A Guide to Dealing with Service Battery Charging Systems

A vehicle’s battery is crucial to its operational and functional value. The last thing a vehicle owner would wish to see on their dashboard is the service battery charging system error message. Error messages like such prove to be a cause of great hindrance when you’re in a hurry. It’s best to cater to the errors and not drive the vehicle before matters worsen. If error messages aren’t dealt with in time, the vehicle could shut down and leave you stranded in remote areas. However, most people are unaware of the dangers error messages may lead to if left unattended. Not to worry, we are here to tell you exactly what to do when a specific error message related to the battery charging system shows up on your vehicle!

What is a Battery Charging System?

Modern vehicles come equipped with complex systems that require electrical energy to function. The energy required comes from the battery charging system. Components of the car like headlights, power windows, ignition, and navigation all require electrical energy to work. This charging system supplies fuel to any vehicle element needing it at any given point. 

This system comprises a battery, alternator, electronic control module, and connecting cables; if any of the components are faulty, it could cripple the system’s functionality. Knowing which part is defective is crucial to carrying out the proper fix. It is also essential to understand the function of each of these components to understand where the problem lies. 

The battery works as an energy reserve that supplies power to the vehicle and starts it up when it is turned on. The alternator works on converting the mechanical energy from the engine to electrical energy that powers the vehicle’s electronic system. The Electronic control module controls the distribution of electric power to various vehicle components. It also regulates the car’s battery allowing it to charge when the battery needs it. 

What is a Service Battery Charging System message?

The last thing a vehicle owner wants is the service battery charging system error message on their dashboard. However, once it’s there, you must understand and cater to the issue immediately. 

The service battery charging system message intends to tell the owner that the charging system is faulty. The color of the battery light that accompanies it means to draw your attention to the severity of the problem. A yellow or red light indicates the severity accordingly. When this message shows up, time is of the essence since there is now a problem in your battery charging system that requires your immediate attention. When this error message shows up, it’s possible to drive the vehicle; however, following the fault, your car may shut down at any given moment and turn completely unresponsive. 

The message could be caused by faulty batteries, damaged cables, worn-down battery terminals, or a defective alternator. Each component harbors its symptoms to look out for before the message even shows and fixes once the message does. It’s essential to be on the lookout for symptoms to avoid the error altogether.

Symptoms of Service Battery Charging System error that you should look out for:

Faulty battery charging system components may start hinting at the damage before the message even appears. It’s essential to be on the lookout for these symptoms to detect and fix the problem before the error even shows up.

It’s essential to listen to what your engine has to say, and any strange noises need to be considered. Damaged alternator bearings often cause rumbling sounds in the engine and indicate something wrong with your vehicle. Dead or damaged batteries are another hint for you to detect. This shows that the battery cannot supply enough power to the starter. 

Keep an ear out for the starter and listen, whether it’s just making clicking noises or starting the engine when you turn the ignition key. Another symptom to look for in your vehicle is dim headlights or interior lights, which is often due to insufficient power to the battery. Make sure you take note of any strange smells that might be coming from the battery system components. A peculiar smell from the alternator could mean it is overheating.  

Causes of Service Battery Charging System Error Message 

Once the error message does show up, it’s essential to understand the underlying reason behind the news. A fault in any of the components can trigger the notification.

  • Too many accessories in use 

Modern vehicles have many new features, from entertainment to GPS to air conditioning. However, using all these great features simultaneously is impossible since they depend on the alternator to give them power. Too many accessories in use at once overpower the alternator, making the message appear on the vehicle’s dashboard.

  • Disruption of connected cables

Components of the battery system are interconnected through cables. These connected cables provide electrical flow to these components. Disruption of the electric discharge, be it through breakage or blown-out fuses, leads to faults in the system. This deprives parts of electrical energy that was previously supplied by the alternator.

  • Battery

The battery is the electrical power reserve for the vehicle. A damaged battery retains electric charge. Keep a check on your battery and replace it if the problem requires.

  • Alternator

The alternator is one of the most critical components of the battery charging system. If damaged, the components receive little or no power at all. Alternator damage should be checked immediately and replaced if the problem requires it.

  • Drive Belt

The connection from the alternator to the engine works through a drive belt. A drive belt that’s worn out or loose will not spin enough to create the required energy needed by the vehicle. You could either inspect the drive belt yourself or call an expert to take a look.

Diagnose the problem

The causes leading to a service battery charging system message are many, so it’s essential to diagnose the specific motivation behind the problem. The light on your dashboard warns you there’s something wrong with the car’s charging system.

