Charging System Failure: Meaning, Causes, and How to Fix

Your car’s charging system ensures that there’s always enough power for the engine and accessories to run. If the car isn’t fully charged or it can’t retain an appropriate charge, you might see the Charging System Failure message.

This guide will discuss all components of the charging system. Based on the failures, we offer solutions. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. What does "Charging System Failure" mean?
  2. Troubleshooting Charging System Problems
    1. 1. Bad Alternator 
    2. 2. Broken Serpentine Belt
    3. 3. Blown Fuse
    4. 4. Unsafe Wiring
    5. 5. Bad Battery
    6. 6. Bad ECM
  3. How to Repair Charging System Failed Message
    1. 1. The voltage should be measured
    2. 2. Replace Belt
    3. 3. Resolve faulty wires
    4. 4. Take a look at Swap Out Alternator
    5. 5. Replace battery
    6. 6. Update/Check ECU
  4. Repairing a Charging System Failed Cost
  5. Questions about Charging System Failure
    1. What if my charging system fails?
    2. What is the best way to tell if your alternator fuse has blown?
    3. How can I tell if my alternator won't charge?
    4. Can I drive for as long as possible with the Check charging message?

What does "Charging System Failure" mean?

The charging system failure warning message means that there is an issue with your car’s charging system and that your alternator may have stopped charging the battery. This can happen due to faulty components such as the voltage regulator, connectors, or battery.

You will soon be stuck if your car stops charging its electrical system. This message should be taken seriously.

Troubleshooting Charging System Problems

A bad alternator, or the voltage regulator within it is most likely to cause a charging system malfunction. You could also have a damaged serpentine belt, or a simple blown fuse.

This is an in-depth list of possible reasons for a charging system malfunction:

1. Bad Alternator 

It is the alternator that charges the battery and keeps the accessories running. The alternator is responsible for charging the battery while the vehicle is still running. 

The voltage regulator can also go bad. The voltage regulator is often located on or inside the alternator, but it some cases, it’s better and easier to replace the whole alternator instead. If this happens, the alternator won’t be able to supply the right amount of voltage to the battery. 

RELATED: 6 Symptoms of a Bad Alternator (& Replacement Cost)

2. Broken Serpentine Belt

The alternator runs on the serpentine belt. Even if the alternator is in good working order, if the serpentine belt fails, it can’t run. 

The battery will not charge if there is no running alternator. The battery may appear to have died, but in reality the belt needs to be changed so that it can charge again. 

RELATED: 7 Symptoms of a Bad Serpentine Belt (& Replacement Cost)

3. Blown Fuse

Everything in the vehicle that’s running requires electrical power. A system of wires, fuses and relays routes this electricity.

A fuse can blow anytime, just like in your house. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to change a blown fuse and get the battery charging once again. Check your owner’s manual and look for fuses related to the alternator or charging system.

4. Unsafe Wiring

Any of the other connectors or wires, except the fuse could also be broken. It’s also possible that the connections are simply contaminated and need to be cleaned. 

Finding out the source of the problem can prove difficult. If you aren’t skilled at working with the electrical system, this diagnosis could be cumbersome. 

Re: Is your car's battery light on while driving? (Here’s How to Fix it)

5. Bad Battery

There’s always the possibility that the battery is causing the issues. If the battery is old or worn out, it’s time for a new one.

If the battery has run out, the light source in the headlights will go off. You might experience problems with accessories. 

6. Bad ECM

Many car models have an engine control module that controls the alternator. If the ECM is not working properly, the alternator may stop charging. However, it’s pretty rare for the ECM to go bad so it’s definitely a good idea to check the other things first.

How to Repair Charging System Failed Message

1. The voltage should be measured

If you are having problems charging your car, the first thing you need to do is measure the voltage using a multimeter. Turn on your car's engine, then let it run for a while. Next, switch on the wipers and headlights. Measure the voltage of the car's battery by finding it and measuring the difference between its positive and negative terminals.

If you crank the engine, it should show a voltage greater than 12.4 volts. You should continue to diagnose the problem if you notice a low voltage. The voltage may be correct if it is not.

