Nothing is more important than ignition and engine management when it comes to long-lasting, optimal performance for any family car, commuter vehicle, sporty joyrider or weekend recreational warrior. To get started, let’s look at starters for cars. A starter is a powerful electric motor that is used to start or ‘turn over’ an engine. So, what does the starter do in a car? When the ignition switch is engaged, power from the battery is delivered to the solenoid that sits on top of the starter motor. That connection causes a mighty pinion gear to thrust and spin toward the engine, engaging the flywheel and moving the pistons. Essentially, a car starter generates the spark needed to get the engine running.
The alternator in a car maintains the charge on your vehicle’s battery by feeding it a regulated current of electricity. When you start the vehicle, power from the battery turns the serpentine belt attached to the front of the engine, which spins the pulley on the alternator. This mechanical energy generates electricity that is directed to the motor and recharges the battery. The combined work of starters and alternators in modern combustion-engine vehicles drives critical systems like the power steering pump and air conditioner compressor, as well as accessories like headlights, audio systems, window wipers, electric seat controls and power window motors.
Signs of a Bad Alternator or Starter
If you are engaging the starter, but the motor just won’t kick on, you will want to check the voltage on your battery. If your battery has enough charge, but your headlights and electronic displays are cycling through dimming down and brightening up, this is a potential sign of a starter going bad. The pinion might not make contact with the flywheel, thus not generating the spark required. Failing teeth on the pinion gear, a damaged starter solenoid or worn-down magnetic brushes are critical starter issues that need addressed.
Flickering headlights, dashboard gauges and interior cabin lights are also possible signs that it is time to replace a car alternator. Additional signs of a bad alternator might include:
- Smell of burning rubber or wiring
- Battery light indicator illuminates on the dashboard
- High-pitched whining noises from the housing component
- Vehicle does not quickly start or stalls when on the road
- Growling or grinding noises from loose components or rubbing metal parts
- Battery won’t charge when the engine is idling
- New battery ‘goes dead’ too soon
How Long Does a Car Alternator Last?
A quality alternator should last up to 10 years before it needs repaired. Typically, an alternator does not need much maintenance until it becomes damaged. Keep in mind, your vehicle might actually need an alternator pulley or bearing replacement instead.
Because the alternator is located inside the engine compartment, access is possibly too complex for a beginner hobbyist or do-it-yourself home mechanic. If you are not confident about replacing a starter or alternator on your sedan, minivan, pickup or SUV, take your vehicle to a local NAPA Auto Care center. Our ASE-certified technicians are here to provide expert service to give you peace of mind and a smooth ride. Be aware, the cost of car alternator repair often includes two to three hours of professional labor.
Shop NAPAonline for Aftermarket Starters & Alternators
A quality alternator or starter should deliver optimum starting and charging performance under any operating conditions, every time. These critical automotive components are designed to withstand excessive heat and high electrical demand. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs of a failing alternator or starter, and quickly replace broken parts with aftermarket alternators and starters before the damage gets more severe and spreads to other systems.
At NAPA, our full line of starters and alternators are engineered to provide the same perfect fit and seamless performance as your OE parts. Important parts of the alternator include housing and bearing cases to protect and seal the rotor, voltage regulators, alternator connectors, alternator insulators and more. When it comes to aftermarket starters and alternators, you can’t get much better than Bosch ignition and engine management. These high-quality auto parts use innovative technology to ensure top performance and long-term durability.
We also sell these parts from top brands like Denso, Wilson and the NAPA Power Premium Plus line. Sign up with NAPA Rewards to rack up points. Earn 1 Point for every $1 you spend. Collect 100 Points, and you automatically get $5 off your next order. Best of all, there’s no card to carry or key fob to flash. Sign up today and save!
Bosch Alternators & Starters
If you are shopping for your older model Ford Bronco, F150 1/2 Ton Pickup, Econoline Van or Mustang, check out this new starter with solenoid from Bosch. Our NAPA experts also suggest this new alternator from Bosch, perfect for a Ford Thunderbird, Lincoln Navigator or Mercury Cougar. It boasts a 130-amperage rating with a serpentine pulley belt. This alternator model comes with an internal fan and regulator housed in a polished aluminum case.
To cut back on car alternator costs, go with a reman alternator that utilizes the latest manufacturing technologies. Take a look at this premium remanufactured alternator with a 110-amperage rating, perfect for a Nissan Maxima or Infiniti. This reman alternator includes the mounting hardware and an incorporated pulley. Or, if you are looking for a quality ignition replacement part for your older model Subaru Forester, Outback or Impreza, consider the remanufactured starter with solenoid.
Whether refurbished or brand new, Bosch premium alternators and starters are fully load tested and factory inspected before entering the market to ensure years of reliable performance, even under the most extreme operating conditions. Bosch remanufactured starters and solenoids are disassembled, inspected and updated with new elements for any part that is beyond repair. Furthermore, remanufactured units sold on NAPAonline.com are competitively priced and often carry generous warranties.
How Much Do Starters & Alternators Cost?
Car starters for sale start as low as $150 with options like this remanufactured solenoid starter for a modern Nissan Pathfinder, Xterra, Equator or Frontier and can reach up to $275, such as with this new starter with solenoid for a Mercedes-Benz. Alternators also start as low as $150—for example, like with this 62-amp remanufactured alternator for a Buick Skylark or Lesabre manufactured in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s—and can reach up to $350 with options such as this 130-amp new alternator for a Chevrolet Escalade, Silverado or Avalanche built in the early 2000s.
If you are in the market for starters or alternators for sale, then look no further than NAPAonline. And now, you can Get Up & Go faster than ever! Participating NAPA Auto Parts stores offer a convenient Buy Online, Pick Up in Store option, so you can get back on the road in no time. Or you can check out our Free One-Day Shipping on more than 160,000 items!
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.