In this post, I will look at the reasons for the failure of the charging system in the Chevy Cruze indicated by the “Service Battery Charging System.”
If you are interested in learning how the charging system works and why it fails, then step in. Here we go.
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What is the Charging System?
Briefly, the charging system consists of the battery, the alternator, wiring, the voltage regulator, and the PCM (Power Control module).
The battery is the source of electrical energy, and its primary function is to crank the car engine in order to start it.
The alternator is responsible for charging the battery and also provides electrical power to run car accessories.
The PCM controls the flow of the electrical power from the alternator based on the requirement. It also controls the charging cycle of the battery.
Last but not least, the wiring is like the nervous system that connects all these and is a crucial element if there is not to be a breakdown.
6 Common Reasons for the Service Battery Charging System Message on a Chevy Cruze
The following are some common reasons for the failure of the battery charging system and subsequent service messages.
- Weak/flat battery
- Faulty alternator.
- Poor connection/broken wiring
- Faulty PCM/voltage regulators.
- Excessive number of accessories
- Broken drive belt.
The main purpose of the car battery is to crank up your car when you turn the ignition key. On average, batteries last between 3-4 years, usually three years.
Beyond that, they can no longer retain the charge. Battery life is also reduced under extreme weather conditions.
How to tell if the battery is going to give up on you? Well, there are several telltale signs listed below.
- The car won’t start or will take a long time to crank up.
- Dim headlights and dashboard lights.
- Clicking sound on turning the ignition key
- Need to press more on the gas paddle.
- Heavy corrosion on battery terminals.
- Swollen battery case.
The voltage on a good battery should not drop below 12.2 volts with the car running. Use a multimeter to measure the battery voltage. Set the multimeter to read 20 volts DC (direct current)
Before taking the reading, turn on the car’s headlights for about two minutes to eliminate the surface charge.
Connect the positive lead (usually red) of the multimeter to the battery’s positive terminal and the negative lead (usually black) to the negative terminal of the battery. The reading should be above 12.6 V for a good battery. But this only means that the battery can retain a charge.
You can use this trusty multimeter if in case you don’t have one or two lying in your garage or kitchen cabinet.
If your car takes too long to crank up, you must check what is called Cold Cranking Amps (CCA). CCA determines how many amps the battery can deliver at 0 F and not drop below 7.2 V.
With the multimeter connected, as in the previous step, ask someone to turn on the car. The voltage will momentarily drop on starting the car, but it should not go below 10.0 V.
If it does, the battery does not have enough CCA, and the cells have gone bad.
One final word; there are two main battery types. Lead/Acid batteries are maintenance-free, meaning there is no need to replenish the electrolyte.
The other is a wet-cell battery. The electrolyte level in such a battery drops with usage and needs to be replenished with bottled or distilled water. Failure to do so will result in a bad battery.
Heavy corrosion on terminals is a sign of a weak battery, one that will be harder to charge. Follow the YouTube link in reference to how to clean battery terminals that have corrosion on them.
With the car running, the alternator is responsible for providing electrical energy to all the electrical/electronic components of the car and charging the battery for the next crank.
An alternator failure will ultimately fail to start the car.
Major symptoms of a bad or failed alternator are similar to those of the battery in addition to the ones below.
- Engine stalling
- Strange smell
- Slow accessories
- Warning light on the dash
- Bad bearing (squeaking sound)
We have already seen in the section above how to find out if the alternator is good or not. After cranking the car, the constant battery voltage should be between 14.2 and 14.7 volts. If that is the case, then your alternator is good.
If the reading is below 14,2 volts, then this means that the alternator is weak and undercharging the battery, and this would not be enough to run the accessories such as radio, AC, etc…
If it is above 14.7 volts, then this means that the alternator is overcharging the battery and going to damage it.
As a final check, turn on some accessories such as the radio, the lights, the fan, etc., and the voltage should not drop below 12.7 volts.
Bad bearing is a common reason for an alternator failure. A bad bearing gives a screeching sound.
Lose connection/damaged wires
Loose connections/damaged wires cause many issues, more so with the battery charging system. Due to the high current flow, faulty or loose cables/wires tend to heat up and give off a burning smell.
It is a sign of an overworked alternator because there is a loss of energy due to loose and broken wires.
Faulty Voltage Regulators/PCM
The electrical energy produced by the alternator needs to be regulated in order to be used efficiently and as per the requirement of each accessory.
In older cars, the voltage regulator accomplished this task, for example, when to start charging the battery and when to cut it off.
In modern cars, the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) is responsible for voltage regulation. It senses the battery voltage, temperature, and engine speed to control the alternator output. Symptoms of a faulty PCM include:
- Check engine light
- Long crank time
- Poor gas mileage
- Erratic or random shifting, among others
All batteries are rated for current (Amps), voltage (volts), Cold Cranking Amps, and Cranking Amps.
If the car accessories use the power that is above the capacity that the battery can deliver, then the available battery voltage will drop below the recommended threshold, and this will trigger the service alarm.
If you are an avid off-roader and use high-power lamps, then it is suggested to use a higher-capacity battery or use more power-efficient accessories.
Continuous use of high-powered accessories will ultimately result in reduced battery life and issues with the alternator.
Broken Drive Belt
The alternator is connected via a drive belt to the engine. If this is weak or worn out, it will slip on the pulley; hence, the alternator will not perform optimally, and the charging will be inefficient.
A screeching sound is an indication of a loose or worn-out belt. All belts should be replaced after the duration recommended by the manufacturer.
In this post, I have looked at the reason for the message “Service Battery Charging System” on Chevy Cruze, but this discussion applies pretty much to all cars.
The charging system is a fundamental element of a car because this is what gets it started and moving.
Batteries have a knack for giving up without warning, so it is important to keep an open eye, ear, and nose to pick up other signs, as I have pointed out above.
I often say that a good driver not only maintains the car but develops a relationship with the car that helps in sensing a problem before it actually occurs.
How to Test a Car Battery with a Multimeter
How to Clean Car Battery Terminals