time.
When it comes to driving with a bad alternator, the very first thing that you need to put into consideration is your battery. The alternator doesn’t directly affect whether or not you can drive your car. However, indirectly, if it goes bad, it could affect your driving through the battery.
So, before deciding to drive your vehicle with a bad alternator, you need to first consider the working conditions of your battery. How strong is it and can it last for a long time?
Some batteries, when fully charged and in good working conditions, can always last up to about 30 minutes. This is especially true for old models with a few features. However, for modern vehicles with features like infotainment systems, display, and computer sensors, it can be very hard to drive the car with a bad alternator.
That said, the bottom line is that you can always drive your vehicle even if you have a bad alternator. However, the best you can do is to go on a very short trip, as there’s a limit to how long your battery can serve you without a functioning alternator.
How Many Miles Can I Drive With a Bad Alternator?
As earlier mentioned, you can always drive your vehicle with a bad alternator. But here’s a burning question; for how long or how many miles exactly can a car be driven with a failing alternator?
As you already know, the alternator’s primary function is to recharge your battery when driving. Since that’s the fact, you need to put the working conditions of your battery into consideration when deciding how far you can go with your car if the alternator is bad.
Apart from the working conditions of your battery, other factors that could affect how far you can drive your car without a good alternator include the following:
- How modern your vehicle is,
- Your engine working conditions, and
- The number of electronic systems that are available in your vehicle.
For instance, if you’re planning to drive your car in the night with a bad alternator, you need to turn on the headlights, which will end up consuming the battery quickly.
The battery’s working condition is important. For an old battery, especially one that’s close to its lifespan, it’s not advisable to drive your car with a bad alternator. If the battery is new, you can still drive the car for a short distance.
That said, in good working conditions with a fully charged battery, you can still drive your car for about 30 to 1 hour with a failing alternator. If you’re lucky enough, you should be able to drive the car for 2 hours. However, this will only the possible if the electronic systems and headlights of your car are turned off.
If you’re moving at a speed of 40 mph, you should be able to drive your vehicle with a bad alternator for about 20 to 40 miles.
What Happens if the Alternator Goes out While Driving?
If your alternator goes out while driving, what that means is that your car battery will be unable to charge. If you’re in a safe place, I’ll advise you to park your can and make arrangements on how to tow the vehicle to your mechanics workshop or home.
Alternatively, you can consider driving your car directly to a nearby mechanic workshop if there’s one around. However, before doing that, ensure that your car battery is fully charged and in good working conditions. In addition to this, you need to also turn off all the electrical systems in your vehicle that could consume your battery while driving.
Bottom line: the alternator plays a pivotal role in your car. If it goes out, the best thing you need to do is to visit your mechanic or a nearby workshop to help you check and fix the issue as soon as possible.
What are the Risks of Driving With a bad Alternator?
Driving with a bad alternator is not a good thing to do. I’m saying this because there are a couple of risks attached to moving your vehicle with a failing alternator.
With a bad alternator, the first risk attached to driving your car is that your battery will drain quickly. If this happens, it could make your vehicle stall. Besides, it could also destroy your battery completely through irreversible salvation.
That’s not all; driving with a bad alternator can always destroy your car engine; although that only happens in rare cases. Lastly, you might end up losing control of your car while driving with a bad alternator.