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Battery light constantly on (and low voltage on gauge)

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Old 10-05-2008, 12:15 PM   #1
Steeda90GT
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Battery light constantly on (and low voltage on gauge)

I was driving home from work and noticed my battery light flickering on and off. Once I got home I shut it off and started it again. Now the battery light on the cluster is constantly on and the volt gauge reads pretty low (Im pretty sure the stock volt gauge is an idiot light anyway, on and off...right???)

The previous owner put the battery in, so I have no clue as to how old it is. I've owend the vehicle for over 2 yrs now. I cleaned the battery terminals REALLY well because there did appear to be some corrosion.

So do I need a new battery/alternator, or both?
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Old 10-05-2008, 01:28 PM   #2
gavin
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volt gauge?
Explorer's have an ammeter. It displays the amperage
When the gauge is in the middle, it means the battery is neither charging nor discharging.

When the ammeter goes low, it means the battery is dischaging.

If the ammeter stays low, it's possible the alternator is crapping out.

as for the battery light... I dunno about that one.

With the vehicle shut off, check the voltage on the battery with a multimeter. It should read over 12 volts.

Then start the truck, with ALL accessories turned off, and read the voltage again. It should be at around 13v (sometimes I see as high as ~14 on mine).

if voltage is low with truck running and accessories off, get the alternator tested.




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Old 10-05-2008, 05:28 PM   #3
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Pardon my lingo, I'm a Software Developer, not a mechanic so I just kind of make things up along the way.

So what is the purpose of the battery light on the cluster? Does it come on when the volts are low and the alternator isn't charging properly?

I also noticed the belt tensioner looked bad. The entire assembly appears to be loose..and when the truck is running, it wobbles.
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Old 10-05-2008, 05:43 PM   #4
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I would suspect the alternator? Does the tach bounce or any of the other gauges? I would take it to Advance auto or similar place and have the alternator tested. Grab a multimeter (digital one if you have one) and place it on the battery and start the engine and have someone keep the rpm's at about 1500-2000 constantly. See if the voltage drops below 13.8. Another thing you can do is start the truck and pull the negative terminal. If the truck dies, then your alternator is shot.
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Old 10-05-2008, 06:02 PM   #5
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maybe the battery light means voltage is low?
and the ammeter would read low if the battery was discharging for whatever reason (ie, the alternator isn't providing enough juice to keep the battery charged and run the vehicle).


I would still HIGHLY recommend, first thing you do, is check the voltage, as I mentioned in my first post.

First check the voltage between the battery posts, with the engine NOT running. It should read around 12.5 or so.

Now, start the truck, leaving ALL accessories turned off. At idle, the reading should be over 13... 13.5'ish is where it most likely goes.

My guess, is that the battery light comes on, because the battery is below a set voltage threshold. It stays on, because the alternator isn't providing enough juice, or because the voltage regulator is toast and isn't providing the correct voltage.

Either way, it would be the alternator.




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Old 10-05-2008, 09:29 PM   #6
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The charging indicator ("battery" light) is controlled by the regulator. If the light is on, it means, as stated before, your battery isn't being charged.

Take care of this ASAP, to avoid being stranded with a dead battery.
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Old 10-05-2008, 09:48 PM   #7
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The ALT light will come on if the alternator's output is too low. If your idler/tensioner is going bad, you could be merely dealing with belt slippage and that will cause your system to not charge the battery.




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Old 10-05-2008, 09:52 PM   #8
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if the belt appears to be wobbling , and the whole thing is loose , i bet the belt is not turning the alternator enough to charge the battery properly cause the belt is slipping,,
fix the loose parts first,




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Old 10-06-2008, 09:20 AM   #9
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Yes that's what I was thinking as well because the tensioner pulley does appear to be wobbly. I removed it and it looks like the whole unit is seperating.

