Check Charging System Ford (Causes and Fixes)

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The “Check Charging System” or similar warnings, such as “Service Battery Charging System,” are common on Ford vehicles such as the Explorer, Edge, Expedition, Taurus, Mustang, F150, and more. 

And if you are here because the warning is popping up on your Ford car, too, you have landed in the right place. In this guide, I will explain what the warning means and how to diagnose it. 


What Does Check Charging System Mean?

It is a warning on Ford vehicles that indicates issues with the charging system. The warning can be triggered due to multiple causes, such as faulty Alternator, dead battery, blown fuse, damaged Wiring, ECU issues, corroded or loose battery terminals, and more. 

The warning “Check Charging System” is often accompanied by issues such as losing power steering functionality and the car not starting. If, in your case, the vehicle is starting, but the check charging warning is displayed, you should immediately acknowledge it and get it fixed. Otherwise, the battery will lose power and won’t be able to recharge, leading to a dead battery. 


How to Fix the Issue?

Fixing the issue requires inspecting multiple components of the car to identify which one is malfunctioning and triggering the warning. Once the cause has been spotted, you can follow my troubleshooting advice and implement it. 

Scan for Error Codes

You can scan the car using an OBD-II scanner and check for error codes that will point out the specific fault. If you do not have an OBD-II scanner, you can buy one from Amazon. 

All you have to do is connect the scanner to the vehicle’s OBD port, which is located under the dashboard, near the steering column. And run it for scanning.


1) Check the Alternator

The Alternator is a component that is responsible for charging the car battery. It does that by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. Since the Alternator is a critical charging system component, if it starts malfunctioning, it can cause several issues, including the “Check Charging System” warning. 

You can visually inspect the Alternator first and then use a multimeter to test it

Do not forget to test the Alternator by disconnecting the negative cable from the battery while the engine is running. If the engine shuts off, the Alternator is most likely to be faulty. 

Once you are sure the Alternator is faulty, get it repaired or replaced and scan the car again. There should not be any error codes, and the warning light should disappear, too. 


2) Check the Car Battery

A weak or dead battery could be the cause of the problem. Car batteries usually last 3 to 5 years. So, if your battery is that old, you can suspect it. 

You can test the battery with a multimeter; if you do not have a multimeter, there are some tests that you can do, but a multimeter is highly recommended for accurate results.

Car batteries usually have a resting voltage between 12.4 and 12.6. If the multimeter is reading below 12 volts. You may have a dying battery. Before you replace the battery, it’s highly recommended that you get the old battery checked by a professional. 

Read: How To Test a Car Battery With a Multimeter

Read: How to Test a Car Battery at Home (with No Equipment)

Also, make sure you pop the hood and inspect the battery terminals. They should not be loose or have corrosion. 


3) Replace the Drive belt

The drive belt, also called serpentine, powers components such as the Alternator, power steering pump, air conditioner compressor, and more. Check for wear and tear, loose, and improperly-tensioned belt. If the belt is not working like it’s supposed to, the Alternator may fail to charge the battery and will become the cause behind the warning message. 


4) Check for Blown Fuse

A blown fuse can 100% cause this issue. Check all the fuses, especially the Alternator to the battery fuse. If you find any blown or burnt fuse, make sure you carefully take it out and place a new one. 

In most Ford cars, there are two fuse boxes: one is under the hood, and the other one is in the car cabin; you have to check both. Also, your car’s manual should have a detailed fuse map along with information such as what each fuse controls. 


5) Check Wiring 

If the battery, Alternator, drive belt, and fuses are okay, the problem is most likely due to a corroded wire. Make sure you check all the important wiring, such as the wires to the Alternator for resistance. 


6) Check the Voltage Regulator

The voltage regulator regulates the voltage produced by the Alternator. If the regulator starts malfunctioning, it can cause undercharging issues that can cause the “Check Charging System” warning. 


Why Does the Check Check Charging System Appear in Freezing Weather?

If you have been noticing the “Check Charging System” warning appearing only in freezing weather, you are not alone; there are several people who have reported experiencing the same problem. So it’s proven that the warning can appear in freezing weather, and the reasons are:

Battery: In cold weather, batteries struggle to hold a charge due to the slow chemical reactions. If the battery is already older than 3 years, it would not be able to hold charge and power everything. 

Reduced Alternator Efficiency: If the belt that powers the Alternator becomes stiff or starts slipping due to cold weather, the Alternator will not be able to work efficiently and generate the required power, leading to the warning message. Also, if the lubricant inside the Alternator bearings gets thick, it would cause a similar problem. 

High Electrical Demand: In some cases, increased electrical demand in cold weather can cause the issue, too. For example, if you need to use Heater, defroster, wipers, headlight, stereo, etc, at the same time and your battery is already old too. This combination can cause problems. 

Note: Some people also claim that cold weather can cause contractions in electrical connections, leading to increased resistance in the electrical system and eventually affecting the charging system. And there are claims such as Thickened engine oil causing the problem. I cannot accept or reject these claims due to lack of proof, but you can consider them. 


Scan the Car Always After Fixing the Issue

Some warnings do not go away even after the problem is fixed, so scanning is a must to get rid of them. But that is not the only reason. I always recommend scanning the car using an OBD-II scanner after fixing the issue for reasons such as clearing the codes, ensuring everything works properly, and verifying the repair. 


Loss Of Electric Power Steering

As mentioned in the intro, the warning is accompanied with loss of power steering for some people. You may want to know that the problem was part of a recall (14S06). There was a defective module in 2011-2013 Ford Explorer vehicles manufactured May 17, 2010, through February 28, 2012.

So, you may want to dig deeper and check if it has anything to do with it. 


What to Do if Nothing Works?

If you have tried everything and the issue persists, you should check the sensors and charging relay. If those are fine as well, then you would need to take your car to a mechanic who will be able to diagnose the issue.


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