Budget alternator (new) from China

If you have thoughts on alternator quality, read on.

I recently installed a budget alternator (DB Electronics) that I bought on Amazon for $101 delivered, including tax. I think a local purchase would have cost far more, although I didn’t check. Rock Auto would have been ok (I think they only had remanufactured alternators) but I’d have to ship the core back. I could wait a few days because I didn’t have to drive the car right away. I caught the bad alternator when my Battery Tender (trickle charger) didn’t go green fairly quickly.

The brand new alternator arrived soon enough (and came from a distributor other than DB Electronics) and outwardly is a good replica of the OEM alternator. The only meaningful difference is that the copper wire core is much thinner wire (and much less mass too) which I’m guessing means it will run hotter to produce the required voltage. I’ve measured the voltage output at the battery with the car idling, both cold and after driving, and it’s charging fine (mid 14 volts). Since I don’t know how hot the old alternator got, I can’t make that comparison.

I’ve read and heard that alternators like this can fail at any time (more so than most other components) - you never know - so I’m not sure I made the right decision to get one from China.

I saved the old alternator as there are two local shops within driving distance that rebuild alternators should I ever want to. But I probably wouldn’t have enough lead time to have the 20 year old OEM alternator (and actually a “recall” reman. one too) rebuilt.

Did I make a fair decision or would you have spent more money on the alternator? The car is in great condition and I depend on it.

Only time will tell.

To me, more importantly is how do you warranty this alternator if it fails ?

That depends on how long you’re planning to keep the vehicle.

My experience with “bargain parts” from anywhere has been that although they often look identical, the “savings” often come from the parts you can’t see. i.e. Cheaper bearings made of inferior materials and built to inferior standards.

They’re good for a couple of years and then you discover why the cost is so low.


If you depend on this vehicle, I think you should have avoided the cheap alternator and bought a quality one.

I suggest getting your old one rebuilt soon. I fear you will need it in 6 months.


While I never stuck my neck out to try a Chinese ‘new’ alternator my experience with water pumps and CV axles quickly burned me on ‘new’ Chinese replacement parts. After a few parts are found to be so poorly manufactured that they are scrap out of the box my competitors seemed to agree with my opinion.


Personally, I would have gotten an alternator locally even if it cost a bit more. The benefit of having a quick resolution to problems is worth it IMO.

That being said, I am no fan of Chinese electrics although some of the local stuff is Chinese also. A recent purchase Ford fender mount starter solenoid (Chinese) from O’Reillys lasted 2 days before the trigger circuit fried.

I’m of the unscientific opinion that about 90% of what is in every shipping container ends up in the landfill very soon.


I’ve gone through a lot of alternators and returned them during the warranty period. I finally just went with Delco new or re-man and haven’t replaced one since. I’m sure there are other quality brands but when you are sick and tired of replacing them every 30,000 miles, you go OEM.


It’s worth a gamble. Yes, save your oem b/c if this one breaks and you decide to get a rebuilt one, some places won’t accept anything but an oem case for the core. Were I in your situation I’d have the old one rebuilt, or trade the old one in on another one, rebuilt using an oem core, so I’d have it on hand when & if this one eventually fails.

Here’s a trick you could use: One of my coworkers, this was some years ago, knew he had a failing alternator; but he wanted to get every last minute out of it before installing a replacement. He bought a replacement and just kept it in the trunk, with the needed tools, and a construction worker’s jump suit to put over his regular office clothes. One day after work as I was driving home I saw him on the side of the freeway, wearing the jump suit, & laying on his back, working under the car. I stopped to ask if he needed help. “No” he says, “I’m ok, just replacing the alternator.” … lol …


Good old Billy…saved $15 by delaying replacing the alternator…that money went towards his hospital bills after the crash by the side of the freeway…


Did you make up that story? He wasn’t smart enough to exit the freeway to repair the vehicle?

He actually had stopped a little down an exit ramp. Suburban Colorado, not LA.

I told this story here before. You are welcome to see if you can find it. Maybe it’s like a fish story, gets bigger every time it is told … lol …

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My last straw with NAPA alternators was when I was heading to a funeral 200 miles away and the alternator failed. It was still under warranty so I stopped at NAPA and got another one and put it in in the parking lot. No one said anything. I later replaced it with a Delco and never had a problem since.

A rebuilt will generally have a new voltage regulator, brushes, and maybe front and rear bearings and maybe a new diode trio. But the rebuild is dependent upon the source of the parts and how many they actually change. When I used to do it myself I would change everything and generally would get 70 plus thousand miles out of them. Some rebuilders just look at it and change only parts that fail the test.


Well yes, the year warranty on the Amazon purchase is probably good for something but it doesn’t likely get me a better alternator if and “when” I find out I need one. I’m even more left in the cold.

Locally, I’m guessing that a remanufactured alternator (with a likely more effective warranty) is going to cost at least $300, unless I also get a Chinese model.

So with the $100 alternator, I either saved roughly $200 or I blew the 100. I also am not sure if a failing alternator very often damages your electrical (which could be almost fatal especially on cars newer than mine). Or if wasted alternators are almost always no worse than having a dead battery? If I have do pay for some electronics repair because of my decision, I won’t forgive myself.

I am going to at least phone those two shops to find out how much they charge to rebuild my 20 year old reman (because of a recall) OEM alternator, and what parts they always replace.

I appreciate everyone above’s thoughts and advice!

I doubt the failing alternator was damaging electronics. Besides electrical storage, the battery also helps to absorb the excess ripple electricity produced by the alternator.

Call around…you might be surprised. There was a shop near my old house that rebuilt alternators and starters for a very reasonable price, and they did excellent work which they also warrantied.


My preference, if I can wait, is to have the alternator or starter fixed at a local auto electric shop. You have local expertise in case there’s a future problem, and your labor payment supports your local economy.


I’m still on my original alternator after 152K miles - is that unusual? I had problems starting, tested it, it was okay.

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That’s longer than I’ve seen and definitely seems to be unusual. My car has had warning lights come on the dash intermittently (starting many months ago - but I don’t drive it much) although I never tried to check it with a code reader since I felt it was bogus. And the day the alternator did quit, coincidentally (it seems), there was a burning smell somewhere around the engine area. When I started the car to check if the alternator was working (after being tipped off by my battery tender taking longer to go green), a lot of loudish clicking noises were coming from the inside of my driver side door and I had to power the window down. Didn’t like that at all. I ordered a new alternator immediately. After replacing it, things are so far back to normal.

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The only generic/knockoff parts from China that I would ever buy are body parts, such as door handles, window cranks, headlight or taillight assemblies, radio antennas, etc. Any electrical or mechanical parts, I’d go with OEM or brand-name aftermarket, or if new is not an option (due to cost/availability) then I’d go with used OEM from a junkyard.

My 09 Focus went to the graveyard with it’s original OEM Alternator and 215k miles on it. My in-law’s 05 Focus? I lost track of how many times we had to replace that SOB…(including on the side of I81 in upstate NY state…)

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I have a 20+ year old daily driver. Every time something goes I think “last repair.” I’m also a cheap old bastard. Recently replaced my alternator and went junkyard. OEM quality and its the youngest part on the car counting time/mileage. Easy to research salvage parts online.