Alternator is a critical component of your Toyota Highlander’s electrical system. It is responsible for keeping your battery charged and supplying power to the vehicle’s electrical components.
However, like all mechanical parts, it can wear out and malfunction over time. So, you should know the signs of a failing alternator in your Highlander to catch the issue before it leaves you stranded on the road.
This is only possible by identifying different bad alternator signs, such as dim headlights, a slow engine crank, battery warning lights, and low battery voltage. However, to check the voltage, you can use a multimeter to measure the voltage of the battery and the voltage of the alternator output.
In this guide, we’ll discuss some common signs of a bad alternator in a Toyota Highlander and how to check voltage. So, stay with us by reading the entire blog.
Why is a Functional Alternator Necessary in a Toyota Highlander?
A functional alternator is necessary for a Toyota Highlander (as well as in any vehicle) because it plays a crucial role in charging the battery and powering the vehicle’s electrical system while the engine is running.
The alternator converts mechanical energy from the engine into electrical energy, which is used to run the vehicle’s lights, radio, air conditioning, and other accessories.
Without a working alternator, the battery would quickly lose its charge, and the vehicle would eventually stall due to a lack of electrical power.
How Does an Alternator Work in Toyota Highlander?
The alternator in a Toyota Highlander is driven by a belt connected to the engine’s crankshaft. As the engine runs, the alternator’s rotor spins inside a stator, creating a magnetic field that generates an electrical current.
This electrical current is then used to charge the battery and power the vehicle’s electrical system. The alternator also contains a voltage regulator that helps maintain a consistent voltage output and prevent overcharging of the battery.
The amount of current produced by the alternator is controlled by the vehicle’s computer, which adjusts the alternator’s output to meet the needs of the electrical system and battery.
Signs of a Bad Alternator in a Toyota Highlander
A bad alternator can cause various electrical problems and may even lead to the vehicle’s failure to start. Here are some signs of a bad alternator in a vehicle.
Sign 1: Dimming or Flickering Headlights
Dimming or flickering headlights are a common sign of a failing alternator. As the alternator fails to supply sufficient power to the vehicle’s electrical system, the headlights may appear dimmer than usual, or they may flicker on and off. This could be a sign that the alternator is no longer able to provide the necessary voltage to keep the lights on.
Sign 2: Warning Light
The warning light on the dashboard is one of the most apparent signs of a bad alternator in a Toyota Highlander. The battery-shaped warning light may illuminate on the dashboard when the alternator is not functioning correctly. This warning light is a clear indication that the battery is not receiving enough power from the alternator.
Sign 3: Electrical Issues
A bad alternator may cause various electrical problems in a Toyota Highlander. For example, the vehicle’s radio, air conditioning, or power windows may not work correctly or not work at all. The battery may also drain faster than usual, leading to a vehicle that won’t start. These problems are usually caused by a lack of power supply from the alternator.
Sign 4: Strange Sounds
A failing alternator can cause a range of strange sounds in a Toyota Highlander. These sounds may include grinding, whining, or rattling noises. The sounds may come from the alternator itself or the accessory drive belt. A grinding noise is often an indication that the bearings inside the alternator have failed, and the whining noise could indicate a loose or worn accessory drive belt.
Sign 5: Smell of Burning Rubber
A burning rubber smell coming from the engine compartment could be a sign of a bad alternator in a Toyota Highlander. When the alternator fails, it may cause the accessory drive belt to slip or break. As a result, the friction between the belt and the pulley can cause the rubber to burn, creating a distinctive smell.
Sign 6: Dead Battery
A dead battery is often a sign of a bad alternator. If the alternator is not providing enough power to charge the battery, the battery may eventually become depleted, leading to a vehicle that won’t start. If the battery keeps dying even after being recharged, it may be time to replace the alternator.
Common Causes of Alternator Failure in a Toyota Highlander
The alternator is an essential component of a Toyota Highlander’s charging system, and like any other part, it can fail due to various reasons. Here are some common causes of alternator failure in a Toyota Highlander:
- Age and Wear: As with any mechanical part, the alternator in a Toyota Highlander can wear out over time. The bearings may wear out, or the brushes may become worn, leading to decreased performance or complete failure of the alternator.
- Overcharging: Overcharging is a common cause of alternator failure in a Toyota Highlander. When the voltage regulator fails, it can cause the alternator to overcharge the battery, leading to premature failure of the alternator and potentially damaging the battery.
- Undercharging: The opposite of overcharging, undercharging, can also cause alternator failure in a Toyota Highlander. If the alternator is not charging the battery enough, it may cause the battery to drain quickly and lead to premature alternator failure.
- Electrical Problems: Electrical problems in the Toyota Highlander can also cause alternator failure. Short circuits, loose connections, or corroded wires can create excessive resistance in the charging system, leading to poor charging performance, and potentially damaging the alternator.
- Belt Problems: A worn, loose, or damaged accessory drive belt can cause the alternator to fail in a Toyota Highlander. If the belt slips or breaks, the alternator may not receive enough power to charge the battery, leading to a dead battery and potential alternator failure.
How to Check Alternator Voltage in a Toyota Highlander?
Checking the alternator voltage in a Toyota Highlander is an important part of diagnosing any charging system problems. Here are the steps to check the alternator voltage:
Step 1: Preparation
Before checking the alternator voltage, ensure the engine is off and the battery is fully charged. Also, you should ensure that all electrical accessories are turned off.
Step 2: Locate the Alternator
Locate the alternator in the engine compartment of your Toyota Highlander. The alternator is usually mounted on the front of the engine and has a pulley attached to it.
Step 3: Check Battery Voltage
Start the engine and use a multimeter to measure the battery voltage. The voltage should be between 13.5 and 14.5 volts. If the voltage is below this range, the alternator may not be charging the battery correctly.
Step 4: Measure Alternator Voltage
After that, turn on the headlights and any other electrical accessories to create a load on the alternator. Use the multimeter to measure the voltage at the alternator output terminal. The voltage should be between 13.5 and 14.5 volts.
If the voltage is below this range, the alternator may not be producing enough power to charge the battery and run the vehicle’s electrical system.
Step 5: Interpret the Results
Compare the voltage readings you obtained in steps 3 and 4. If the voltage reading at the alternator is the same or slightly higher than the battery voltage, the alternator is likely functioning correctly.
However, if the voltage reading at the alternator is significantly lower than the battery voltage, the alternator may be faulty.
When To Replace The Alternator?
The alternator in a Toyota Highlander should be replaced if it fails to charge the battery, if the voltage output is consistently outside the expected range, or if it is making strange noises.
Additionally, if the alternator warning light is on, this could indicate a problem requiring replacement. Other signs that the alternator may need to be replaced include dimming headlights, a dead battery, or difficulty starting the engine.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, it’s important to have the alternator inspected and replaced to ensure the proper functioning of your vehicle’s electrical system.
A bad alternator in a Toyota Highlander can cause major damage if left unchecked. It is important to keep an eye out for the signs and to check the voltage regularly.
Hopefully, you may figure out the common signs of a bad alternator in a Toyota Highlander and how to check voltage. So, if you notice dim lights and a decrease in electrical power, or your battery is not being recharged, you likely have a bad alternator. Professional technicians should be consulted to diagnose and repair the problem.
Maintaining the alternator in good condition is essential to keep the Highlander running and prevent further damage. Regularly checking the voltage is a good way to ensure the alternator is functioning properly.