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Why Do Alternators and Starters Fail and What Should be Done About it?

When a heavy-duty truck fails to start because of an alternator or starter, a chain reaction happens which leads to frustration, lost revenue, and expensive repairs. What causes heavy-duty alternators and starters to fail and what can be done about it?

Recently we interviewed Jonathan Smith, the Assistant Director of Aftermarket Sales/Marketing at Prestolite Electric, manufacturer of Leece-Neville Heavy-Duty alternators and starters.

History of Prestolite Electric

Prestolite Electric was formed through a combination of businesses with history dating back to the early 1900s. With this deep history of producing electric solutions, they have emerged as a modern producer of engineered excellence and innovative products.

In January 2014, Broad Ocean Motor invested in Prestolite Electric and Leece-Neville Systems. This was a great opportunity for Prestolite Electric because Broad Ocean Motor is not just a financial partner, but has lots of experience, and is a great strategic partner with lots of connections. By combining the great experience that Prestolite Electric had in North America, with the global backing of Broad Ocean, they continue to develop world-class technologies on the alternator and starter side of the heavy-duty market from their value line all the way to their top-of-the-line products.

The Wrong Kind of Autopilot

Fleets sometimes get in the habit of doing the same things over-and-over again for decades. This creates an autopilot effect where the status quo is accepted, and maintenance and repairs are less efficient. This often leads to the use of replacement parts that no longer meet the needs of modern heavy-duty trucks.

“Often when I talk to a fleet, especially a small or medium-sized fleet, they will say they’ve used the same type of alternator or starter for years. I’ll then ask them what they do when they need to replace them, and a typical response is that they have a guy down the street that they’ve used to rebuild their alternators and starters for the last 20-years. But really, it’s doing them a disservice because in the last 20-years technologies on trucks has changed dramatically,” related Johnathan Smith of Prestolite Electric.

Trucks are getting more and more advanced, and if you aren’t using the right parts to keep up with the needs of your truck, you will be adding to your total cost of operation and setting yourself up for a failure at the worst possible time.

Use the Correct Alternator

When it comes to heavy-duty alternators, the right size alternator with the correct amperage for the truck and application is very important. Choosing the wrong alternator means the alternator will have to work much harder to keep up, lowering its life expectancy, as well as other electrical components like batteries. This not only means changing more parts more often but also the potential of unscheduled downtime and roadside repairs.

When purchasing a heavy-duty alternator, it is always a good idea to purchase an alternator with more than sufficient amperage. The IdlePro Alternators produce a minimum of 63% of the unit’s rated maximum output even at low engine speeds.

To Start or Not to Start

It is important that fleets select the correct starters for their needs, this includes purchasing starters that can handle the work environment and a starter line that reduces the amount of inventory that is required to meet the entire fleet’s needs.

The PowerPro 5 Series starters ­are engineered to provide starting power for 11L engines and includes features like Prestolite’s Integral Magnetic Switch (IMS)/Soft Start Relay technology to eliminate ring gear damage. Each PowerPro 5 unit includes a rotatable flange and mag switch, easing stocking/inventory concerns while increasing application use. The PowerPro 5 starter coverage includes engine models from Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, International, John Deere, Mack and Perkins.

The new PowerPro Extreme 10 Series starters were engineered to meet the extreme and demanding conditions of today’s heavy equipment vehicles. PowerPro Extreme 10 starters include exclusive features that help to increase vehicle starting power and efficiency, simplifying preventative maintenance concerns, and increasing vehicle uptime.

Going the Distance with Prestolite Electric

When Prestolite Electric works with a fleet, they analyze the fleet to see all the power requirements, which may even mean attaching a data bucket for a few weeks to get the required data. They put this extra effort in because they want to figure out what alternator or starter is going to be the best fit for the fleet. When working with Prestolite Electric, fleets become a partner to them, and they will work hard to ensure the fleet is looked after. No matter what life stage the fleet is in, they have the alternators and starters to not only lower cost-per-mile but to also minimize unscheduled downtime and road side repairs.

For fleet owners who have an older fleet of trucks, they have the Load Handler Power Products value line. However, it’s not just a lower-cost product, but rather they focused on manufacturing a QUALITY lower cost product. They also produce top-of-the-line products that are covered with an unlimited mile warranty (3-year warranty for IdlePro, and a 4-year warranty for IdlePro Extreme.) The Idle Pro Extreme alternators are high-end brushless units, and these range from 220 Amps all the way up to 420 Amps.

Prestolite Electric’s alternators and starters allow fleets to be completely confident that they are getting top-quality parts that will go the distance.


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Author: Taron H.

Taron is the Marketing Manager at The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

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