Terms You Need To Know To Understand Battery & Alternator Repairs

10 June 2016
 Categories: , Blog


As a new vehicle owner, you don't have to understand how to fix every part on your vehicle; that is what mechanics are for. However, it is helpful to be familiar with the terms that your mechanic will use when you take your vehicle in for repairs. Being familiar with these terms ahead of time will take away some of the confusion and mystery of the auto repair process. Here are some terms you need to know if your vehicle has either battery or alternator issues that need to be addressed by your mechanic.


All vehicles require a battery in order to operate. The battery looks like a big rectangular black box and is generally located near the front of your engine, next to the alternator. Like regular batteries, car batteries have both positive and negative terminals. These terminals are generally covered by simple plastic lids that help protect them from erosion.

Just like a regular battery, your car battery will need to be replaced eventually. If you know when your battery was installed, a mechanic should be able to tell you how long your battery should last. The lifespan of a battery varies based on the quality of the battery installed, the type of vehicle you drive and how often you drive your vehicle.

If you left lights on in your vehicle for an extended period of time without the engine running, this can cause your battery to "die" and you will need to jumpstart your battery to get it started again. Without a working battery, you cannot drive your car.


Your alternator is a device that is located under the hood of your vehicle that works together with your battery to generate electricity for all the parts of your vehicle that rely on electricity to work. In the vast majority of vehicles, the alternator is located in front of your engine. It is connected to your engine via a belt that helps power the alternator and allows it to generate electricity.


When your vehicle will not turn over when you try to start it, or when the accessories on your vehicle will not turn on, that generally indicates that there is an issue with either your multimeter or your alternator. One of the most common tools mechanics and drivers use to determine where the issue is coming from is a multimeter. A multimeter is a small tool that you can use to measure the electrical output information, such as current and resistance. This is a good tool to have in your vehicle toolbox.

If your vehicle ever fails to start-up, you can attach the multimeter to your battery and then your alternator to determine If either one is putting out electricity. The one that is failing to put out electricity is where your issue lies.

Jumper Cables

Jumper cables are a tool that you should carry around in your vehicle at all times. If you ever leave your lights on or your battery fails to start for any reason, and you know from your multimeter that that battery is the issue (not the alternator) you can get your vehicle going again by using jumper cables.

Jumper cables have two ends which are attached to the positive and negative terminals on your battery, then onto the positive and negative terminals on another vehicle's battery. The other vehicle needs to be running, whereas yours needs to be off. The other vehicle's battery will recharge or "jump start" your battery so you can get your vehicle on the road again.

If you ever jumpstart your car, make sure that you let it continuously run for a half hour or so; this will allow your battery to completely recharge.

The terms and explanation above should help you better understand how your battery and alternator work, so if you ever experience issues with them, you'll know what to do and what to discuss with your mechanic. 

For more information and assistance, talk with a mechanic, such as those at Arringdale's Engine Rebuilding & Auto Repair, directly.