Dodge Journey battery light is on – causes and how to reset

When the red battery light illuminates on the dashboard of a Dodge Journey, it indicates a malfunction in the charging system. In this article, we will explore the various reasons that can lead to this issue.

Faulty Alternator of Dodge Journey

The most frequent cause of the battery light coming on in a Dodge Journey is a faulty alternator. The alternator plays a crucial role in converting mechanical energy from the engine into electricity, which not only powers all the onboard accessories but also charges the battery. If the alternator develops a fault and ceases to generate electricity, the entire electrical load of the vehicle shifts to the battery.

Consequently, the battery quickly drains as it no longer receives a charge from the alternator. Typically, alternators last for over 100,000 miles, but they can fail unexpectedly. Before considering alternator replacement, it is important to eliminate other potential causes that might impede or disrupt the current flow from the alternator, such as a bad electrical connection or damaged wire.

In addition to a faulty alternator, there are several other factors that can trigger the battery light to come on. These include a damaged wire, corrosion on electrical connectors, corrosion on battery terminals, a bad ground connection, or a slipping serpentine belt. It’s essential to consider these possibilities as well when diagnosing the red battery light issue in a Dodge Journey.

How to test the alternator

Here’s a revised version of the instructions on how to test the alternator:

To test the alternator, you can follow these simple steps and measure the voltage at the battery terminals while the engine is running:

  1. Start your Dodge Journey.
  2. Connect the black cable of a multimeter to the negative terminal of the battery, and the red cable to the positive terminal.
  3. With the engine running, observe the voltage reading on the multimeter.
  4. The voltage should fall within the range of 13.5 to 14.8 volts.
  5. Next, switch on various accessories in your Journey, such as headlights, the AC fan at full speed, and interior lights.
  6. The voltage reading should remain around 14 volts even with the accessories on. If it drops and consistently stays below 13.5 volts, it indicates a problem with the current supply from the alternator.
  7. If the voltage drops below 12 volts while the engine is running and the accessories are turned on, it suggests that the current supply from the alternator has been completely cut off, and all the electronics are solely powered by the battery.

By following these steps and observing the voltage readings, you can get a better idea of the performance and functionality of the alternator in your Dodge Journey.

Revised Version

While it is possible to drive your Dodge Journey with a faulty alternator, it is important to note that you can only do so for a limited distance. When the alternator is not functioning correctly, the battery becomes the sole source of power for all the onboard electronic controllers and accessories.

As you drive, the battery charge will gradually deplete. Eventually, when the battery charge reaches a critically low level, the engine will shut down, and you will find yourself stranded. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid driving a Journey with a bad alternator for an extended period, as it may lead to unexpected breakdowns or an inability to restart the vehicle. It is recommended to address the alternator issue promptly to avoid any inconvenience or potential safety risks.

Understanding Ground Connections

In a Dodge Journey, a ground connection refers to the connection between the negative terminal of the battery and the body/chassis of the vehicle. The engine also requires a ground connection to operate properly.

However, due to the non-conductive rubber-insulated engine mounts, the engine’s mounting system prevents the flow of electric current between the engine and the body. To establish an effective ground connection, a ground strap or wire is utilized to connect the engine and the chassis.

What happens when the ground connection goes bad?

When the ground connection of the chassis or engine in your Dodge Journey becomes compromised due to rust or corrosion, it can lead to various electrical problems, including the illumination of the battery light on the dashboard.

The proper functioning of the alternator relies on a solid ground connection from the engine. When the ground connection is faulty, it can result in a reduced or fluctuating current supply from the alternator. In rare instances, corrosion can also affect the contact between the engine block and the alternator, causing further issues.

How to Verify the Quality of the Ground Connection:

To ensure the integrity of the ground connection in your Dodge Journey, follow these steps to conduct a conductivity test:

  1. Prepare a multimeter and set it to the ohms (Ω) symbol.
  2. Take one probe of the multimeter and touch it to the negative terminal of the battery.
  3. Take the other probe and touch it to any exposed metal part of the engine.
  4. The multimeter should display a reading close to zero ohms, indicating a good ground connection. Repeat the same test between the negative terminal of the battery and an exposed metal part of the alternator.

Inspecting and Cleaning the Ground Connections:

If the conductivity test yields an unfavorable result, it’s essential to inspect the condition of the ground connections in your Dodge Journey. Follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the connectors of the ground cables, such as the battery-to-body and body-to-engine connections, for any signs of rust or corrosion.
  2. Use sandpaper or a wire brush to clean the contacts thoroughly.
  3. In some cases, you may need to remove the alternator to access and clean the ground contact areas on both the alternator and the engine block.

By performing these tests and inspections, and cleaning the ground connections if necessary, you can ensure a reliable ground connection in your Dodge Journey, helping to resolve any electrical issues and maintain proper functionality.

Inadequate Battery Connection:

In some cases, the alternator in your Dodge Journey may be functioning properly, but the flow of current is disrupted due to a loose electrical connection, damaged wire, or corrosion on the battery terminals.

Corrosion on Battery Terminals:

Battery corrosion is a relatively common issue, particularly in batteries that are over two years old (excluding AGM batteries). Corrosion occurs when battery acid reacts with the metal terminals, resulting in a loss of contact and reduced current flow. Inadequate current flow can prevent proper battery charging and may lead to engine starting problems.

