The light icon battery gauge on your car’s instrument panel comes with many advantages. For one, it’s a great resource for telling you whether or not your car’s power system is working efficiently. But, to make the most of it, you want to know how to read battery gauge on dashboards.
With this know-how, you can effectively pick up when there’s something wrong with your battery and quickly address the issue before significant damage occurs. So, for the not-so-automotive savvy, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to read the battery gauge on your car’s dashboard.
What Is A Car’s Battery Gauge?
A battery gauge, also known as a battery indicator or voltage gauge, is a device used to show the condition of the battery by measuring the battery voltage of your vehicle. Typically found on the car’s dashboard, the battery gauge sits along with other indicators, such as the speedometers, fuel gauges, temperature gauges, and other similar indicators.
Now, you can easily identify the gauge through the small battery icon or picture on it. Other obvious indicators include the gauge needle in the normal middle position, indicating the battery and charging system are fine.
Step Guide on Reading Battery Gauge
To read a battery gauge on the car’s dashboard, look out for the needle indicator of the gauge. The needle should be indicating anywhere above 12.5 volts but below 15 volts. If you notice the needle anywhere below 12.5 volts or above 15 volts, this is an indicator of a battery-related r charging problem.
Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide for reading a car’s battery gauges:
Step 1: Start With The Voltmeter Reading On A Stationary Car
The battery gauge where you see the indicator needle is also referred to as the voltmeter. This is the area you check to confirm your car battery’s voltage. While a normal car’s fully charged battery has 12.6 volts, it needs to be at 12.5 volts or more for the car’s engine to function normally when you start the car.
So, to confirm this, put the key in the ignition and start the vehicle partially (don’t fully start the engine or keep it running). Immediately look at the voltmeter – it should read 12.5 volts to confirm the battery is fully charged and functioning normally.
Step 2: Check The Voltmeter With A Running Engine
Restart the car and keep the engine running. Then, check the voltmeter – the voltage must’ve slightly increased by then. You should expect the voltage to continue increasing as you start to drive the car. Typically, the voltage can go from 12.5 to about 14.5 volts.
The slightly higher voltage on the battery gauge shouldn’t surprise you. In fact, this is a good indicator that your battery is in exceptional shape and operating effectively. If you notice a reading of more than 15 volts or less than 12.5 volts, this is an indication of trouble with your battery or charging system.
Here’s a brief detailed clip on how to read the voltage of your car’s battery via a gauge;
Reading Battery Gauges In Older Cars
Older cars are usually fitted with a battery gauge that reads in amps instead of voltage. So, when reading the gauge, you have to treat it as an ammeter and read it in amps. This also means that you should read it slightly differently. On a car fitted with an ammeter, the needle should read zero.
But, if you notice a reading of more than zero while the engine is on and the car is in motion, this is an indicator of a properly working battery. On the other hand, a value of below zero indicates that the battery can produce adequate charge and risks dying.
What Should A Working Battery Gauge Read On My Car?
When you give your car a partial start (but don’t leave the engine running), a properly working battery gauge should give you a reading of about 12.5 volts. This is an indication that the car battery is in good shape and functioning properly.
Once you start the engine and your car begins to move, the gauge should read anywhere between 12.6 and 14.5 volts. On the other hand, a running truck should have a battery gauge reading of about 13.7 to 14.7 volts.
Below 12.5 Volts
A reading of below 12.5 volts on your battery gauge when you give it a partial start indicates there is a problem with the battery’s operating and charging system. On the other hand, a lower than 12.5 volts reading even with a running engine indicates that it is not producing adequate current. As the voltage continues to drop with the passing time, this is another sign that your battery is about to die.
Higher than 15 Volts
If you notice the gauge reading 15 volts or higher at any time, it’s an indication of a more serious problem. A higher voltage reading typically indicates a faulty charging system, voltage regulator, or circuits. In fact, the longer the problem goes without fixing, you can risk damaging the battery or the entire vehicle’s electrical system.
Why Is Reading The Battery Gauge Important?
Reading the battery gauge in your car is important as it accurately showcases the condition of your car’s battery. A battery gauge does more than just give you the voltage of your car’s battery. Remember, the battery generates the power to start the vehicle. It also keeps the engine going as it is charged throughout the drive via the charging system.
So, having the battery gauge helps you know exactly how these different components work and their health state. The battery gauge will tell you if the battery is adequately charged, if it’s producing ample power and if the battery and overall charging system are in good shape, to their full potential.
Here’s a summary of why it’s important to read the battery gauge from time to time;
1. Feedback on the Battery’s Performance
The gauge’s reading gives you ample information about your battery’s performance. First, it tells you if the battery is working efficiently and if it is generating enough power. The reading also indicates whether or not the battery is in good health.
The best part of using a battery gauge is how easy the task is made. You don’t have to fumble with the car’s hood to physically examine the battery every morning. All you need is to check the gauge, conveniently located on your car’s dashboard.
2. The Current Battery’s Condition
The readings on the battery gauge also tell you its current condition. After all, without the battery, you really have no power to start the car or keep the engine running. So, it’s important to know about the state of your battery every step of the way.
Imagine you are preparing for a long, cross-country road trip and not having a battery gauge to tell you the state of your battery. Now, imagine if you don’t have a gauge and you are driving around with a battery in a bad shape.
You may risk the battery blowing up in the middle of nowhere with poor cell phone reception and no car shop for a mechanic to help you out. The beauty of this small attached gadget, a working battery gauge, is you can fully understand the state of your battery with a single glance at the voltage readings.
3. The State of the Charging And Generator System
The battery gauge reading is also important in knowing the state of the overall charging and generator system, particularly, the alternator AKA generator. The alternator plays an important role in powering your car as it keeps the battery charged as the engine runs and the vehicle moves.
Now, if the gauge shows a low voltage reading, it means the alternator is not charging the battery enough. On the other hand, a higher voltage reading indicates the alternator is overcharging the battery. This makes it easier to act faster to resolve the problem before losing the battery or the entire charging system.
What Happens If The Battery Gauge Breaks?
Using a car with a battery gauge that won’t work can be pretty dangerous. After all, many parts of your vehicle are connected and highly depend on the battery. Most commonly battery gauge issues include a damaged one or one that fluctuates (meaning the readings aren’t true).
Without a working gauge or a gauge that isn’t accurate, you may be falsely led to believe your car isn’t working properly and spend thousands on fixing nonexistent problems. Alternatively, you may not know about a serious battery-related problem, leading to the loss of your battery or damage to the entire charging system.
If you notice your gauge not working, fix it before you continue driving it.
Evidently, knowing how to read battery gauge in dashboards plays a pretty important part in maintaining your car. After all, it’s not only about reading the voltage of the car’s battery. The voltage readings provide a lineup of qualitative data about the state of your car’s battery and charging system.
When reading your car’s battery gauge, you want to remember these three things;
- A properly working and fully charged battery will have a 12.6V when you start (but don’t run the engine)
- The voltage should NOT be lower than 12.5V with the car in motion
- The voltage should NOT exceed 15V with the car in motion