It can be alarming anytime you see an unexpected light on your dashboard. The battery light in particular should catch your attention, since if your battery fails, you’re likely to be stranded! If you ever see it come on, make sure you investigate immediately using the tips we’ll discuss here today.
Similar to our article What Does Your Check Engine Light Mean?, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons your battery light has become illuminated and offer potential solutions. The good news is that most battery-related issues are pretty affordable to resolve, even if the battery itself needs to be replaced.
Let’s begin by briefly examining why your battery light coming on can actually be a blessing in disguise:
Why The Battery Dash Light is a Good Thing to See (Kind of!)
While it’s not exactly what you may want to see, the battery light serves a very important purpose: to let you know that your battery is low on voltage and/or is about to fail.
Older vehicles didn’t have this kind of technology, which meant that the only way drivers used to be able to tell if something was wrong with the battery was if they manually checked the voltage themselves, or, of course, when the car up and stopped working.
Keep that in mind when your battery dash light comes on. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, but at least you’re getting a warning ahead of time before you’re out in the middle of traffic.
The Average Car Battery Lifespan
Did you know that the average car battery lifespan is approximately 4-6 years? While it’s certainly possible to have batteries that last longer—lifespans of 10 years aren’t necessarily unheard of—replacing your battery about every 5 years is a good habit to be in.
Also understand that environmental and use factors will affect the lifespan of a battery. If you live in an area with a hot climate, your battery isn’t likely to last as long (for example, car batteries tend to last longer in, say, Colorado than they do in Florida). The amount you drive your car will also impact the battery, so if you drive frequently such as for a daily commute, your battery will likely only last the average amount of time.
The point is, your battery light may have become illuminated simply because your battery has reached the end of its lifespan.
Your Alternator or Alternator Belt Needs to be Replaced
The purpose of your alternator is to keep the car battery charged. If there’s a problem with the alternator, the battery won’t be able to charge properly (or at all). The alternator works as you drive your vehicle, which is why vehicles which haven’t been started or driven in long periods of time may need a jump start.
It might be that there’s nothing wrong with your battery if your battery light comes on: alternators usually last about seven years, so if it’s been a while, it may be time for a replacement. Alternator replacements are a midrange maintenance expense, usually running consumers around $200-300 for parts and labor.
Having said that, the problem may simply be caused by the alternator belt, which is a significantly cheaper and faster problem to fix. This belt connects the alternator and the crankshaft. Without the alternator belt, your battery won’t be able to get charged, which again would lead to your battery light being illuminated.
Faulty Ground Wire or Other Electrical Problems
The wire attached to the negative terminal of your car battery is the ground wire. If this wire becomes damaged, unattached, or otherwise fails, it’s almost certain that the battery dash light will come on.
The good news is that in this situation there’s nothing wrong with your battery itself or the alternator—the bad news is that the electrical components of your car will likely stop working. In some cases, you may be unable to continue driving.
Fortunately, replacing the ground wire is a very cheap fix. These wires typically cost around $5-10 and, if you know what you’re doing, can be a fairly simple DIY repair project.
Other electrical problems may be responsible for the battery dash light coming on. Take a look at our post 5 Common Warning Signs Your Vehicle Has Electrical Problems to get a better idea of potential electrical problems and how to troubleshoot them.
How to Learn More About Maintaining Your Vehicle’s Battery
To learn more about your battery, make sure to check out our previous post The Top 7 Things You Must Know About Your Car Battery. If you’re concerned about a battery light or any other maintenance issues, please feel encouraged to seek out your local BG certified technician and be sure to use high end battery products like ours.
If you’d like to learn more about B.G. services, you’re more than welcome to contact us.