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Introduction to alternators, part twelve, buying an alternator

Buying an alternator for your car is a relatively straight forward process. In order to ensure the correct alternator is purchased, the year, make, model, engine size, and possibly date of manufacture will need to be given to the parts sales person at the auto parts store. If the alternator is being purchased from a dealer, then the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, may be needed. The year, make, and engine size can be found on the VECI, or Vehicle Emissions Control Information, label located usually on the underside of the hood or on the upper radiator support, the metal bracket that is located near the top and in front of, or on top of the radiator. This bracket has the hood latch secured to it. The date of manufacture is usually located on the driver’s door rear edge near where the latch is located. The VIN is located on the VECI label, date of manufacture label, or VIN tag located on the dash at the left lower corner of the windshield.

Advanced Auto Parts store
Advanced Auto Parts store
The alternator should be removed from the engine for comparison before purchasing a new one.

Alternators can be bought from several sources. Factory OEM, Original Equipment Manufacturer, alternators can be purchased from the dealer. Buying an alternator from a dealer is usually the most expensive option. However, the dealer should be considered because sometimes the dealer alternator may be less than what is available in the aftermarket auto parts stores.

Another option is aftermarket auto parts stores such as NAPA, CARQUEST, Federated Auto Parts, Advanced Auto Parts, Pep Boys, O’Reilly, or AutoZone. Dealers and aftermarket parts stores offer new or remanufactured alternators. Remanufactured alternators are used alternators that have been refurbished with new parts to bring the alternator back to like new condition. New and remanufactured starters almost always come with a warranty. The warranty will vary per dealer, manufacturer, or auto parts store policy.

A third option is a used alternator from a salvage yard. This is a “caveat emptor” or “buyers beware” option. When purchasing a used alternator, the condition of the alternator may not be known, i.e., worn out brushes, bearings, bushings, or faulty internal components, etc. Most reputable salvage yards will offer an exchange within a certain time frame, such as thirty days, if the used alternator is faulty.

Generally, in terms of cost, the dealer is the most expensive and the salvage yard is the least expensive. However, when expense decreases then quality also diminishes. When researching the cost of an alternator, at least three to five sources should be contacted including a dealer. When contacting these sources vehicle information will be needed, i.e., year, make, model, engine size, etc., and have a piece of paper and pencil ready so that the price of the starter, warranty, and source can be written down. Compare the alternator information after contacting the parts stores. Choose the best option and purchase the starter from that source. If the faulty alternator has been removed, it should be taken to the auto parts store for comparison to the replacement alternator to ensure correct application and also to prevent a core charge if applicable.

Taking the time to research the cost of an alternator may save a lot of money and not put a crunch on the budget.

If this procedure appears to be beyond the capabilities of the vehicle owner or driver, then removal, purchasing, and installation should be performed by a professional or ASE Master Certified mechanic. The vehicle would have to be taken to a repair shop that employs these types of mechanics such as A & M Alternator Services located at 2419 E. Jackson St. in Phoenix, Auto Electric Specialists located at 5216 W. Lamar Rd. in Glendale, Village Auto Electric Service located at 19 N. Miller St. in Mesa, All Start Electric located at 13501 E. Chandler Blvd. in Chandler, Jordan’s Automotive Specialists located at 8718 E. McDowell Rd. #3 in Scottsdale, Rob’s Quality Automotive located at 11801 N. Cave Creek Rd. in Phoenix, Scottsdale Pro Tech located at 8245 E. Butheruand Dr. #111 in Scottsdale, and Art’s Family Auto Repair located at 915 W. Hatcher Rd. in Phoenix.

As always, when doing any type of repair on a vehicle, safety glasses and protective gloves need to be worn. All safety precautions need to be followed.

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