Can You Drive Without an Alternator

Can You Drive Without an Alternator: The Risks and Consequences

The alternator is the core component and power source in your vehicle’s electrical system. It charges the battery and powers the electrical systems. So problems in the alternator mean the interruption of the power source. 

In this case, can you drive without an alternator? It’s technically feasible to drive a vehicle without an alternator. However, it’s not advisable to do so for an extended period of time. That is because the battery can’t sustain the electrical demands of the car’s systems and ignition without an alternator.

We’ll take a closer look at the alternator and what can happen if you try to drive without one. So, if you’re curious about the alternator and its role in your car, keep reading!

Comprehensive Discussion on Driving Without an Alternator

As we mentioned, the alternator is the power source of your car’s battery. Although you can go a few miles without an alternator, the battery will quickly lose its charge and eventually stall the vehicle. 

That’s because when you start your car without an alternator, it uses ten times more juice from the battery than everything else put together. You might start to notice some warning signs of a failing alternator in that scenario. Hence, it’s important to fix or replace it as soon as possible. 

Can You Drive Without an Alternator

It will save you from getting stranded on the side of the road and prevent any further damage to your car’s electrical system. 

What to Do If An Alternator is Damaged?

If you think the alternator might be on the fritz and you can’t fix it instantly, don’t sweat it too much. 

One thing you can try is keeping a spare battery on hand and using a voltmeter to check your current battery’s voltage. That way, when it starts to run low, you can swap them out. 

Just keep in mind that this is more of a temporary fix, and try not to use any extra features in your car, like the radio or AC, to save on juice. Plus, you better not use your car on a daily and don’t plan for a long ride 

But at the end of the day, the best bet is to get the alternator diagnosed and replaced by a pro. It might not be as convenient, but it’ll keep your car running smoothly and safely.

Watch this video to learn how to diagnose an alternator. 

What are the Risks of Driving without An Alternator?

Driving without a functioning alternator can be a real headache. Here are a few possible risks to keep in your mind 

What are the Risks of Driving without An Alternator


Without an alternator, your car’s engine won’t run for as long, which means you might find yourself stranded on the side of the road. This is especially frustrating if you’re in a remote area with no phone service.

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Limited Features

Another downside is that you won’t be able to use essential electrical accessories like heaters, headlights, and even your radio. If you’re on a long road trip or out in cold weather, it can be especially tough.

Losing Control

With a failing alternator, your battery will drain quickly, which can lead to losing power steering and brakes. Thus, you’ll find it hard to control the vehicle, which is extremely dangerous.

Damaging the Engine 

The alternator also powers the electric water pumps that keep the engine from overheating. And without the alternator, the engine can get damaged, which can be costly to repair.

Damaging the Engine

Replacement of Battery and Alternator

If you let your battery run dry, you’ll have a bad time. It’ll mess with the charging process and you’ll end up having to replace not just the battery but the alternator too. 

So, all in all, it’s best to address an alternator issue as soon as possible to avoid all these risks.

How Long Will A Car Keep Running Without an Alternator?

How Long Will A Car Keep Running Without an Alternator

Well, it really depends on a few things.

The Capacity of the Battery

It depends on the capacity of your car battery. If your battery is fully charged, your car will be able to run for a bit longer. But generally speaking, you’re probably looking at anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes of runtime.

The Capacity of the Battery

Car’s Age and Model

If you’re driving an old car like a 1969 VW Squareback, it might run for a bit longer without an alternator. That’s because it doesn’t have as many modern features that use up power. 

But in a newer car, you’ll probably have a harder time shutting off all the systems that drain power from the battery.

Gasoline and Diesel Cars

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between gasoline and diesel cars. If you operate an older gasoline vehicle, you may be able to go up to 50 miles on a completely charged battery. 

However, because diesel vehicles lack spark plugs, they can operate for somewhat more than gasoline vehicles.

Gasoline and Diesel Cars

Latest Car

If your alternator bites the dust in a car made after the 90s, don’t expect your battery to last as long, resulting in fewer miles of the ride. The reason is newer cars are loaded with computers, sensors, and electronic displays. These drain an extreme amount of power from the battery.

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Overall, it’s hard to give a definitive answer without knowing more about your specific car.

How Long Will A Car Keep Running Without an Alternator
If you’re experiencing car trouble and wondering whether you can drive without an alternator, it’s important to understand the potential risks and limitations. At MotorAdvices, we have comprehensive articles on a wide range of automotive issues, including bad alternators and driving without a CV axle. Our article on driving with a bad alternator explains the warning signs of a failing alternator and provides guidance on how to safely continue driving. Additionally, our article on driving without a CV axle explores the consequences of a damaged CV axle and whether it’s safe to drive your car without one. Stay informed and keep your vehicle running smoothly with MotorAdvices.


Regardless of all that discussion, here are a few questions most people often ask. 

Q: Can I just charge the car every time without using an alternator?

No. Because the bottom line is, you’ll end up needing a new battery sooner than just an alternator. Batteries don’t have the stamina to run all the bells and whistles in a modern car. And it isn’t just a new problem, even back in the days of simple cars, batteries still didn’t last long. 

Q: Can I turn off my vehicle that’s running without an alternator?

No. You should not. Once you’ve got it running, don’t turn it off or you’ll be left stranded. If you’re going to start your ride without an alternator, be prepared for a big drain on your battery. 

Q: What happens if your alternator belt breaks while driving?

If the alternator belt breaks, it’ll cease to generate electrical power, resulting in dimmed headlights, a non-functioning radio, and a dead battery.


On a serious note, “can you drive without an alternator” is not something you want to do. A damaged alternator can lead to all sorts of problems, like a dead battery and a car that won’t start. While it might be possible to drive a short distance, it’s not safe and could cause even more damage to your vehicle.

And remember, your alternator is like the power plant of your car, keep it running well, and your car will thank you.

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