Batteries, Starters, and Alternators, Oh My! Diagnosing Symptoms of a Problem

Ah, technology. As vehicles become more advanced, fixing them is more complex. When an electrical system malfunctions, it can wreak havoc on your vehicle.

When you notice an issue and take your car to your trusted mechanic, there are several things they’ll be looking at to diagnose the problem.
Here’s what you need to know.


There are several things that the mechanic will check out on your battery.

  • Look for corrosion on terminals
  • Check the casing for cracks.
  • Inspect for frayed cables.


These symptoms can all be the result of a starter that needs attention.

  • Grinding noise. This happens when the starter drive gear isn’t engaging properly.
  • Smoke. It’s always alarming to see smoke. In terms of the starter, it usually means that too much power is being pulled through the electrical system.
  • Freewheeling. This occurs when you try to start the engine and, instead, only hear a whining noise without the engine turning over. The starter isn’t engaging with the flywheel.
  • It’s soaked in oil. A starter that is coated in oil from an engine leak doesn’t have a whole lot of life left.
  • Solenoid malfunction. The vital function of the solenoid is to transmit electrical current from the battery to the starter. When it’s not working, your starter won’t work as it should, either.


Your trusted auto technician will probably check your alternator with a voltmeter, but these are some of the symptoms you might notice when it begins to fail.

  • Dim lights.
  • Check engine indicator lit.
  • Odd noises.
  • Power seats, windows, etc. don’t work properly.
  • Stalling engine.
  • Battery that dies repeatedly.

Cables and connections

When your vehicle is in the shop getting checked out, one of the things that your auto technician will look at is the various cables and connections related to your electrical system.

They’ll be looking for rust and corrosion that could be interfering with your vehicle’s correct functioning.

The Conrad’s difference

If you ever notice a burning smell – especially like plastic or electrical insulation – stop driving and get your car to a mechanic immediately. Have your vehicle towed because driving it in this condition could be a hazard to you or your car.

The right technician

The expert mechanics at Conrad’s have the knowledge and training to diagnose and service all of the electrical components of your vehicle. With over 30 locations in Northeast Ohio, there’s sure to be a branch that’s convenient for you.

When you notice signs that something’s amiss with your car, come and see us at the nearest location.

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