Charging System Failure (Meaning, Causes & Fix)

Does your car have a charging system failure? Are you confused about which of the charging system is faulty? Do you want to be sure how much it will cost to fix a charging system problem? Well, worry no more because you are at the right place.

Car charging system failure could result from a bad alternator, dead battery, or faulty voltage regulator. You will need to verify which of these defective components before carrying out repair or replacement.

As you read further in this article, you gain maximum knowledge on car charging system failure and how to fix the problem.

Let’s Begin!

The three main parts that make up the charging system are the Alternator, battery, and voltage regulator. Those three parts supply power to the electrical system of the car.

If one of these parts becomes faulty, it leads to a charging system failure. When a car has a charging system failure, a common sign you will notice is the headlight flickering.

You can also notice difficulty in starting, dead battery, and awkward electrical sound coming from the engine.

Also Read: Service Battery Charging System (Causes & Fix)

What Is the Vehicles Charging System?

A car’s charging system comprises a battery, Alternator, Electronic control unit, and wiring. This system makes sure that the battery is charged; it is also responsible for generating the power necessary for running the car’s electronic components while the engine is running.

Such components are the Radio, Air conditioning, heater, and other electronic and electrical components.

What Are the Components of a Charging System?

Charging System Failure

Here is a detailed explanation of the charging system components.

1. Alternator

An alternator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. It is mainly used in cars to produce electrical power used by the car’s electronic components.

An alternator has a coil of wires inside and a spinning belt used to spin the magnets inside the wire core.

As the engine starts ruining, the Alternator runs with it, and when the engine stops running, the Alternator stops, leaving the battery to take charge of the power supply to the car’s electrical system.

In most cars, the Alternator is found at the engine bay, connected to the crankshaft through a belt that drives it.

2. Battery

The battery stores the electrical energy generated by the Alternator. This power will then power the car’s electronic and electrical components.

Batteries are made of chemical energy that gets converted to electrical energy; they are the source of power to your car when the engine is not running.

If it is said that your car is charging, it actually means your car battery is charging. Therefore, when the battery fails or stops charging, it will result in the charging system failure because the power generated by the Alternator will no longer have a place to be stored.

When the engine stops running, the entire car system will also stop.

3. The Voltage Regulator

All electrical systems have voltage, and the device that regulates this voltage is known as a voltage regulator. The voltage regulator monitors the voltages to maintain the required level.

As the Alternator generates power, the voltage regulator monitors its output voltage, ensuring it’s at the required level before moving to the battery; if not, it helps to adjust it to meet the level.

A failed voltage regulator will affect the battery, causing it to either undercharge or overcharge, leading to battery damage and alternator breakdown. You can find this voltage regulator in the engine cabin.

Symptoms of Charging System Failure

Charging System Failure

The first indication that your charging system is failing is that the battery can no longer power your car.

Your car relies on a charging system to supply it with electricity in order to run, but when the charging system stops functioning properly, it can lead to much bigger problems down the line.

For this reason, you have to pay attention to signs that might indicate a charging system malfunction. If you notice any warning sign that could be linked back to your charging system, don’t wait around for it to get worse and major repairs are needed.

Instead, contact a professional for diagnosis and repair services immediately. Below are some symptoms of charging system failure

1. Loss of Power

A bad alternator can cause loss of power; when this happens, all electronic and electrical systems, such as the air conditioning system, the headlight and external light systems, the radio, and other internal systems.

This light loss happens when the car is no longer running, although some car components can experience this power loss even when the vehicle is running.

This will also cause the battery to drain over time and make it difficult to start the car.

3. Charging System Failure Light Comes On

Your car may have a dash light that comes on when something goes wrong with your charging system.

As the years go by, better technology is developed to help people diagnose and deal with the warning lights on their dashboards.

If your car’s charging system warning light comes on, you will want to take it in to get looked at by a mechanic who can diagnose the problem and adjust any parts that need adjusting.

4. The Battery Dies

Various things can cause a battery to die, some of which may cause the battery to run out quicker than it normally would.

It might be necessary to replace the battery if it cannot keep a charge; however, if the battery receives less power than it should, it will direct your mechanic to a different treatment path.

Also Read: Service Tire Monitor System (Meaning, Causes & Solutions)

Causes of a Charging System Failure

Charging System Failure fix

1. Dead Battery

When the car battery ages, it will begin to wear down, and the chemical content of the battery will also be weak to make a good reaction that will provide enough voltage needed for the battery to operate correctly.

If you reside in a place where the temperature is very low, you will need more battery voltage to operate the battery. A very cold or low-temperature environment reduces the efficiency of a battery easily.

High-temperature areas also affect the battery performance by damaging the components of the battery.

When your car battery gets bad, it affects the entire charging system and the engine. However, it gives you signs before it fails completely.

Some of these signs or symptoms will be listed below; we advise that you get your mechanic whenever these signs or symptoms surface.