2. Replace Belt

If the drive belt is worn out or broken, it won’t be able to run the alternator. With the alternator not working, the battery won’t get charged and the electronics aren’t going to work. A loose bearing could cause the belt to slide, which can lead to the malfunction of the charging system.

Drive belts are designed to last between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. Regular inspections of your belt will help prevent potential issues from occurring. If you notice any wear on the belt, it is best to replace it immediately. 

3. Resolve faulty wires

To keep the charging system running smoothly, there are many wires and connectors. If one wire, connector or harness is worn, it’s going to cause problems with all of the charging equipment. This problem can make it difficult to locate the defective wiring or connector. 

Also, corrosion could cause battery terminals to be unresponsive, which can affect their ability to charge. You should inspect all wiring and remove any connectors that are causing you trouble. You can replace any component that is damaged or worn if you find it. 

Also, check for blown fuses and replace them if necessary.

4. Take a look at Swap Out Alternator

Some people don’t realize that the alternator has failed until they put in a new battery and it dies. To keep your car in operation, the alternator should be capable of charging it. If it stops working, the alternator will not be able to charge the batteries or the electronics. 

The voltage regulator can fail, and an alternator will often go bad. The average alternator will last 7-10 years, or 150,000 to 150,000 miles with no problems. However, alternators can be quite costly so make sure you have a complete diagnosis. In some cases, it’s possible to just replace the voltage regulator or other faulty parts inside of it.

A wiring diagram, a multimeter, and electrical knowledge are necessary to identify the problem. An old trick is to give it a little tap, and if it starts charging the system when you do that, it’s most likely a broken alternator.

RELATED: Alternator Not Charging? (Here’s How To Fix It)

5. Replace battery

The car's electrical requirements are reduced as the battery ages. Poor chemical reactions can lead to reduced voltage. When this happens, the warning light can come on, letting you know it’s time to change the battery.

A bad battery will give off several symptoms, letting you know it’s failing. The car will become harder to start and will also have problems with the lights and electronics. There might be intermittent power outages. If you notice that the battery looks unusual, you should replace it no matter how much power it’s putting out. 

6. Update/Check ECU

If you can’t seem to find anything else wrong, you might need to consider that there’s an issue with the ECU. This is a rare but possible problem. The car’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU) monitors all of the voltage and power running through the electrical system of the vehicle. The ECU can be faulty and cause harm to the alternator, battery or any other component of the charging system. 

You will need to use your code scanner to figure out what’s going on. If the ECU is to blame, it’s likely that there are other lights on your dashboard beside the charging message. The ECU is able to either be flashed or programmed again in some instances, but it may need to be completely replaced in other cases. Either way, you are looking at an expensive repair bill because you probably don’t have the equipment to handle the job. 

Repairing a Charging System Failed Cost

You could spend $50-$1000 to fix a charging system problem. Repairing a voltage regulator, fuse or connection is probably the most cost-effective solution.

But diagnostics may add to your bill. This is especially true if you have to pay by the hour to locate a damaged wire or connector. You can expect a higher bill if you have a luxurious vehicle. This is due to the more expensive parts required and the specialist technician needed.

Questions about Charging System Failure

What if my charging system fails?

It is not a problem. If a message regarding faulty charging appears on the dashboard, it's important to diagnose it as quickly as possible. A charging system failure can be caused by a bad alternator, and if your alternator isn’t charging the electrical system, your car will eventually shut down.

What is the best way to tell if your alternator fuse has blown?

A multimeter is the best way to determine if your generator fuse has blown. In most cases, you can remove the fuse to visually inspect it. The small, metal string that is inside the fuse will be broken if the fuse blows.

How can I tell if my alternator won't charge?

You can only determine whether your alternator has been charging correctly or not by measuring the voltage using a multimeter. You can start your car by turning on the engine. Then, you should turn on the wipers as well as the headlights. You can check the voltage at the positive and negative battery terminals using a multimeter. Alternators that are below 12.4 V may have a problem.

Can I drive for as long as possible with the Check charging message?

It is better to not drive your car if you receive a notification about the charging system. If the charging system isn’t working properly, your car can run out of electricity at any time, causing the car engine to shut down.

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