Illuminated Battery Light
Have you noticed the battery light illuminated on your vehicle's dashboard? Most automotive dashboards contain over a half-dozen indicator lights, one of which being the battery. During normal operation, your vehicle's battery light shouldn't be illuminated. If it turns on while you are driving -- or when you crank your vehicle -- you should investigate to determine what's wrong with your vehicle.
Overview of the Battery Light
Many drivers assume that an illuminated battery light means their vehicle's battery is dead. After all, the light clearly shows a battery. However, the battery light actually means your vehicle's battery isn't charging.
If the battery light is illuminated, your vehicle's battery won't charge. Automotive batteries, of course, charge automatically from the alternator. Driving spins the alternator, which in turn charges the battery. An illuminated battery light means there's something wrong with your vehicle that's preventing the alternator from charging the battery.
Dangers of Driving With Battery Light Illuminated
Driving your vehicle with the battery light illuminated may result in it cutting off. All vehicles consume power during operation. From the radio and headlights to the indicator lights and other electrical systems, vehicles require power to run. If your vehicle's alternator isn't charging the battery, the battery will eventually die. This may cause you to certain features like power steering and power brakes.
Causes of Illuminated Battery Light
What causes the battery light to illuminate exactly? Like with many other indicator lights, there's no single cause. Rather, there are multiple problems that can trigger the battery light.
The most common cause of an illuminated battery light is a bad alternator. As previously mentioned, the alternator is designed to charge your vehicle's battery, typically with the help of a serpentine belt. If the alternator fails, your vehicle's battery won't charge. Instead, it will drain as you continue to drive.
Because alternators are belt driven, problems with their respective belt can cause the battery light to illuminate. If the serpentine belt is loose or cracked, for instance, the alternator may struggle to charge the battery.
The battery light may illuminate in response to excess corrosion. If you discover the battery light illuminated on your vehicle's dashboard, check the battery terminals to see if they are corroded. Heavy buildups of corrosion can inhibit the flow of electricity from the alternator to the battery, in which case your vehicle's battery may fail to charge.