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2016 Explorer battery light on / not charging? / alternator bad already?

Discussion in 'Stock 2011 - 2018 Ford Explorer Discussion' started by BandwagonJumper, June 11, 2017.

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    1. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Hi all, new to the forums and semi-new to Ford. Traded in our previous family vehicle on a 2016 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD. It was a former Enterprise Rental (wasn't thrilled about that, but the offer was too good to pass up).

      As we approached 36k miles, I desperately wanted to have the vehicle checked over for possible problems, but couldn't make it happen. Now, with just over 36k on the clock, we're getting charging system warnings, and the battery light is on in the left side of the console. While driving the car, the power steering also stopped working (electronic power assist?) Fantastic!

      The battery appears to already have been replaced once - it's an Interstate battery, where I had expected to see a Motorcraft battery. I chalked it up to routine fleet maintenance done by Enterprise, especially on the Limited model with all the gizmos and gadgets, power liftgate, power seats in third row, heated steering wheel, etc, so didn't think much about it. The terminals are clean and connections are tight.

      Now, since we're out of warranty (by less than 200 miles) I'm wondering if this is the start of bigger problems.

      Most dealership service advisors that I called have told me it's likely to be the alternator going bad. Really? Already? This is a 2016 with barely 36k on it.

      Dealership service quote for the 230 amp alternator is just over $400, and labor in this area is $120 / hour.

      I'm handy enough with a wrench, but the location of the alternator looks absolutely terrible. Even if I get it loose, there's almost no clearance to get it out of the engine bay, much less get the new one in place. Brilliant design (keeps the technicians busy and forces the average owner to get it serviced by the pros).

      So yeah, I'm pretty unhappy right now.

      I've seen the thread about the variable output for charging system. But when it is idling in the garage, and I put a multimeter on it, it reads BELOW 12v. Certainly not enough to keep the battery charged. If I rev up the engine, it only got as high as 11.8v.

      Kicking myself for not dropping the extra $1000 on an extended warranty (especially since it was a former rental). "But, hey, it's a 2016, with only 32k miles on it, how bad can it be? No thanks, I'll pass on the extended warranty." Oops.

      Thoughts, opinions, suggestions all welcome.
       
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    3. thefranchise713

      thefranchise713 Active Member

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      Start simple... have the battery tested or just replace it with a better one. It might have a bad cell itself. I highly doubt a 2016 killed an alternator, these cars aren't known for that.

      My Explorer (2017) had a battery fail with a bad cell. It was able to maintain voltage when the battery finally collapsed with a jump, but it wasn't happy about it. A new battery was all it needed.
       
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    4. peterk9

      peterk9 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      Welcome to the Forum.:wave:
      Was the ESP warranty offered by Ford? As several members have posted in the forum, it is advisable to stay away from non Ford warranties. You can still purchase a Ford ESP but it would likely be a "pre-owned" warranty which is more costly then an original 'new car' one.
      Although the alternator could be bad, I'd look at the battery first as suggested. I believe there are only a couple posts where an alternator had to be replaced and I believe both were 2011 models.

      Peter
       
    5. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Hey, thanks for the reply. The battery was tested and diagnosed as fine. It does need a charge, since the vehicle is not providing enough juice to keep it topped up. I'm less than a tank of gas out of warranty. Horrible luck.
       
    6. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      I purchased the Explorer at a GM dealer. Doubt it was a Ford ESP plan. That was one of the contributing factors. I assumed I would not want the Explorer serviced at a GM dealer.
       
    7. thefranchise713

      thefranchise713 Active Member

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      Given the circumstances, you might be in a position to ask nicely :)for a goodwill repair. Talk to your dealer, and then call Ford's customer service folks and see if they might be able to cover at least part of the repair. You're not entitled to anything, but it doesn't hurt to ask and try anyway.

      Also PM me your vin. I want to run your VIN through OASIS and see what the true warranty start mileage was.
       
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    8. JAPeterson

      JAPeterson Active Member

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      On your battery, you want it fully charged to test it. If it is low it can give inaccurate readings.

      Then once it is fully charged you can test it and the alternator.
       
    9. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Thanks, I disconnected it and hooked it to the charger tonight, going to get it charged up while unhooked to give it a chance to rule itself out (or hopefully in).
       
    10. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Sending you a PM with vin, provided I can figure out how. :) Thanks!
       
