How often do you think about your car battery? If you’re like most people, the answer is “never”—until there’s an issue with it. A dashboard car battery light could signal any number of issues under the hood, from a damaged battery to a glitch in the alternator. But before you break out the jumper cables or worry about possible repairs, take some time to determine why your dashboard battery light is on. It might be a quick fix!
What Does the Battery Light Mean?
If your car battery light comes on when you start the car, you’re in the clear! It’s completely normal for this light to illuminate when you first turn on your car. The light will turn off after a few seconds.
If the light stays on as you’re driving, though, pay attention. You’ll likely notice other signs of a weak battery charge, like power windows that are slow to come up or a stereo that won’t turn on.
An illuminated battery light could be due to a number of issues, including:
- A loose or corroded battery cable
- A problem with the alternator or voltage regulator
- Damaged cells or plates inside the battery
- Faulty wiring in the car’s electric charging system
A dashboard battery light basically means there’s a battery charging problem. Your car isn’t getting enough voltage from the car battery to operate properly. It needs more “juice!”
Troubleshooting Your Battery Light
Now let’s talk about your car battery light! It could mean it’s time to replace the battery. But, the light could also be triggered by a minor (and easily fixable) issue like corrosion or loose clamps. So put on some protective gloves, consult your owner’s manual, and then carefully follow the steps below to troubleshoot the battery yourself.
- Check for corrosion. In some vehicles, fumes from regular operation can cause corrosion to accumulate on top of the battery terminals, especially during summer months or in regions with year-round warm weather. To check for corrosion, remove any covers from the terminals on top of your battery. If you see a white or greenish substance on the top of the battery or around the terminals, you’ve got corrosion! While battery corrosion is common, it can interfere with the conduction of electricity from the battery to the rest of your car. Don’t touch battery corrosion with your bare hands, as it could cause skin irritation. Instead, head to our next troubleshooting tip.
- Clean the battery terminals. If you noticed significant corrosion or other grime around your battery terminals, this could be why your car battery light is on. Fortunately, it’s easy and inexpensive to clean your battery terminals with common household items and a bit of elbow grease. Simply remove the terminal covers, disconnect the battery cables, and give the terminals a hearty scrub.
- Tighten the cable clamps. Sometimes a car battery light comes on because there’s a weak connection between your battery and the cables that connect to it. While you have the hood open, check to be sure the clamps are securely fastened to your battery terminals. If you notice that the clamps are loose, use a small wrench or a pair of pliers to tighten them until they’re snug around the terminals. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions related to your vehicle make/model.
What to Do When Your Car Battery Light Is (Still) On
You’ve checked for and cleaned off any corrosion, and you’ve tightened up any loose battery cables. But your battery light is still on?! The culprit could be a mechanical issue, like a problem with the alternator or voltage regulator. Or, it could be something systematic, like faulty wiring.
What’s next? Head to Firestone Complete Auto Care for a fast and free battery check. We’ll take a look at your battery’s health, then recommend repairs or a new battery if needed. Don’t get stranded because of battery issues! Find your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care today and recharge your peace of mind.