Did you notice the check charging system light on your vehicle and are wondering what caused it and how to fix it? If so, you are on the right page.
You might also notice a red light warning on your car’s dashboard, which resembles a battery. In most cars, it would just stay for a while after you’ve started your vehicle, which is normal.
Nevertheless, it might be a serious issue if the light stays on or comes on randomly while driving. In some vehicles, this light might come alongside the check charging system message on the onboard computer or your dashboard.
This article will help you to better understand the check charging system light, what causes it, how to fix it, and what to do when you see it.
After reading this article, you will also understand how your vehicle charging system functions and how you can identify forthcoming issues and make the vehicle more dependable.
What Does the Check Charging System Light Mean?
When the check charging system light comes on, it simply implies that your vehicle is operating on the battery’s power. If the issue persists and the charging system starts failing, your battery will not be able to charge again and will run down easily, leaving you with a dead battery.
A dead battery can ruin your day, so whenever the light turns on, you must take your car to your mechanic for proper inspection.
Also, note that your vehicle would determine if you might have a check charging system message and/or a battery warning light. See the manual to know the kind of warning light the vehicle has.
Also Read: Charging System Failure (Meaning, Causes & Fix)
Why Does the Check Charging System Light Come On
1. Loss Of Power
This can be said to be something that takes power when your vehicle is not generating power, like an air conditioning system, glove box light that stays on, or the headlight radio.
Other components can also do this when the engine is working, drawing a lot of electrical power just like the aftermarket radio system. The two of these could draw your charged battery so low that it cannot start your motor again.
2. Electronic Control Unit (ECU)
The electronic control unit manages the whole electrical system of the car to ensure it works within a specific tolerance. When the ECU is not functioning or fails, this stops the components from running properly. One of these components is the alternator, which needs data on the demand requirement and electrical supply.
The ECU, most times, is responsible for the charging system failure, which could be expensive and difficult to resolve. You will use the OBD2 scanner to read the problem, and for some, you’ll be able to read the voltage of the alternator charging. A wrong jump-starting process can ruin the electronic control unit.
3. Dead Battery
One major function of your vehicle’s battery is storing power and starting your engine. This simply means that, even if your alternator is functioning properly, your vehicle might not start if the battery is dead. This could be due to overcharging, undercharging of battery, or a bad alternator.
Another factor attached to a dead battery is a damaged battery, dirty battery, or loose terminals, which cause a poor connection. You can use a multimeter to test the power of your battery And set it to 20v DC, then switch on the headlights.
The voltage can be about 12.5v. 11.8v is lower than 25 percent, and 12.3v is about 75 percent charged. You have to take precautions about the battery’s external temperature since this will affect the effectiveness of your battery.
4. Bad Alternator
You can say your alternator is defective if it’s not doing its work. Which is to create enough Electrical supply and ensure your battery is fully charged. Generally, a good alternator generates around 14.5v and 13v.
Since the battery cannot carry all the electrical load, the alternator is there to assist the battery in carrying some of the electrical work when the vehicle is running.
If the voltage comes down to a specific level, this can result in the malfunctioning of your electrical components. At this point, you’ll have to get a multimeter to test the alternator voltage outputs.
The alternator is defective when it has:
- A fusible link that is corroded, burnt or blown
- Worn-out brushes
- Bad or short electrical connections inside the magnetic windings
- Seized/failing rotor bearings
- A Faulty voltage regulator.
The alternator, at times, is very costly since they are joined to a vacuum pump which gives power to the brake booster. You can also rebuild the alternators, which can be a good option, especially as the alternators are expensive.
5. Broken or Worn-out Belts
The alternator depends on the power generated by the motor to function. Therefore, the alternator would not turn or function properly if the drive belt is worn out. One common reason that leads to wear is glazing or hardening of the belt, which makes it slippery.
The slippery belt can result from a loose or faulty fan belt or worn-out bearings on the other pulleys.
6. Bad Wiring
The wiring is mainly the connection between your alternator and battery. Bad wires can lead to voltage loss. This can also happen for a dirty terminal. The poor ground connection also can contribute to poor discharging and charging.
Also Read: Service Battery Charging System (Causes & Fix)
What Is the Charging System?
The charging system consists of the ECUs wiring, battery, and alternator. The system ensures that the battery is charged. In addition, it delivers the necessary energy needed to operate the radio, lights, and any other parts of the electrical system, when the engine is working.
How the Car Charging System Works
Your battery has one main job, generating power to start the engine when you turn on the ignition key.
As soon as the car’s engine is working, the alternator ensures that you have sufficient electricity. This is similar to the dynamo on a bike, which uses engine rotation to generate electrical power. In most situations, the engine block and the alternator is bolted and connected using a serpentine belt.
The alternator spins as the engine runs to generate electrical current. Wires would transmit the current into the battery on one side and the other side for different consumers. This can include things like wipers, lights, or ignition coils.
If you open the alternator, you will see a series of magnets and a rotor with an alternate north-south directioned pole positioned around it. The rotors rotate inside the stationary core, sitting in the rear and front bearing. You could think of it as a couple of wires. When the magnet moves through the conductive wire, this generates an electric current.
The alternator can generate a high charge even when idle with many wires and magnets. Yet, the AC it produces is not what it should produce since your vehicle requires a direct current(DC).
If you want to change it, you have some diodes that stop the alternating current by making it pass in one direction. In the end, the alternator makes extra voltage than what the battery can maintain. The quantity of electricity that passes through can be determined using the voltage regulator between the battery and the diodes.
Also Read: Is a Car Battery AC or DC? (Everything to Know)
How Do You Know That You Have a Charging System Issue?