    11. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Charged up the battery last night, and again this morning until noon. Hooked it all back up and drove to local auto parts store 1 and 2. Both tested battery and said it was good, but that the alternator isn't charging. Any chance Ford Customer Care would help? Even with the around town driving, I'm under 200 miles over the 36k mark.
       
    12. kmarnes

      kmarnes Active Member

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      A weak or bad battery left unchecked will stress out the alternator, causing it to wear out much faster.
       
    13. peterk9

      peterk9 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      Give them a call. You really have nothing to lose.

      Peter
       
    14. thefranchise713

      thefranchise713 Active Member

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      It's called a goodwill repair. Ask nicely, explain the situation calmly. You might get at least a partial bit of help.
       

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    15. reserved50

      reserved50 Well-Known Member

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      usually they will want you to go to a Ford dealer and have the proper paper work done first, which you probably have to pay for, then go from there:dunno:
       
    16. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Well, I have semi-ignored this problem for the better part of a week, so here's an update.

      I purchased a brand new 1000 CA/ 850 CCA Interstate battery from Costco. I left the entire system unhooked with no battery overnight. Ten hours or so later, I installed the new battery and let the vehicle sit for roughly 48 hours. I also ensured that nothing was plugged in to the USB ports after having read in another thread that they might not let the system properly sleep. My hope was that the system would have time to read the new battery level - even though I cannot perform a BMS (battery management system) reset to get it back to thinking it was a brand new battery.

      I took it for a short drive (would that be enough?), roughly 10 miles, travelling a combination of local roads and highways, and am still receiving the "Check Charging System" messages - I OK'ed that message 3 times in that short trip - and the battery light would come and go in the display.

      The multimeter still reads only 11.7 volts while the vehicle is running, and using an ELM327 adapter and Torque on an Android phone, I see only 11.7 Volts while running. My non-expert diagnosis - the "should still be good" alternator, is bad.

      I'm super-unimpressed with the Ford's decision to have the charging system under computer control. I'm an IT guy, and have been for 20+ years. That said, it's NOT always a great idea to give up control to computers. It's beyond my comprehension that an alternator would ever be told - "dumb it down, and don't deliver sufficient voltage to the battery to keep it charged". In my humble opinion, it should always deliver at least 13.7 - anyone know if the BMS could be overridden with FORScan? I wouldn't try it, but I'd sacrifice a fraction of a percent on gas mileage to have a system work like it should.

      Thank you all, and Happy Father's Day to the Dads out there.
       
    17. thefranchise713

      thefranchise713 Active Member

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      Couple of notes...

      If the car is seeing a running voltage of 11.7 volts, the BMS efficiency strategy is going right out the window--it's going to ramp up the alternator and get that battery back upward. At that point you're, in a sense, back to the traditional PCM smart charging strategy that has been around for quite a while. And I'd similarly smell an issue with the alternator.

      The BMS can be reset with FORScan, but the BMS will also recalibrate in particularly this circumstance. 8 hours undisturbed will allow the vehicle to recalibrate the hall effect sensor to the point where the BMS shouldn't have anything more than a slight efficiency loss due to the age parameters still stored in the BCM.

      To confirm successful BMS reset, I believe there is a Battery Age PID in the BCM that you can pull with FORScan. Good luck, and don't forget to take a shot at a goodwill repair from FMC.

      If you're using FORScan, might be worth a look at the data in both the PCM and BCM for codes, along with checking the alternator duty cycle command percentage to ensure that it's near full duty when the voltage is that low.
       
    18. BandwagonJumper

      BandwagonJumper New Member

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      Hey all, thanks for the encouragement. I bit the bullet and replaced the alternator today. It's not a simple job with the lack of clearance for tools, but with patience and persistence it isn't as horrible as I had imagined. Immediately after getting it back together, voltage at the battery with the engine running was 15. That's a lot better than the 11.7 I was getting with the apparently bad alternator. Took it for a test drive tonight and kept an eye on voltage while running around using a cheap ELM327 and an Android phone. It never dipped below 14.5 volts.

      Mileage at replacement - 36,200. I think we'd all agree that's much too soon for an alternator to die. The core charge on the unit is purchased isn't extreme, I wonder if it's worth digging into the old unit to see if the brushes are gone already. Thoughts and opinions on that are welcomed.

      Thanks again,
      Jumper
       
    19. reserved50

      reserved50 Well-Known Member

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      sounds random, unless when used as a rental people were running the battery low till it automatically shut off the accessories and the alternator was being strained to charge it back up
       

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