I'll try that first (only $40) and see if it works. If not, then new alternator. The idler pulley looks good and is spinning nicely (although the bearings are a little noisy)
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Old 10-06-2008, 09:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gavin View Post
volt gauge?
Explorer's have an ammeter. It displays the amperage
When the gauge is in the middle, it means the battery is neither charging nor discharging.
Sorry Gavin, but that's not correct. Both my 95 and my 99 are VOLT meters. In fact, I can't remember Ford using an Ammeter in quite some time now.




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Old 10-06-2008, 09:41 AM   #11
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ok i got on to ask this very question. i just started having same issue. i replaced battery and instaled heavy duty altenator (all the dam lights). and it still does this! when it reads low volatage boys she is next to stalling out!!! if the vehicle is moving or u are above about 1200 RPM she is fine. its idling or stoping at a red light and everything dies down and almost stalls the car out, lights go real dim, etc......is the 1st guy have the exact same situation?




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Old 10-06-2008, 12:13 PM   #12
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OK, So I just came back from Vatozone and they tested my alternator. It failed.

So I guess I'll pick one up. Where is everyone getting their alternators from? Vatozone has a new one for $189.99 that has a lifetime warranty. They also have a rebuilt one for $159.99 with a lifetime warranty as well.

4x4firefighter - mine just had the battery light on cluster and very low reading on the "volt meter" lol

The truck still ran fine.
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Old 10-06-2008, 12:37 PM   #13
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Sorry Gavin, but that's not correct. Both my 95 and my 99 are VOLT meters. In fact, I can't remember Ford using an Ammeter in quite some time now.
huh... I always assumed it was an ammeter.
since it never moves, regardless if the voltage is at 12v or 14.5v.

Only time it drops is when I have lights on, heater full blast, rear defrost on, and it's in drive with my foot on the brake. But even then, voltage is still at over 12.




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Old 10-06-2008, 09:54 PM   #14
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About a year ago, I got a rebuilt one with a lifetime replacement warranty from Pep Boys for $120.
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:52 AM   #15
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Pep Boys quoted me $170 for the lifetime warranty one. I think the alternators are different between the SOHC and OHV, right?
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:53 AM   #16
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BTW - the $75 eBay ones are damn tempting..
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Old 10-07-2008, 08:33 AM   #17
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ok i got on to ask this very question. i just started having same issue. i replaced battery and instaled heavy duty altenator (all the dam lights). and it still does this! when it reads low volatage boys she is next to stalling out!!! if the vehicle is moving or u are above about 1200 RPM she is fine. its idling or stoping at a red light and everything dies down and almost stalls the car out, lights go real dim, etc......is the 1st guy have the exact same situation?
this can happen when you purchase aftermarket alternators. There is a design flaw in the alternator. The problem is that when you truck is idling, and the serpentine belt is running much slower, it's not spinning fast enough to charge your battery during idle.




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Old 10-07-2008, 10:22 AM   #18
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this can happen when you purchase aftermarket alternators. There is a design flaw in the alternator. The problem is that when you truck is idling, and the serpentine belt is running much slower, it's not spinning fast enough to charge your battery during idle.
yup.
when buying a higher amperage alternator, you need to find out how many amps it puts out at idle.
all alt's I've seen, are labeled with the maximum amperage output; which, of course, will not be seen at idle. Some of these put out the same amps as stock, at idle, some are even a bit lower.

Basically what I'm saying... check the idle output when purchasing a high amp alt, do NOT buy it because it says "300 amp!"




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Old 10-11-2008, 07:45 PM   #19
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UPDATE:

OK - I decided to buy a reman unit (lifetime replacement) for $129.99. I also installed a new belt and a tensioner (the original one was starting to split.

Everything is great, no more battery light on cluster and my "volt gauge" isn't reading low anymore!
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Old 10-13-2008, 09:52 AM   #20
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I have a similar problem. I have installed new battery and alternator. The volt meter is low and warning light is on. What next.
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