Red Light is lit on the dashboard & why you need to get it fixed

Ian Oliver Car Services

It is that time of year again when the nights start to draw in and the darkness in the morning gets longer, and so we become far more reliant on the lights and, by default, the battery in our car. As a result, it is not uncommon for the battery light to come on. Still, when it does, we need to do something about it, and quickly as we run the risk of stopping on the road or not starting in the morning, situations that could be avoided by taking a few minutes to do a quick inspection.
How often do you think about your car battery?

If we are honest, the answer is most likely never until there is an issue with it. So when the red battery light lights up on your car’s dashboard, it could mean several things from a damaged battery to a glitch in the alternator, but one thing it does mean for sure is that there is a problem with the charging of the battery.

However, before you run to get the jump leads or the booster pack, you need to look at why the battery light is on your dashboard. Like most things in a car, when there is a fault, a light comes on, Now in fairness, some are more serious than others but rest assured nine times out of ten, there is an issue and not a faulty sensor, so check it out, it might be a quick fix!

What Does The Battery Light Mean?
If your car battery light comes on when you start the car but then goes off after a second or two, you are fine! It is usual for the battery light to illuminate red when you first turn your car on. The light will turn off after a few seconds.
However, if the light stays on or comes on when you are driving, you need to pay more attention, as this means there is a problem with the battery’s charging capabilities. One way you might notice this is that other signs of a weak battery occur, such as additional electrical elements such as windows, heaters, Air Conditioning, radios that stop or will not turn on. Another one to look out for at other lights coming on the dashboard so that the dash resembles more a Christmas tree than a dashboard, again signifying a weak battery.

What can cause a Red Battery light to come on?
This could be down to several issues, including:
• Loose or corroded battery cables
• A problem with the alternator or voltage regulator
• Damaged cells or plates inside the battery
• Faulty wiring in the car’s electric charging system
• Damaged or broken drive belt
• Damaged or misaligned pulley and tensioners
Let’s face it a Red Battery light on your dashboard means there is a problem with the battery charging capabilities. Your car is not getting enough voltage from the car battery to operate correctly. It needs more “power!”

Troubleshooting Your Battery Light
OK, so the light is on, let’s look at how we can diagnose the issue. It could mean the battery itself can no longer hold a charge and needs to be replaced. Still, it could also mean something minor has occurred, like corrosion on the battery terminals or a cable has come loose, so a minor issue is easily fixed.
Firstly, put on some protective gloves, consult your owner’s manual, and then carefully follow the steps below to troubleshoot the battery yourself.

Check for corrosion
In some vehicles, fumes from the regular operation can cause corrosion to accumulate on top of the battery terminals. To check for corrosion, remove any covers from the terminals on top of your battery. If you see a white or greenish substance on the top of the battery or around the terminals, you have corrosion. While battery corrosion is common, it can interfere with the conduction of electricity from the battery to the rest of your car. Do not touch battery corrosion with your bare hands, as it could cause skin irritation. Instead, you can clean the battery terminals as outlined next.

Clean the battery terminals
If you noticed significant corrosion or other grime around your battery terminals, this could be why your car battery light is on. Fortunately, it is easy and inexpensive to clean your battery terminals with everyday household items and a bit of elbow grease. First, remove the terminal covers, disconnect the battery cables, and give the terminals a hearty scrub.

Tighten the cable clamps
Sometimes a car battery light comes on because there’s a weak connection between your battery and the cables that connect to it. While you have the bonnet open, check the clamps are securely fastened to your battery terminals. If you notice that the clamps are loose, use a small wrench or a pair of pliers to tighten them until they are snug around the terminals. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions related to your vehicle make/model.

What to Do When Your Car Battery Light Is (Still) On
You’ve checked for and cleaned off any corrosion, and you’ve tightened up any loose battery cables. But your battery light is still on?! This would mean that the issue is mechanical, such as a problem with the alternator, pulleys, tensioner, drive belt, or voltage regulator. Or it could be something with the electrical system, like faulty wiring or control unit but certainly something that requires professional help.

What’s next?
If you find that the light is still on there, contact us here at Oliver’s Car Service Centre, and we will check your battery and alternator for you and recommend any repairs necessary or if a new battery is needed. The main this is for you not to get stranded by having a faulty battery so if the Red Battery light comes on in your car, get it checked.

About Ian Oliver
Ian has a passion for all things mechanical, so fixing cars is what he loves to do. He also enjoys sea swimming on the beautiful Wexford coastline, as well as music, cinema, and the arts. He is also studying part-time for a Master’s in Business at Carlow IT. Plus, he used to work as a photographer, snapping pics of bands for the likes of Hot Press, RTE, and the NME.
Ian set up Oliver’s Car Service Centre in Gorey in June 2021 on the Railway Enterprise Park. The Centre specialises in car service and repair solutions for customers in the North Wexford and South Wicklow areas.