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Car battery warning lights and what they mean

Car battery Light on your dashboard

A mechanic working on a car

What does it mean?

Check your dash before you start the car and you’ll see a light that looks like a little battery with a “+” and “-” sign on it. This is your battery or charging light. What should you do if it comes on while you’re driving? If your battery charging light comes on while you’re driving, you should pull over as soon as it’s safe. This light comes on when your alternator is not making electricity and the car is running off of battery power alone. You can drive a short distance on the car battery, especially if you turn off most of your car’s electrical items like the radio, air conditioning, etc. but there’s no way to know how far you’ll get before the car stops.

Things to check before ordering parts

The battery

If you see this light come on, it is telling you one of two things: you’ll either need to replace your alternator belt or the alternator. Before you do this, you need to check your battery terminal connections. The light can come on even if your alternator belt is intact and your alternator is charging well, but your car battery connections are corroded keeping the electrical circuit from properly electrifying the car’s systems. Even a bad battery connection can be enough to cause a poor charging situation and trigger the battery light to come on. Sometimes cleaning the battery connections will fix the charging problem without costing you a penny. Your battery powers all the accessories and lights in your car, especially when the alternator is not running. So if your car seems to be completely dead, then your battery is the next thing you should look at. Be aware that in this situation, where your vehicle doesn’t even have the power to work the lights or turn over the engine, it could be a combination problem with the alternator was well.

The alternator belt

The alternator belt has many different names, serpentine belt, multi-rib or multi-vee belt or as it used to be called a fan belt. This is a single continuous belt that is designed to drive the multiple components and devices in the engine bay. Some of the other components and devices include the alternator, water pump, A/C compressor and the power steering pump. There are normal circumstances where the vehicles operate on one long serpentine belt. This belt is an important device in the running of the car and utmost maintenance should be taken. Therefore, check your belt on a regular basis and replace it if necessary. Checking your alternator belt requires only your time.

The checking process starts by inspecting and locating the belt. Find the location of the belt and see what it looks like. Ensure that the belt does not move further than an inch when you push it with your finger. Make sure the alternator belt is not frayed or cracked. If there are visible cracks along the belts which will be the clear seen the alternator belt needs to be replaced. Fraying can be seen when some strings tend to come apart on the sides. The fraying and cracking can cause some of the component devices to break down and they may not function properly. This can lead to more repair costs if they are not changed. When checking for any belt faults, ensure that there are no fluids of any kind on the belt. Feel the belt to see if it is oily or wet if the belt is oily or wet this will cause the belt to slip on the pulleys making a squealing sound usually when you start or accelerate.

Take the car to your local garage

If all else fails, bring along your car to your local garage, Auto Solutions East Ltd in East Kilbride. We will do a full battery and charge check, check the belts all at the same time and advise you of our findings. It won’t take long and you can book this online using our booking tool, or just pop in our local garage in East Kilbride.