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Ron Z.
Ron Z., - Chevy Tech -
Category: Chevy
Satisfied Customers: 18960
Experience:  18+yrs experience. State Inspector and Chevy Diagnostics
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What to do when Impala battery light comes on.

Customer Question

My battery light turned turned on when I got into my car a second time. It said "service battery charging system," but it wasn't on when i got into the car the first time. Its a 06 impala LS. What does that mean and is there anything I can do without taking it to a mechanic.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Chevy
Expert:  Ron Z. replied 6 years ago.

When this light comes on, most commonly this is a sign of a failing alternator or battery. You can check this yourself with the use of a hand-held voltage reader. With the engine running, take a voltage reading at the battery terminals. If the voltage is not between 13.4-14.4v, or is fluctuation in and out of this range, the alternator will need to be replaced. If the alternator passes this test, shut the engine off, and let it sit for 15 minutes. With the engine off, take another voltage reading at the battery terminals. If the voltage is anything less than12v, the battery is not accepting a charge, and will need to be replaced.

If you do not have access to a voltage meter, most local "big chain" parts stores will run these tests for you, for Free, right in their parking lot.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Before you answered the first question i did start the car again and the battery light didn't turn on. Could you explain that?
Expert:  Ron Z. replied 6 years ago.

It could be an intermittent fail. Or a loose connection at the battery or alternator. Check your battery cables and make sure they are tight. Check the electrical connector at the alternator as well. If these are tight, it's very possible for the alternator to be "on it's way out" and the next time that light comes on, I would suggest having the above tests done.

Expert:  Ron Z. replied 6 years ago.

Just had another thought.

Inspect the serpentine belt as well, with the engine running. Make sure it is not "slipping" over the alternator pulley. This will also cause an intermittent charging fault.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I took it to auto zone and they said the checks were ok. They were aligned with what you said about the connectors but there tight. I appreciate your help. I think it was an intermittent fail.

Expert:  Ron Z. replied 6 years ago.
At this point, unfortunately, you are going to need to wait until it gets worse/more frequent. Intermittent problems are the hardest to pinpoint.

More about service battery charging system

Many vehicles come equipped with a service battery charging system, and when something goes wrong with it, a light should illuminate on the dash. The light indicates that the vehicle is running only on battery power, and that it will only be able to travel a limited distance until the issue is resolved. The light typically appears one of three ways depending on the vehicle.

  • The light is amber or red displaying “ALT” or “CHG
  • There is a light that looks like a battery that illuminates amber or red
  • When the key is turned, but the engine is off a red “BATT” is illuminated

What to do if the service battery charging system light comes on

If you are driving your vehicle at night, using your headlights, and the light comes on, you will have less time before the vehicle dies. If this happens you should turn off any unnecessary items that use the battery power, such as the radio or A/C. You should then try to get the vehicle pulled over to a safe place.

If you are driving during the day you could have a little more time before the vehicle dies as you are not using your headlights. If it happens you should still turn off anything unneeded to save battery power. Next, you should pull the vehicle to a safe place.

If you are having issues with the light you could take your vehicle to a local auto parts store to have a diagnostic test ran, to your local mechanic or speak to an Expert to help with your service battery charging system problem.