Why You May Not Want to Believe What Your Car Is Telling You
If you pay close attention to popular culture, you'll have noticed that the phrase "fake news" has become very popular in recent months. In other words, advisers say don't believe everything that you see or hear and take everything with a pinch of salt in order to be safe. Could it be that your car's dashboard is also providing you with some incorrect information when it alerts you to a problem linked to an icon of a battery? What could be going on instead?
The image of the battery on your dashboard is meant to be emblematic of the vehicle's electrical system, and in particular, its charging capability. You may have encountered an issue with the car and may automatically assume that your battery is playing up simply because of the illuminated image that you see in front of you. However, you may find that the problem is related to the alternator, as this is a very critical component in the overall charging regime. If the alternator were to fail, the battery would simply run out of charge, and you should therefore have a look at the alternator first before criticising the battery.
The Job of the Alternator
As you may know, the alternator is attached to the vehicle's starter motor, and once the latter component has kickstarted the engine, it will act as a generator to provide power to the battery for everything else. The battery may be able to store enough energy to keep basic systems going while the vehicle is not in motion, but as soon as the engine is running, it will quickly become overwhelmed.
Within the alternator are diodes that alternate and regulate the power once the unit is working. However, a tremendous amount of heat will be generated during normal operation and with time, the alternator will ultimately fail. Remember that the internal rotor is spinning at a great rate of speed, and this will also cause wear and tear to the bearings that keep it in place. As things start to go wrong, you may notice a screeching or squealing noise, especially when you try to start the vehicle.
To see if your alternator is past its better days, turn the engine on in a darkened environment (such as your garage) and then turn the headlights on. As you put your foot on the throttle pedal momentarily, do the lights tend to grow brighter and then fade in concert? If so, this is a tell-tale sign that the alternator is the source of the issue, not the battery. Take your vehicle to a professional vehicle service for them to work their magic.