San Carlos Auto Repair

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What does the battery light mean?

What does the battery light MEAN on my dash ?

Battery Light On Dash

The battery light on your dash means the alternator is no longer charging the battery and the car will soon leave you stranded. It's a simple as that. But let's take a moment to unfold what that means.

We get that phone call a few times a month at our auto repair facility in San Carlos, CA... "I am driving and the battery light came on my dash, is it still okay to drive?" "How long do I have to drive until my car dies with the battery light on the dash?" "Is there anything I can do to turn the battery light off? I am far away from the closest town." We will answer all of those questions below so you know!

What to do if your battery light comes on.

If your battery light comes on your dash while the engine is running, that means there is something wrong with the charging system. The light is triggered when the alternator no longer is outputting sufficient voltage to keep the car running. At that point the car's battery is the only thing that keeps the car running, lights on, radio playing, and air conditioning cooling. 

At this point, you would want to turn off all electrical components that you can where the vehicle is still safe to drive. Depending on the battery condition and the electrical loads on your system, you probably have about 5-10 minutes of driving until your vehicle starts to stall. I would recommend to get you and your car to a safe place or a local repair shop and call for a ride. Unfortunately, when the battery light comes on, there isn't too much you can do to avoid the pending fate. However... there may be one thing you can do to help.

Items you can check yourself when the battery light comes on

Battery Connections

If you are able to locate the alternator for your vehicle, which is under the car's hood, there are a few things you can check. First look at the wires and connectors that go to the alternator and make sure that they are fully plugged in and tight. Secondly, make sure that the engine drive belt is on the pulley of the alternator. Thirdly, and most importantly, you can find a blunt object and bang on the outer case of the alternator while the car is running. 

Alternator Connections

Let me describe banging on the alternator in more detail. The blunt object should be wood so you don't short out the electrical system. You should bang on the outer portion of the alternator not the center of the case so you don't break it. And lastly, the car should be running while you do this. What's happening when you bang on the alternator is that you are shaking up the electrical contact points (or brushes) so it's possible that a poor connection could temporarily be fixed. 

If your battery is dead, learn how to properly jumpstart your car.

How long should my car battery last?

650-946-1856 or

Written by Eric Sevim | A+ Japanese Auto Repair, Inc. | 780 Industrial Rd, San Carlos CA 94070 | 650-946-1856


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