How to Drive With a Bad Alternator

by Tammatha R. Conerly
New car petrol engines image by Christopher Dodge from

An alternator charges a vehicle's battery. When an alternator is going bad, the battery drains quickly. If the alternator is going or has gone bad, in most cases the vehicle can be driven for a short distance and for a short period of time, allowing you to make it to a service station or automotive parts store for a replacement alternator.

Step 1

Turn off all auxiliary items possible, including the radio, air conditioner or heater, lights and windshield wipers.

Step 2

Avoid driving in high-congested areas. Stop-and-go traffic can drain the battery. Try to find a parking lot to pull into until the traffic is less congested.

Travel to the nearest service station or automotive parts store, and purchase a new alternator. Install or have the new alternator installed. Recharge your battery before leaving.


  • If your car dies, allow the battery some time, and it might recharge enough to get you a few more miles up the road. Sometimes, a recharge without being jumped can take a half hour to an hour. Jumping the battery from another vehicle will allow you to get further faster, but allow the battery to charge for at least ten to fifteen minutes before disconnecting.


  • Recharging the battery repeatedly will shorten the life of the battery.

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