When a light starts glowing on your dashboard, it can be a worrisome experience. Even if you know what the light means, it isn’t always obvious what the problem is. You may wonder whether it is going to be expensive to fix and whether you can even keep driving. Fortunately, if it is the battery light, there is a good chance that you can fix it yourself.
If the battery light is on, it means that your vehicle is not receiving a proper charge from your battery for some reason. In many cases, this is because your battery is dead. Fortunately, that is a very simple fix: just change your battery.
However, the problem can also be with the alternator or with the wiring system that connects your battery. Both of those components are deeper problems that require slightly more complex repairs. A trip to your favorite auto parts store will help you get started rectifying the issue.
How To Determine What the Problem Is
The starting point of resolving any car issue is identifying what the problem is. In most cases, the battery light comes on because the battery is at the end of its life. However, you should not simply assume that this is the case.
Start by remembering when you last replaced the battery. If it was more than three years ago, it is likely that the problem is the battery. It may be worth buying a replacement car battery regardless of whether there is a deeper issue because it is likely getting close to the end of its life.
If the battery is newer, try jumping the car if it needs it to start then driving around for a while. Alternatively, use a battery charger for car and truck batteries and do the same. If it appears to hold a charge after a little bit of driving (this recharges the battery), then the problem was likely a dead battery.
However, if the battery continues to die but the car still runs, the problem is likely the alternator. Examine this to see if the belt is damaged or improperly in place. Replacing the belt is a relatively easy fix. If the belt is fine, the alternator may need to be replaced. You can use a multimeter to measure whether it is generated a charge.
The other most likely issue is a problem with the wiring. Again, you can use a multimeter to test whether this appears to be working. Wiring issues will tend to make the car either not start or run out of charge very quickly.
By following these steps and testing the problem, you can troubleshoot it yourself. While you may need assistance with an alternator replacement or wiring fix (these are both doable if you want to invest the time), you could save yourself significantly by replacing the battery yourself. Cars are simpler to work on than you probably realize. Get started learning and see what you can achieve with a few tools from your favorite auto parts store.