Nothing can turn a great day into a bad one quite like a dead car battery. If you’re out in the boonies or in the middle of nowhere, this can make things especially complicated. By knowing the signs to look for and how to handle them can make all the difference in the world; not only for your own peace of mind, but your safety, as well.
The first thing that’s going to happen is the dreaded charging system warning light will come on. When this occurs, it simply means that your vehicle is running by way of battery only. If this is a continuing issue, your charging system might fail completely, leaving your battery unable to recharge.
If so, your battery will soon run down its power. You’ll be left with the world’s biggest paperweight, or a great doorstop. You can avoid this hassle and heartache by checking a number of things as soon as the charging system warning light comes on. While some cars may refer to it as a battery light, they are both one in the same thing.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, there are a few common issues that may be the culprit. Below, we list a few of your vehicle’s parts that could be the cause of the warning light. These can be most easily checked by your trusted mechanic. Or, if you are mechanically-inclined, feel free to dive right in.
For the majority of the time, your alternator is going to be the sole reason for a charging system warning light coming on. You will want to check your alternator’s voltage to ensure that it isn’t low. If, however, that is the result you’re getting, simply replace the defective alternator and you should be back on the road without having to worry about that pesky warning light.
However, there may be some instances where replacing the entire alternator is unnecessary. Sometimes the wiring may simply need to be tightened or replaced. Again, a trusted mechanic will tell you whether or not this is the case.
Well, would you look at that? Your battery light could be coming on because your battery is bad. Who would have thought? All levity aside, a simple test of your battery should put this to rest. A mechanic can do this, as well as your local auto parts store.
Yep, a bad drive belt can most certainly cause your warning light to come on. When this fails, it prevents your alternator from doing what it was designed to do. A simple replacing of the belt should get you moving again.
If your wires and connections are bad, you’ll want to clean them to prevent a breakdown. Furthermore, you’ll need to ensure that the battery clamps are nice and tight. One loose connection can cause a multitude of troubles. If the fusible links are burned, an easy replacement will prevent problems down the road.
This is where things can get a little bit more complicated. If everything listed above checks out, you may be looking at a bad computer system. If that is the case, depending on the type of system that your vehicle requires, you could be looking at quite the out-of-pocket expense.
Most auto parts stores can check this out for you, as well as a good mechanic. It is important to start with the obvious – and cheapest – first; that way you aren’t unnecessarily spending money on unneeded parts and labor.
While you certainly can drive with this light engaged, you run the risk of having a breakdown in the process. And depending on how far away you are from home or help, this is a situation best avoided. If the cause of the warning light coming on is any of the above listed, those parts could easily stop working at any time.
Quickly get your vehicle to a mechanic so that they can look it over. This will serve to help you avoid any potential hazards to the safety of you and your vehicle.
Knowing how to correctly handle a warning light can serve to give you a safer and better outcome in the event of a warning light coming on. If you are driving while this happens, you need to ensure that you take the proper precautions. You will first want to turn off anything that might be drawing power from the battery.
Except for headlights if you’re traveling at night, turn off the stereo, air conditioning or heater, as well as all interior lights. If your vehicle has heated seats, shut those off, too. And if you have a cell phone charging, disconnect that, as well.
If at all possible, pull over and turn off your vehicle. This will allow you to safely inspect the common culprits that we listed earlier. Having your vehicle turned off is also necessary in order to safely examine the battery.
Check all appropriate fuses, battery, alternator, and belts. You might want to consider investing in a quality multimeter to keep in your vehicle. This will allow you to check your battery’s power while you’re out traveling.
Remember to try cleaning the battery terminals to make sure a bad connection isn’t the issue. You may want to keep a good brush and a few necessary supplies in your trunk for situations like this. A good cleaning method is to mix a tablespoon of baking soda with about a cup of water (hot, if possible). Dip a toothbrush into the mixture and scrub away any corrosion on the terminals.
Lastly, closely inspect the battery cables and make sure that they are tightly clamped onto the battery’s posts. If they are not secure, you run the risk of having a poor connection.
Keep a list of these simple do-it-yourself methods in your vehicle at all times. By being better prepared during your travels, you will know how to best handle a charging system warning light.