The last thing you would wish to see on your dashboard is the service battery charging system message, especially if you are running late for work. It turns on due to a bad battery, faulty alternator, or broken wires.
It would be best not to drive with this message on your dashboard or the battery light on the instrument panel. This can leave you stranded on the highway or remote areas when the car stops dead. That is because the vehicle cannot get enough electrical power for its various components.
We will explain what causes the service battery charging system message and quick fixes.
Read on to get all the details!
What Does The Battery Charging System Do?
Modern vehicles have complex electronic systems that require electrical energy to operate. That energy comes from the battery charging system. The ignition system, headlights, power windows, navigation system, entertainment system, and many other components require electrical power to operate.
The battery charging system supplies the energy that every component in your vehicle requires. The system consists of the alternator, battery, electronic control module, and connecting cables. A fault at any of these parts will cripple its functions.
Alternator: converts mechanical energy from the engine’s shaft to electrical energy that powers the car’s vital electronic systems.
The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) or computer regulates or distributes the electrical power to various components. It also monitors the car’s battery and allows it to charge when necessary.
Your vehicle’s ECU will show the message or turn on the battery light if there is an imbalance in electrical power going into various components.
The battery is an electrical energy reserve. Car starter draws power from it to crank the engine when you turn on the ignition key or press the engine start button.
The connecting cables: form the path for electrical current to flow. They link all the electrical and electronic components and systems in the vehicle.
What Does The “Service Battery Charging System” Message Mean?
The service battery charging system message means there is a fault in the charging system. An amber/yellow or red battery light may accompany it to draw your attention to the problem.
When you see the message on the dashboard, there is a problem that you should immediately address. It can be caused by a faulty alternator, damaged battery, corroded battery terminals, or damaged connecting cables.
Your car can continue driving quite well, but that can only be for a moment. If a faulty alternator is a cause, the vehicle will switch to the battery. Once it runs out, the car will turn into unresponsive metal junk. The engine stops and cannot restart!
A bad battery or damaged charging cables will also trigger the service battery charging system message, and hence the warning light. The car will continue to operate normally, provided the alternator is operational. Once you stop the engine, the car dies and can never restart.
You should treat the service battery system message with the urgency it deserves. Since you may not know the cause of the fault beforehand, contact your trusted automotive mechanic. That is the only option if you cannot work under the hood or don’t have the tools to do it.
GM/Chevy Vehicle Models That Usually Have The Problem with “Service Battery Charging System” Message
- Chevy Impala
- Chevy Traverse
- Chevy Malibu
- Chevy Cruze
- Chevy Equinox
- Chevy Tahoe
- Chevy Silverado
- Buick Enclave
- Buick Lucerne
- GMC Yukon
- GMC Acadia
- GMC Terrain
- Cadillac Escalade
- Cadillac CTS
Symptoms of Service Battery Charging System Message
A fault with the battery charging system may show symptoms way before the message appears on the dashboard or the battery warning light comes on. Be keen at all times to detect them on time.
The first symptoms you may notice are the engine’s strange noises or rumbling sounds due to damaged alternator bearings.
A dead or damaged battery is another clear sign to always look out for.
Also, listen to the starter. It may not be working at all or just making clicking noises when you turn the ignition key but does not crank the engine. In that case, the starter does not get enough power from the battery.
The last symptom to look out for is the dim headlights or interior lights. It is also due to insufficient power from the battery.
Causes Of “Service Battery Charging System” Message and How to Fix?
Lastly, let us look at what may cause the service battery charging system message to appear on the dashboard. A fault at any of the components will trigger it.
- Alternator problems: This component can be damaged, thereby giving out lower electrical power or nothing at all. It should be checked and replaced if the damage is irreparable.
- Battery problems: The damaged battery cannot take in an electrical charge. Check it and replace it if necessary to fix the problem.
- Drive belt issues: An alternator connects to the engine through a drive belt. A worn-out or loose drive belt will not spin the rotor at the recommended minimum speed for enough electricity generation. You can inspect the drive belt yourself or call in a professional.
- Connecting cables problem: Broken wires or blown-out fuses disrupt the electric current flow. The electrical power from the alternator cannot be delivered to the battery or other components that require it.
- Too Many Accessories in Use: Modern-day vehicles are loaded with navigation, entertainment, AC, lighting, and other systems that depend on the electrical power generated by the alternator. Turning them all at once can overpower the alternator, causing the message to appear on the dashboard.
How To Diagnose And Reset “Service Battery Charging System” Message?
Diagnosing the cause of service battery charging system message and battery light requires skills and appropriate tools. A OBD2 code reader and digital multimeter are handy tools that can help you carry out many tests on various components and connecting cables. You should get one if you are a DIYer.
Put on your protective gear and proceed as follows with testing the system components:
Resetting The ECU
Sometimes the cause of service charging battery system message is the ECU itself. Resetting it may resolve the problem. To do that, turn off the engine first and disconnect the battery. Ensure you have your safety goggles and gloves for this process to protect yourself.
Wait for about 30 minutes after disconnecting the battery and reconnecting it again. This action resets the ECU, which should clear the message. If the problem persists, take your vehicle to an authorized automotive dealer or mechanic for further diagnosis.
Read and Clear Related Diagnostic Trouble Codes
Plug your code reader to the OBD2 port, turn on the car (don’t start the engine) and let it diagnose your vehicle systems for diagnostic trouble codes.
Note down any codes and their meaning.
Fix the problems related to the codes.
Turn off then turn on the car.
Diagnose the systems again with the scan tool and make sure all the codes are cleared.
If the message doesn’t disappear, go to the next step below.
Check The Fuses
Every vehicle has a fuse box with a set of fuses through which electrical current flows to the components. This is a safety feature that prevents damaging expensive electronic components where there is a current surge. Refer to your car’s user manual to know where it is located and how to access it. Inspect all the fuses and replace blown-out ones, if any.
Test The Car Battery Voltage With a Multimeter
This test will tell you if the battery’s low voltage is responsible for the “service battery charging system” message.
Set the multimeter to DC and hook it to the battery to read the terminal voltage. You should get a value slightly over 12 volts. Anything lower than that shows your battery is weak.
If the battery voltage is low, take it to an auto repair shop for analysis. That analysis involves testing the electrical charge holding capacity of the battery by recharging it.
A damaged battery will not take in enough electrical power and should be replaced.
Check The Continuity Of Connecting Cables
Cables are the next to check if the battery has no problems. Positive cable to the battery may stiffen over time and break, causing a charging error. Use the multimeter to check for continuity. If you hear the buzzer sound, the cables are in good condition. Or if not, clean the clips and test again. Replace the wire if the problem persists.
Check The Alternator
The alternator should be the last component to check because it is less likely to be problematic. Start by ensuring that the cables from it are firmly attached.
Next, check the belt coupling it to the engine and replace it if necessary. Continuous wear can cause it to slip instead of turning the alternator to generate electrical power.
There can be a problem in the stator or rotor windings in the alternator, usually when the insulation is broken. Connect the multimeter across its terminals and measure the resistance. The reading should be within the 0–1-ohm range. Anything higher shows a fault. Also, check the alternator voltage output when the engine is running. The correct reading should be between 13-15V when the engine speed is 2,000 rpm.
Alternatively, you can take the alternator to an auto repair shop for a detailed diagnosis and possible repair.
You should monitor your dashboard for the service battery system message or battery warning light. It comes on due to a dead battery, faulty alternator, or wiring problems, as explained in this post. Driving with it on can leave you stranded on the highway. Even if your engine is still giving you enough power, it is just a matter of time before it stops dead.