One way to diagnose the problem is to check the charging system yourself, following several steps

  • Check the Battery

Verify whether your vehicle battery is in good condition and fully charged. Scan the battery’s hydrometer and check whether there is a green eye present in the hydrometer. Check the battery terminals for battery voltage. The voltage should be at least 12 volts with the car in use, and if the voltage drops below 12 volts, it’s a clear indication that the charging system is malfunctioning, and repair is inevitable. Make sure the battery terminals have no corrosion residue and are securely tightened. Thoroughly clean the battery terminals if there’s any residue present. 

For a better inspection, you can test the battery with a test light or multimeter to make sure the battery is at total capacity. 

  1. Turn your battery tested off.
  2. Turn the multimeter selector switch to the DV volt position.
  3. Ensure the multimeter clips are secure and join with the positive battery post. 
  4. Join negative battery posts to connect with negative leads.
  5. Position the load control knob in the right direction, so half of the battery’s cold-cranking amps are read.
  6. Check the multimeter reading. If, at 21 degrees, the voltage reading is 9.6 volts, it means the battery is in good condition. A reading below that indicates the battery is in a bad situation. Charge the battery to confirm.
  • Check the Alternator

 Please look at your vehicle’s alternator and ensure its functionality. Test the vehicle’s alternator to ensure it is in good condition. Start by making sure the cables are securely attached to it. Issues could arise in the rotor windings or the alternator’s stator when there is a breakage in insulation. Use a multimeter across the terminals to measure resistance. There is no problem if the range is between 0-1 ohm. However, anything higher than that is a fault. Also, check alternator voltage output when the engine is running. Readings between 13-15 volts when the engine runs at 2000rpm are correct. Other than self-inspection, you could also take the alternator to a professional for a better and more detailed diagnosis. 

Follow the mentioned steps to come to service the battery charging system.

  1. Turn all electrical components off.
  2. Put the vehicle in neutral and turn the parking brake on.
  3. Test the load and no-load test on your alternator.
  4. Switch the battery tester to ammeter operation.
  5. Ensure the battery terminals are connected to the respective positive and negative leads.
  6. Position the current probe to the B+ output lead of the alternator.
  7. Check the alternator output and ensure the outcome is more remarkable when the engine runs at 2000rpm.
  8. Turn the battery tester on voltmeter settings.
  9. Grind the negative lead when arranging the voltmeter’s positive lead with the alternator B+ terminal.
  10. Ensure all electrical components are switched off.
  11. Maintain the voltage between 12 and 15 volts while the engine runs at 2000rpm.
  • Check Components

After checking the battery and the alternator, if no issues are found within these two parts, proceed to inspect other components of the battery charging system for problems that may have been causing the error message. 

Check the wiring system and ensure the connecting cables, harness connectors, terminals, and connections are secured correctly and in good condition. Also, inspect the serpentine belt for any damage or unfastened connections. 

Steps to follow if the Message Appears Unexpectedly 

Your vehicle depends on the electrical energy the battery system provides. It’s essential to consult a professional and use their services to inspect the cause, diagnose the problem, and service. If the warning comes on while driving at night, it’s best to locate a mechanic nearby to avoid the engine dying. Turn off all the electrical accessories of your vehicle not being used at the time, like the air conditioner, radio, etcetera, to gain sufficient time to reach the mechanic. If the temperature light accompanies the battery light, leave your vehicle alone and avoid any activity to let it cool down. 

The cost of fixing the service battery charging system message depends on the component the fault is in. The average price for fixing this error ranges from 250-1000 dollars if hiring a professional. Following our guide might help you perform the repair yourself without having to go to the auto shop and avoiding the cost altogether.

Should You Still Drive If the Service Battery Charging System Error Message Appears?

Driving with the error present depends on the situation you’re in., what kind of vehicle you own, and what battery type it uses. Since you’re not aware of what might be triggering the problem, unless you’re sure that it is safe to drive your vehicle, it’s recommended you don’t drive the vehicle once the message makes its appearance. Doing so may lead to an unexpected shutdown of your vehicle that could potentially strand you. Consult a professional immediately to decide what to do going forward.

Once the error appears, it’s a race against time to ensure your vehicle does not succumb to the error. It would help if you got the problem fixed as soon as possible. Leaving and ignoring problems only causes them to get more severe over time.


It may be alarming to see the Service Battery Charging System error message on your dashboard, but not to worry, our guide will help you navigate your way around the error yourself. Inspect your battery charging system by following our comprehensive guide or call a professional to do the job for you. However, before the error does appear, it’s essential to look for symptoms that lead to such errors. When it does occur, you should immediately take the necessary steps to address the problem and fix the issue to avoid being stranded in a remote area to avoid any further trouble. Head to our Guide to Dealing with Service Battery Charging System Error Message guide and follow the steps to eliminate the error without any worries!