The battery ( charge malfunction light ) should come on and go out fairly quickly as your engine revs at startup. The process is a bulb check to be sure the malfunctioning light operates. What does it mean when the light does come on and stays on. Rarely does it come on, and NOT mean there is a problem with your charge system ( battery, alternator, voltage regulator, wiring, and engine control module ). When this light failure indicator has occurred – an imminent breakdown is on its way. Without electricity, your car will shut down.
If your traveling, about all you can do, is turn every device in your car off – heater fan, air condition, radio, etc. Remember, without electricity – no fuel pump, no spark to fire the gasoline, no computer control, etc. Again shut everything off to conserve the electricity left in your battery. Obviously, get to a repair facility to have the system tested and repaired.
What we have noticed over the years: 1. A car may start at home just fine, with maybe a slight hesitation when trying to start. You go to the local store and wham – nothing, no starter noise or even a click sound. The battery may have shorted out and died on the spot.
The slight hesitation may be the only warning you have before battery failure. In this case, the charge failure light probably never came on. 2. When driving a car with a low electrical supply, strange things may happen, flickering lights, door locks activating by themselves, loss of engine power, etc. Most of the time, the charge failure indicator will be on. Don’t wait to have these problems tested; this is an issue needing immediate attention.
One more word of caution. Replacing the battery yourself may not be a good idea. The newer the car, the more likely you could cause an expensive issue to repair. To be on the safe side, have a professional replace your battery and test the system.
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