How to find the alternator? This is the first question if you want to do anything around it.
If you know your way around an engine bay this won’t be that hard to do although with modern crammed engine bays you never know.
But if you don’t have any experience then this may prove to be a serious and confusing task.
Whatever the case, this article we’ll show you a couple of easy and common tips for how to find the alternator
Before we start, we would like to recommend our article and video about the alternator, what is it, and how it works. So, if you have any dilemmas about the alternator itself, this video should help.
Also, at the end of this article, you can find our video on this same topic that you can also watch on our YouTube channel.
HOW TO FIND THE ALTERNATOR ON ANY CAR?
1. TAKE OFF THE ENGINE COVER
One thing you can do that will make finding the alternator easier is to take off the engine cover.
Exceptions from this are the engine bay where the alternator is mounted in an easy-to-access place (mainly for easier maintenance).
But if the engine bay is packed and hard to access, then taking off the engine cover is almost necessary.
It will give you a much better chance of finding the alternator as you’ll get a much better view.
You don’t have to do this if you can access the alternator from under the car. But even in this case, you have to take off protective undercovers so you’re in for more or less the same job just from a different side.
So, to make life easier, simply take off the engine cover. If you want to see how to do this, we’ve made an article and video on this specific topic, click here to see it.
2. FOLLOW THE PULLEYS AND SERPENTINE BELT
Following the serpentine belt and pulleys is the easiest and most effective way when talking about how to find the alternator.
Why? Well, the reason is that the alternator is exclusively driven by the engine with the serpentine belt. There is no other way. If there is, it’s not as common as the serpentine belt for sure.
So, find the belt and pullies, which are surely visible on almost every engine, follow the belt and you’ll find the alternator for sure.
Also, know that the serpentine belt, pullies, and thus the alternator have a predefined position which leads us to the next way for how to find the alternator.
3. LOOK AT THE ENGINE PLACEMENT
Know that the alternator must be mounted in a certain way because of how the engine is built.
Since the crankshaft and the crankshaft pulley drive the alternator it must be positioned this way in order to work.
The alternator is always mounted alongside the engine, in the direction of the engine cylinders and crankshaft.
The longer side of the alternator goes in the direction of the longer side of the engine.
Another way of looking at this is that the alternator is always mounted 90 degrees opposed to the pullies and serpentine belt.
Also, know that the alternator may be mounted on the left or right side of the engine looking from the front of the serpentine belt and pullies.
4. RECOGNIZE THE SHAPE OF THE ALTERNATOR
Next, try to recognize the alternator by its shape.
On some cars, this is pretty hard since most have lots of extra appliances like the ac compressor, the power steer pump, a tensioner pulley, and else.
Also, the alternator may seem somewhat hidden due to engine build and if the engine bay is crammed.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the biggest appliances which makes finding it much easier.
Besides this, it’s very recognizable by its cylindrical shape.
Also, the body of the alternator has various openings on it for letting air inside for cooling (they look like ventilation grills).
Older versions of the alternator had a ventilator located just behind the pulley making this another sure sign of recognition.
The alternator is held in place with usually two or three screws, depending on the type of alternator.
So, search for a bigger cylindrical appliance with a pulley on one side and various wires on the other.
5. FOLLOW THE WIRING
Speaking about wires, if all of the previous tips fail then this one will work for sure.
The alternator is connected to the car’s installation with wires and cables, namely one thicker wire and one or more thinner ones.
To avoid confusion, other appliances will have fewer and thinner wires or no wires at all.
So, take a look inside the engine bay, look around the pullies, the serpentine belt, and see what appliance is connected with a couple of thicker and thinner wires.
Besides this, you’ll also notice on the rear of the alternator, connectors, screws, or nuts holding the wires in place.
But if even this doesn’t work, then there’s one more way. That is to follow the red cable from the positive battery terminal.
Usually, there are two wires, a thicker and thinner one. You have to follow the thinner one.
This wire will either lead to the alternator directly or more often, it will lead first to the starter and then to the alternator.
This way, there’s no chance you’ll miss it.
So, once again, how to find the alternator. Best first to take off the engine cover and get a better view (if it’s not immediately visible).
Then search around the engine for the serpentine belt and the pullies. Follow the belt and you’ll recognize the alternator by its shape and size.
Look at the engine placement and this will additionally help.
If you don’t find it by then, search for the wiring and electric connections or follow the wires from the battery.
One thing is certain: you can’t miss the alternator, it’s there for sure. It’s only a matter of time and persistence until you find it.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO FIND THE ALTERNATOR ON ANY CAR? YOUTUBE VIDEO