As a car owner, you have probably become pretty familiar with where your car's gauges sit when the car is running. Aside from the fuel gauge, most of them will stay in pretty consistent ranges while the car is running. If, however, you notice a change in your battery gauge, this isn't something to dismiss. When the voltage reading drops on your battery gauge, there are a few culprits it could be.
Check The Terminal Connections
This is the simplest, quickest, and least expensive resolution, but not necessarily the most common one. Sometimes, the terminal connections on the battery become dirty, corroded, or loose. In those cases, it may not make a strong connection. This can affect how well your battery charges. If your gauge is lower than it usually is, pop the hood and check the battery terminals to be sure that the cables are tightly connected and there's no sign of corrosion. You can even disconnect the battery and clean the posts just to be safe.
Evaluate The Battery Itself
As a car battery ages, it won't hold a charge as well anymore. Check the age of your battery, and if it is three years old or more, it's probably time for a replacement. In addition, if you look at the battery and it appears swelled, or it is leaking, those are other indications that the battery itself is the culprit and needs to be replaced right away.
Test The Alternator
The alternator in your car is what charges the battery when your car is running. If your alternator is failing, it won't send the right level of charge to the battery, resulting in a low voltage reading on the gauge. You can have your alternator tested at most auto parts stores, and they can tell you if it's time to replace it.
Inspect The Gauge
If you have eliminated your battery and the alternator as the source of the issue and your gauge is still reading low, the problem could be the gauge itself. Whether it runs from a sending unit or it's connected directly to the charging system somewhere, if there's a problem in between, it won't get the right reading. Trace the wires from the gauge and make sure that everything is in good condition. You can replace the gauge fairly easily, but you will have to pull the dash in most vehicles to do it.
If you need help finding replacement car parts, contact a company such as Rancho Chevy & Cycle.