  1. Difficulty in starting your car
  2. Dimming headlight and interior light.
  3. Power component failure
  4. Illumination of the battery warning light.
  5. The battery case will be cracked, leaking, or bulging.

2. Bad Alternator

Alternators are indeed so helpful, but sometimes they tend to fail even without a solid reason. When this happens, we know it can be frustrating to deal with.

While there may not always be just one direct cause for them failing, the most common cause is often a faulty voltage regulator, which controls how much electricity your car gets when you need it most.

As the vehicle operates on a twelve-volt system, it would be possible to produce a much higher voltage if the alternator didn’t have control of it.

This happens when the voltage regulator fails, and an overvolt situation can harm the battery or other vehicle components.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a voltage regulator might restrict the output more than it should, preventing the battery from fully charging and even causing power to go out to the rest of the electrical system.

Finally, of course, driving your car at night with its headlights on has an impact on this as well.

Suppose your alternator isn’t working at maximum capacity, therefore applying power to your car battery and essential electronics.

In that case, all of that additional demand will be taken away from what your car battery can handle as it’ll need to power both the lights and ignition system in one shot.

This could result in a battery that isn’t being charged enough, which could lead to it being drained completely or even ruined for good.

If the alternator does not function correctly, have it checked and probably replaced by a professional.

Also Read: Alternator Repair Options And Which You Should Choose

3. Faulty Electronic Control Unit (ECU)

Your car’s electrical system is being monitored and managed by the electronics control unit (ECU), which ensures that the electrical components of your vehicle run with the correct voltage and tolerance.

A bad ECU poses a threat to the functionality of your electrical unit. It will also affect the Alternator because it is part of the charging system that needs the ECU to function correctly and send the proper power demand and supply message.

There’s a possibility that the ECU could cause a charging system failure. However, you will need to properly examine the entire situation to verify that the ECU is faulty.

You need the service of an OBD II reader to read the codes and give you the charging voltage of the Alternator. Note that changing or rectifying the ECU is expensive, and it is a delicate procedure.

Also, be careful with how you jumpstart a car because an incorrect jumpstart can make the ECU fail.

4. Worn or Broken Belts

When you have a worn-out or broken drive belt, your Alternator won’t turn, and if the Alternator does not turn, it can’t function.

In addition, the fan belt glazing and hardening will cause slipping of the belt, which is one common problem.

The slipping belt can also result from workout bearing and loose or faulty fan belt tension and this can cause a charging system failure.

5. Bad Wiring

Wiring connects the battery with the alternator; when the wiring is damaged, the voltage can be lost in the alternator and battery. The same applies to dirty terminals.

It is also possible for poor charging or discharging to occur when there is a bad ground connection.

How To Fix Charging System Failure?

You will need to first identify the faulty charging system’s fundamental component. When that is done, you then have to understand the degree of the problem, which will give you an idea of what to do.

After that, either you completely replace the faulty component or repair it. Again, we strongly recommend getting an experienced mechanic who will help you arrive at a meaningful and gainful conclusion and also fix the problem.

Check out this video for more tips on how to fix charging system failure

Frequently Asked Questions – Charging System Failure

What Causes Charging System Failure?

There are lots of reasons why the charging system fails. However, these reasons fall primarily on the components that make up the charging system, such as the battery, Alternator, and the voltage regulator. Whenever any of these components get bad, it affects the entire charging system. Also, the wrong installation of any of these components can cause a charging system failure.

How Much Is It to Fix a Charging System?

Charging system failure could result from a bad battery, a faulty alternator, or a voltage regulator. You will need to be sure which of these components is bad; however, for an alternator, it will cost you about $450-$850 to get it fixed.

How Do You Fix Charging System Failure?

When a faulty component has been identified, the charging system can be fixed easily. Generally, DIYers can diagnose the problem and change the faulty part if necessary; a bad battery should be replaced with the appropriate size battery.

What Will Happen if the Charging System Fails?

When your battery loses power, check your cabin lights first. Are they dimmer than usual or flickering? Then check the headlights. If they aren’t as bright as before, it’s likely that your alternator isn’t charging properly, and you need to get the car serviced by a professional right away.

Can You Drive With Check Charging?

Anytime the check engine light comes on, it indicates that the vehicle is only currently dependent on stored battery power to run all the car’s electronic components. Unfortunately, the car can only travel so far before it dies due to the lack of electrical power.

What Does Charging System Mean?

The charging system comprises many parts that work together as a whole. The main ones include the battery, alternator, and voltage regulator. The alternator produces electricity, which gets stored in the battery, to begin with. This electricity helps power any electrical components in your vehicle, such as the starter motor, lights, or air conditioner if you have them.


We have explained the charging system and the components that make it up; we have also elaborated on the causes of charging system failure, stressing more on the battery and the Alternator.

We have also looked at the ECU and the power loss. In all these, we recommend that whenever you notice a sign of any charging system failure, you should take it seriously and call a professional mechanic to look at the situation and fix it as soon as possible.

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