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In this guide, we look at how much an alternator repair will cost and why it costs what it does. Alternators need repairing like any other car part during a car’s life span and it is a part that will definitely need repairing as it is essential to the smooth running of a vehicle. This is because an alternator is the part of a car that helps your car’s engine to run as it helps power the electrical system. If the alternator is not working at its best, some of the car’s critical systems could stop working. This includes the heater, the airbags, the power steering and even the braking system. Good clues that your alternator needs fixing are when headlights of your car start to become less bright as well as the gauges on your dash starting to flicker. This is because the electrics are starting to fail.

So How Much Does An Alternator Repair Cost?

When looking at how much an alternator repair can cost, it is good to break down the cost into two parts. Obviously, one will be how much the part itself costs and the other, which can sometimes be more expensive, is how much the labor costs. The latter is far more difficult to guess or estimate as it really depends on the experience of the mechanic you are using as well as what type of autoshop you have taken your car to.

That being said, the alternator itself should cost about the same for each car model. Obviously the type of car you have will make the alternator itself change and therefore the cost of the part can go up or down. However, on average, an alternator can cost anywhere between $200 and $600. Realistically, this means that car owners of your average size car will be paying around $400 for the part itself.

However, there are a number of other factors to take into consideration when trying to get hold of a good value quote for your alternator belt replacement cost. For starters, you do not have to buy a brand new alternator if you are having yours repaired. Buying second hand obviously lowers the price of an alternator and there is a large scale of just how secondhand you can go. This means that you can sometimes buy an alternator that is good as new, but without the price tag. Or you can buy an alternator that is deemed as aftermarket new which means that while the alternator is brand spanking new, it simply isn’t made by the car manufacturer itself. Some websites and car part sellers will sell parts that are made by a car manufacturer but refurbished, in addition to aftermarket new parts which they may also sell as refurbished parts too. These tend to be the cheapest replacement parts available.

How To Estimate Labor In Your Alternator Belt Replacement Cost

It is the labor cost that is often the biggest variable in the quote of your alternator belt replacement cost. This is because not only will some alternator belt replacements take a shorter amount of time to replace, some mechanics are simply worth paying that little bit more for their experience. Bear in mind that some cars will only need about half an hour of a mechanic’s time to replace the alternator, while some vehicles could take about 10 times that.

Additionally, the condition that you take your car in will have a bearing on how long your mechanic will need to fix the alternator belt. However, this should not affect the cost too much given that many alternators will be exactly the same for a car make and model manufactured in any one year. That being said, if you have sourced the alternator itself for your mechanic to install, it may take them a little longer than usual as they may not be used to installing that specific make or model of belt.

Additionally, some outfitter brands or chains of autoshop can cost both above and below industry norm. When they charge above industry norm, it is often down to the fact that they are relying on the brand or name of their outfit and its reputation. People sometimes choose to go with a famous brand simply because they know it – they find it a comfort that the brand is well known and are willing to pay for it. On the flip side, some brands are able to charge less because they have a bigger company as a whole and so are able to utilise economies of scale to keep their prices down for their customers. More often than not, it is the independent mechanic that prices his services in the middle of the two.

How to Save Money on an Alternator Repair and Its Replacement Cost

One of the best ways to save on an alternator belt and its replacement cost is simply to shop around first to get a good idea of your local market. Plus, remember that it is not always the cheapest quote that should win out – car owners should question why a quote can be that cheap. Is the person quoting that price cutting corners somehow that will add up to a bad installation of your alternator repair? It could mean that their work will actually end up costing your more money down the line as you need to replace your alternator again, far sooner than if you had spent that little bit more on a more reputable car mechanic’s service.

Additionally, it pays to do some research if you are buying the belt replacement yourself. To do so, you will need to ascertain the part number of your exact alternator first. These are then easy to search on the internet to gauge the market on how much your part could cost from a variety of sources, but don’t forget to look in a traditional bricks and mortar autoshop too. They may be able to cut you a deal on the cost of the belt, if you go on to use them to have them installed.

Obviously, from there the biggest saving you could make is to install the belt yourself, though you need to question your own experience in doing so and whether you could be damaging your car by trying. Will that, as well, end up costing you more money in a few months time? Remember that the alternator belt is critical to how well your car and many of its safety systems function – it is not something that you want to risk.

How To Test An Alternator?

Testing your alternator to see whether it needs repairing or replacing is a key to understanding your alternator repair and cost. For, if your alternator is working properly, you will know that if a mechanic suggests its replacement, which is expensive, that they are trying to fool you into spending a bit more money with them.

So how do you test an alternator?

  • With your car’s engine on, open the hood of your vehicle so you can see and get access to the battery easily. From there, locate your alternator belt to ensure that it simply has not become loose.
  • Use a multimeter on a 20 volt setting to test the voltage of the alternator. Ideally, whilst ensuring your safety, put the positive or red probe onto the red terminal connector that is coming out of the alternative. Next, place the black or negative probe from the multimeter and attach it to a metal part of your car frame – a simple bolt will do. Ensure not to ground the alternator itself.
  • A reading should come up on your meter. If your alternator is in tip top working condition, it should read in the range of 13.8 to 14.2 volts. If it is too high, which is around 15 volts, it means that your alternator is not working properly. The same could be said for if it is too low, but this can be for a far higher number of reasons. It is best to take your car to a mechanic’s, if you are not experienced in vehicle engines yourself, in both instances.

Car Alternator Repairs and Costs – The Bottom Line

Having your alternator repaired or replaced is one of those things that happens that everyone who owns a car will have to suffer at some point in their life. It’s frustrating, it can be expensive, but it is still imperative to ensure that this essential car part is replaced and repaired properly when it starts to become faulty. A driver’s and passenger’s safety rely upon it so it is always worth the cost to have it fixed as soon as possible.

Sources:

  1. How Alternators Work – howstuffworks
  2. How Long do Alternators Last? – howstuffworks

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