Checking Battery Terminals:

To determine if your charging system issues in the Journey are caused by dirty battery terminals, you need to inspect them. Lift the plastic covers over the terminals and look for any signs of corrosion.

If you notice white or silvery-green deposits without any further cracks or damage, you may not need to replace the battery or the alternator; simply cleaning the battery terminals may suffice.

Cleaning the Battery Terminals:

There are two methods you can use to clean the battery terminals in your Dodge Journey:

Quick Cleaning: A simple trick for swiftly cleaning corrosion on the battery terminals is to pour hot boiling water over them. The heat will cause the corrosion to melt away. Clean one terminal at a time and ensure that water does not puddle on the top of the battery or touch both terminals simultaneously to avoid shorting the battery.

Thorough Cleaning: For a more thorough cleaning, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect the terminal cables from the battery. Start by removing the black cable from the negative terminal using a wrench or pliers. Then, disconnect the red positive terminal cable. Take care not to let your metal tool touch both terminals simultaneously, as this can result in damage.
  2. Once the battery is disconnected, you can begin cleaning the corroded areas using sandpaper or a wire brush.
  3. After cleaning, reconnect the cables in reverse order—positive first, then negative—ensuring they are securely attached.

By checking and cleaning the battery terminals in your Dodge Journey, you can address any issues caused by poor battery connections and help maintain a proper flow of current within the charging system.

Slipping Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt, also known as the accessory belt or drive belt, plays a crucial role in transferring power from the engine to various components, including the alternator and AC compressor, which are essential for the normal operation of your Dodge Journey.

If the serpentine belt becomes damaged, loose, or if there is a defect in the alternator pulley, it can result in belt slippage. This, in turn, can cause the alternator to spin at a slower or inconsistent speed, leading to a degradation in electricity production. When the onboard diagnostic system detects low voltage from the alternator, the battery symbol light will illuminate in the Journey’s instrument cluster.

Symptoms of a Bad Serpentine Belt

The most common indication of a faulty serpentine belt in a Journey is a squealing noise originating from the engine compartment. Visible cracks on the ribbed part of the belt are another prominent sign to watch for. Additionally, a slipping accessory belt can emit a burning smell.

If the serpentine belt is found to be defective, it must be replaced. However, it’s important to note that a slipping belt is not always indicative of a defective belt itself. Belt slippage can occur due to various factors, such as a faulty tensioner pulley or any other pulley in the system. Therefore, a thorough inspection is necessary to identify the root cause of the belt slippage.

Rodent Damage

If rodents such as rats, mice, or squirrels have chewed through the cables for the alternator in your Dodge Journey, it can trigger the illumination of the battery light. Inspect the engine compartment for any signs of bite marks, and carefully examine all the cables connected to the alternator. If any cable is found to be damaged, it should be replaced with a new one to restore proper functionality.

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Resetting the Battery Light

It’s important to note that simply resetting the battery light without addressing the underlying issue may not provide a lasting solution, as the warning light will likely reappear once the system detects the fault again. Typically, the battery light should automatically turn off after fixing the underlying problem. If it does not immediately go off, driving your vehicle for a few miles may help.

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OBDII Scanner Method

The recommended method to reset the battery light in your Dodge Journey is by using an OBDII scanner to clear the relevant error codes. If the warning light remains illuminated even after resolving the issue, you will need to manually reset it by connecting a diagnostic device and deleting all the error codes associated with the charging system.

It’s advisable to seek professional assistance or consult the vehicle’s manual for specific instructions on how to reset the battery light using an OBDII scanner or diagnostic device.

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Disconnecting the Battery

If you don’t have access to a diagnostic device, there is a method you can try to reset the battery light in your Dodge Journey by disconnecting the battery for a few minutes. Follow these steps:

  1. Begin by removing the cable from the negative terminal of the battery first, ensuring that it is safely disconnected.
  2. Next, remove the cable from the positive terminal of the battery.
  3. With the battery disconnected, press the horn button a few times and turn on the headlights. This will help drain any residual electricity from the system.
  4. Allow the battery to remain disconnected for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. After the elapsed time, reconnect the battery in reverse order: attach the positive cable first, followed by the negative cable.

By following these steps, you may be able to reset the battery light in your Journey. However, please note that this method does not address the underlying issue that triggered the warning light. If the light reappears after resetting, it is recommended to have the vehicle inspected by a professional to identify and resolve the root cause of the problem.

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Using an OBD2 Scanner for Diagnosis

To initiate the troubleshooting process and gain initial indications of the location of the malfunction in your Dodge Journey, utilizing an OBD2 scanner is recommended.

  1. Begin by connecting the OBD2 diagnostic tool to your Journey. Typically, the OBD2 connector can be found beneath the dashboard.
  2. Once the tool is connected, turn on the ignition. Most diagnostic devices will prompt you for specific vehicle information. It is crucial to enter this information accurately to ensure precise results. Along with the make, model, and engine type, you may also need to input the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Providing more detailed information about your Journey will enable the scanner to provide more accurate diagnostic information, especially since certain OBD codes can be manufacturer-specific.

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Conclusion

When the battery light illuminates in your Dodge Journey, it is recommended to start by testing the voltage at the battery while the engine is running. If the voltage test indicates a problem, you should proceed to test the alternator and its electrical connections.

In any case, if you are not experienced with automotive repairs, it is advisable to visit a professional workshop. A skilled mechanic can efficiently diagnose the charging system issue and provide the necessary repairs or guidance.

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