Home » The car battery light comes on? This is what you should do.

The car battery light comes on? This is what you should do.

Did you just notice that the car battery light comes on on the dashboard? Don’t panic. The battery light illuminates whenever the on-board computer detects a battery charging problem. This is very helpful because it gives you an idea of what’s wrong and a chance to fix the battery light before the battery is completely drained. There are a few things you could do and that we discuss in this article to fix this warning light.

Car battery

The main purpose or goal of a car battery is to store electrical energy so it can be used at any time. The energy in the form of electricity is added to the battery and extracted in the same form. 

The energy is primarily used to start the car. As soon as you turn the ignition key, the battery supplies power to the starter motor. The starter motor turns and ensures that the engine starts. This activates the dynamo and this recharges the battery. Furthermore, the car battery supplies energy to all kinds of electrical accessories, such as the radio, the headlights, and the air conditioning system. 

If you have problems with the battery, the battery light will come on on the dashboard. 

Composition of a battery

Below is an overview of the composition of a standard 12-volt battery. 

Composition of a standard 12-volt battery.
Composition of a standard 12-volt battery.
  1. Positive grid
  2. Positive plate
  3. Positive plate with a micro-glass fleece
  4. Negative grid
  5. Negative plate
  6. Negative plate set
  7. Positive plate set
  8. Plate block
  9. Battery cover
  10. Cover with safety valve and central degassing

Charge the battery

There are many ways to charge a car battery and to fix the battery light from coming on. In most cases, the battery is charged by your alternator while your engine is running. 

However, when you have a dead battery, you could use a jump starter. Follow these instructions to jump a car battery:

  1. Make sure the charger is off.

  2. Hook-up the positive cable on the charger to the positive terminal on the battery.

  3. Hook up the negative cable on the charger to the negative terminal on the battery.

  4. Set the charger to the slowest charge rate.

  5. Turn on the charger and set the timer.

If you don’t have a jump starter, you could use jumper cables. Follow these steps to charge the battery:

  • Find a functioning car and park it so that it faces the car you want to jump-start.
  • Use the jumper cables to connect the two batteries
  • Start the functioning car to charge the dead battery. 
  • After a minute or two, start the dead car. 
  • Disconnect the jumper cables from each vehicle.
How to jump start a car with jumper cables.
Image illustrating how to jump-start a car with jumper cables.

Car battery light goes on and off

The battery light always lights up when you start the engine of a vehicle but must turn off automatically afterward. If it stays on, there might be something wrong with the dynamo, the power cables or a drive string. 

Flashing intermittently 

If the car battery warning light turns on and off intermittently, most likely your alternator will fail soon. The alternator’s main task is to produce voltage and amperage to fill up the car’s battery and keep the vehicle running. The battery warning light will come on to alert you that the battery voltage is not correct.

The car battery light comes on and off.
The car battery light comes on and off.

Another possibility is that there is a bad connection with the cables. You might want to check the battery terminals for corrosion or damaged wires in that case. 

Further in this article, we will discuss the most common causes.

Can you drive your car with the battery light on

As we mentioned earlier in this article, when the light stays on, there’s probably something wrong. Stop in a safe place and call road assistance for advice. Perhaps it is still possible to continue driving. In any case, you must go to a dealer or maintenance shop to have this checked. In the best case, you have a poor battery connection. This is something they can solve quickly. You can even do this yourself if you are handy.

Main causes for the battery light to come on

Below is an overview of the main causes for the battery light to come on. 

Problems with the alternator

A fault with the alternator is probably the main reason for a battery light to come on. This happens as soon as the output from the alternator drops to a certain low level. In addition, you could also have problems with the alternator belt that drives the alternator.

Problems with the voltage regulator

Very often, the battery light flickers because there are problems with the voltage regulator. The regulator in your car ensures that the voltage remains stable, usually about 13 to 14 volts. It’s fitted between the alternator and the rest of the electrical equipment, including the battery. If the voltage regulator fails, the voltage can’t be controlled.

Low battery power

A nearly discharged battery is another cause for a battery light to come on. This is caused by a malfunctioning of the alternator. The battery light is wired to the battery. It detects a low voltage electricity supply because the force of electricity through the main cables in the vehicle has dropped to an unacceptable level. This voltage drop triggers the light to start illuminating.

Poor battery connections

If the battery cables are poorly connected (not tight enough), this may cause the light to flicker on your dashboard while driving. Often this happens immediately after hitting a bump in the road or after installing a new battery.

You can prevent this by making sure that the battery cable terminal is seated as far down on the battery post as possible. 

Corrosion at the battery terminals

Corrosion at the battery terminals is one of the most common problems. Corrosion at the terminals causes power leaks and shortens the lifespan of the battery. If you keep the poles clean, you can use your battery for much longer. It will also save you a lot of money because buying a new battery is not cheap (on average $100 – $300).

A weak or old battery

A battery will work less well at a certain age. You can compare this to a smartphone battery. You have to replace it after 2-3 years. The lifespan of your battery depends on how much you drive (every day?) or if you live in a hot geographical area, like Texas. Car batteries tend to die a lot faster when they’re used in hot temperatures.

Bad ground strap

A ground strap, also known as the ground wire of your vehicle, connects the engine block to the chassis or sometimes directly to the negative battery terminal. A bad ground strap and grounding system may cause malfunctions resulting in a few little frayed wires. 

Leave lights on

People often forget to turn off the headlights of the vehicle when they are parked. You’ve probably done this at least once in your life: you come home from work, tired and not really thinking, and left the headlights on. Overnight the battery drains, and in the morning your car won’t start.

Close the doors properly

Another common mistake is that people don’t close the doors properly, which causes an internal light to stay on. 

Leave the radio on

Some people listen to their car stereo while their waiting in the car and the engine is no longer running. If you do this for 10 minutes then this is certainly not problematic. However, if you do this for a longer period of time this can cause the battery to run out.

More dashboard warning lights

Discover the EPC light.

Discover the ABS light.

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  1. Very Informative. Thanks for sharing


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