IMPORTANT: Before starting to diagnose or work on your car and the electronics, ensure that you don’t have loose clothing, which can be caught in the moving components. Take out all your jewelry because a shock could arch and heat the metallic items immediately and might burn important electronics or you.
1. Identify the Signs
The first thing to do is a visual inspection of your battery and check if you have any loose wires or corrosion. Also, inspect the alternator for loose wires. Check for oil or water leak on the alternator, and this is important because you might find out that one of the components is leaking, which might cause it to start malfunctioning.
You may observe some warning lights on your dashboard if your alternator is not charging. Or you will notice that your electronically assisted steering is very heavy, the automatic trans is not shifting or difficult to shift, the radio screen is flickering, and you have dim lights. Over time, the battery power will reduce and worsen.
Test the voltage going out with a multimeter, which is supposed to be around 13 to 14.5volts; even though the vehicle is revved, it should maintain this tolerance.
If it refuses to charge, check the alternator fuse and fusible link. Still, if nothing is wrong with both and you have no charge, you might have to replace the rotor or brushes inside your alternator. But, of course, if none of this solves the problem, it means the regulator is faulty.
2. Inspect the wiring
Measure the terminals of the battery as the vehicle is running. The power should be almost the same as the measurement you got at your alternator, and the drop should not be more than 0.20volt.
If the drop is more than the 0.20v and you feel the coating is brittle or the wiring is warm, it might result from bad wires. It could be that the wires mounted to the vehicle’s body, which are supposed to be free of corrosion and tight, are not.
If there’s no issue with the wiring, the next thing to check is the battery. The battery’s terminals are supposed to be free of tight connections and build-up. The battery should not feel over warm. Take your time to measure the battery’s voltage as the headlight is on. The voltage should be about 12.5volts.
In the absence of a multimeter, check for these signs:
Did Your Vehicle Die While Driving?
It could be an indication that the alternator is not charging appropriately.
Did Your Alternator Stop Charging, and the Car Die After You Jump-Start?
For these two cases, inspect the wiring and the fuse, especially the one behind the alternator. As soon as you start your vehicle, you can disconnect your battery, and your vehicle will keep working. However, this is risky because if your rotor is bad or the alternator overcharges, this could lead to a spike that could damage your electronics.
Once you’ve jump-started your vehicle, does it run for long, even if electronics such as the ac and radio are on?
This is an indication that the alternator is functioning well. If it doesn’t, the alternator is bad, and you have to test it to ensure the problem.
If you also observe that the interior lights, dash, or headlight changes as the speed of the engine increases, that shows that the alternator regulator is bad.
This could result in overcharging and damage to the battery’s wire, leading to a sour smell in your vehicle. Of course, if you are stuck somewhere or in a situation of emergency, you could drive home when it occurs. But if the distance is far, you should keep low RPMs.
Ensure you test your battery by switching off your vehicle after running it for thirty minutes and switching it on immediately. If it responds instantly, that shows that nothing is wrong with your battery. On the other hand, if your car finds it difficult to start, it simply means that the terminals or wiring is either faulty, loose, or dirty. If all this is okay, you might have to get a new battery for your vehicle.
Do You Experience an Unpleasant Noise Coming From the Serpentine Belt or Alternator?
This could result from the bearings on the rotor seizing or a slippery belt on the pulley or top of the rotor. Usually, this might get worse as you increase the car’s rev. Inspect the tensioner because it could cause the serpentine belt to start slipping.
Do You Perceive a Strange Odor?
The strange Odor can be caused by the overheating of your alternator. Strange odors from your battery housing point to the overcharged alternator, which would heat up your battery. Regardless, you have to replace the regulator.
Remember that whenever the charging system is defective, it does not mean that you are automatically stranded.
How to Fix the Check Charging System?
Repairing a failing charging system is simple if you know the faulty components. Most car owners can find these faults and do the replacement if needed. When you have a dead or bad battery, you just have to swap it with a new one with an accurate size.
You can also rebuild your alternator if it’s bad or swap it for a new one. If you have a damaged wire or bad connection, you can simply replace them. If your trunk light or glove box keeps on burning, it could be that you’ll have to replace the switch.
Is It Risky to Drive With a Check Charging System Light On?
It can leave you stranded if the light is on. And if you happen to have bad wiring or a faulty alternator, or if the vehicle’s battery is failing, it can stop functioning at any given time. So, ensure to visit your mechanic when you notice anything of such so that your vehicle will not fail you on the roadside.
Frequently Asked Questions – Check Charging System
What leads to charging system issues?
A bad alternator belt or a broken one is common in preventing the charging system from working. For example, if the alternator functions well but the belt does not spin fast, the voltage going out could drop and result in the system behaving as though the alternator is faulty.
How do you know if the charging system is faulty?
One way you can know is when you start losing power. For example, you may encounter flickering or dim lighting issues in the cabin. And if power is lost completely, you might not be able to start the vehicle.
How much does it cost to repair a charging system failure?
Whenever your vehicle begins to have electrical issues, it is an indication that you have to replace the alternator. The cost for getting a new alternator plus the labor cost should be around $500 to $1,000.
Can you drive your vehicle with Check charging?
When the check charging light comes on, it implies that your vehicle depends on the battery’s stored power for powering the electronic components. This implies that the distance your vehicle can cover is limited due to insufficient power.
Conclusion – Check Charging System
When you observe that battery-shaped, red warning light coming on the dashboard while driving, know that it means something is wrong with the charging system. Other symptoms that could come up are illumination of the check charging system light, dimmed headlight, flat battery, and slow cranking.
When you observe these signs, inspect your battery, alternator, and electrical components without hesitation. Or else you might end up being stranded on the roadside.