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How do I Tell If It Is a Dead Battery or the Alternator?

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You’ve been out shopping, you hop in the car and turn the key, and nothing happens. It could be because you left the headlights on, which drained the battery, or it could signify a problem with the charging system. When it’s operating correctly, the car’s alternator provides a steady flow of current to charge the battery when the motor is running. Without this charge, the battery quickly drains, even while the car is in use. Repairing the alternator and replacing the battery are not difficult jobs, but first you have to know which of them to do.

Step 1

Turn the ignition key. If there is any power left in the battery, the warning lights on the dashboard should come on. If the alternator light, which is sometimes identified as “Charge,” doesn’t come on, the alternator is probably not working.