When it comes to the issue of "power" for a vehicle, the part that easily comes to mind is the engine. This is not surprising because after all, the engine is associated with the motion of the vehicle. Without it, it is impossible to conceive how the vehicle will move. Yet, the engine is not the sole power source in your vehicle. The battery provides auxiliary power for the lights, the air conditioner, the wiper motor, the lights, and horn. This is why, on the matter of power for an automotive, the alternator is just as important as the engine and the battery. Otherwise, if ignored, you will not be able to use some of the conveniences of your vehicle.
What Is an Alternator?
An alternator is simply a device that transforms mechanical energy into electrical energy. The energy that it produces is a form of alternating current. Because an alternator needs to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, inside an alternator is wound after wound of fine magnetic wires coiled around a magnetic element.
In automotives, an alternator is the main source of alternative energy for the vehicle. Its direct competitor is the generator. However, unlike the generator, an alternator does not require fuel to operate. It simply benefits from the action of the engine of the automobile to charge the battery. Another advantage of alternators is that they are lighter and simpler in operation compared to the generator, which makes them particularly suited to the limited confines of a vehicle.
The Alternator's Operation
Because it does not produce its own energy, an alternator cannot regulate the amount of current that it passes on to the battery. This is a severe limitation with potentially hazardous results especially in cases when a faulty alternator is in place and the supply of current is fluctuating. This is why there is a built-in voltage regulator in modern cars, which is a protection from possible damage to the battery arising from a faulty alternator.
Threats to the Alternator
There are several threats to the functionality of the alternator. Most such threats arise from damage to certain parts in the engine or from the legitimate wear and tear of the alternator itself, especially if the magnetic coils become torn for some reason. Aside from this, the other threats include degradation on the function of the engine's cooling system, especially the fan cooling system, loss or damage to the bearings, or loss of iron and copper elements of the alternator.
Modernization of the Alternator
The newest standard regarding alternators today is that it is now coupled to a car's computer system. However, such application remains limited to luxury cars especially from European brands. Nonetheless, this serves a major leap in the development of the alternator. It's pairing with a car's computer is usually done for the following reasons:
- To substitute the voltage regulator with a computer-based voltage regulation system.
- To monitor the output of the alternator and to match it with the car's energy consumption.
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