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What is an alternator and what does it do?

There is no denying that diesel generators are useful machines. During times of power outages or emergencies, they help prevent disruption and delays.

They can also be of use in places where there is no electricity supply, or where the supply isn’t reliable. Diesel generators are of particular use in areas that may have industrial applications.

As you may know, diesel generators are available in a range of configurations. And one thing all generators share in common is they have alternators.

How much do you know about alternators? And are you aware of how important that component is in a diesel generator? Before we go in-depth about alternators, let’s describe how a diesel generator works.

How does a diesel generator work?

In a nutshell, diesel generators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. They do so in much the same way as a car’s engine.

There are six primary components of a diesel generator:

  1. Engine;
  2. Charging system;
  3. Fuel system;
  4. Cooling system;
  5. Exhaust system;
  6. Lubrication system;


There is also the control panel and frame or chassis that keeps everything together.

The job of the engine is to provide the mechanical energy needed. Diesel generators work in almost the same way as diesel engines in vehicles. The size of the generator determines how much energy it can make for conversion to electricity. In general, the larger the generator, the more power can get produced.

You need some way of starting a diesel generator, and that’s where the charging system comes into play. It comprises of a battery, starter motor, and alternator. The battery helps start the combustion process in the engine via the starter motor. And the job of the alternator is to recharge the battery and generate electricity while the engine is running.

It will need diesel to operate, hence the fuel system. The cooling system ensures the engine doesn’t overheat, especially if it is running in an enclosed space. Any smoke generated by the combustion process leaves the engine through the exhaust.

Last, but not least, there is the lubrication system. Oil gets used to lubricate the internal metal components in the engine. Without oil, there would be too much friction in the engine. If that happens, it will cause the internal parts to seize.

How does an alternator work?

The alternator is a crucial component of any diesel generator. Without it, there would be no electricity converted from the engine’s mechanical energy.

Alternators have an array of internal parts that do different jobs but work together. The main ones are as follows:

  • Stator – contains electrical conductors wound in coils over an iron core;
  • Rotor – also known as the armature. It is the moving part of the alternator that creates a magnetic field;
  • Voltage regulator – monitors the flow of electricity generated;
  • Housing – keeps all the internal components together.


Are alternators serviceable items?

In short, yes. Diesel generator alternators, like anything electro-mechanical, has a limited lifespan. The good news is you don’t have to buy a brand new alternator if yours fails. All you need to do is replace the faulty internal components!

We sell a range of Mecc Alte alternator parts for diesel generators at competitive prices. Browse our website or contact us to get the part you need.

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