How Long Can You Drive With a Battery Light On?

The car dashboard is one of the informative parts of the car. It shows the status of the car and what may be wrong with it. Therefore, the battery light is located on the dashboard, and an issue with the car battery means the light will come on. If you are driving and the battery light suddenly comes on, you may wonder how far you can go before the car stops. Read on to find out how long you can drive with the battery light on.

Reasons why the battery light may be on

The battery light doesn’t just come on without cause; there is surely something going on with the battery. Here are some of the reasons the battery light may suddenly turn on:

  • Faulty battery: a normal battery has six power cells consisting of lead oxide plates and lead plates used to generate power for the vehicle. Each power cell produces 2V, which makes a total of 12V being produced by the battery. In case one power cell is faulty, the car has lost 2V, which will trigger the battery light to come on. Depending on the damage, the battery may need to be changed.
  • Bad alternator: the alternator charges the battery so the car can keep running. If the alternator has a fault, the battery is not being charged, and the car will stop running soon. 
  • Loose battery terminals: the battery is connected to the alternator and another engine part through terminals. The battery is connected to the terminals by a circular ring fastened with a bolt. If the terminal’s bolts are not tight enough or the terminal is not connected to the battery, the power flow will be interrupted between the car and the battery.
  • Faulty wiring:  wires are conductors of electricity from the source to the required destination. Wires are used to connect the battery to other parts of the car. If there is a problem with the wiring, the required power will not reach where it is needed.
  • Bad ground strap: a ground strap helps complete the electric circuit to different electrical components in the car, so electricity can flow the way it should. If the ground strap is broken or damaged, electricity may not flow as it should, which may cause some electrical components in the car to act up, mainly the headlight.
  • Bad serpentine belt: a serpentine belt is a vital part of the car’s electrical system. The belt connects the alternator, engine, and accessories like the air conditioning compressor and the power steering pump. If the belt wears out or breaks, the car battery light will turn on, and the car will not run long due to loss of power.
battery light on in car

Can you drive with your battery light on?

Yes, you can drive with the battery light on even though it’s a bad idea. The battery light on can mean the battery is weak or something wrong with the other components. The electrical system in the car is a closed-circuit system which means if one component starts misbehaving, it can have a lasting effect on the other components. The battery light being on means your battery may die anytime. Therefore, it is recommended to have  jumper cables with you that will help you jump start the car. Jumper cables are a pair of insulated wires that have alligator clips at each end, and are used to draw power from an auxiliary power source such as another vehicle/battery into the dead battery.

How long can you drive with your battery light on?

The battery light coming on means there is a problem with the battery or the components linked to it. The battery light on doesn’t mean the car will not run, but it will not run for long. It is estimated that with the car battery light on, the car will run for 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the cause. So, if your battery light comes on, it’s better to find a professional to help fix whatever is wrong.

What to do if the battery light turns on while driving?

Nobody can predict when something will go wrong in a car. Perhaps the car battery turns on while driving; what do you do? Here are some things you can do to:

  • Don’t switch off your car: the car starter takes a lot of power, and if there is not enough left in the battery, the car may not come on if you’ve switched it off. However, you may switch off your car if you have jumper cables and an auxiliary power source.
  • Pull over and open the hood: what you should do is pull over to the side of the road and open the hood of the car to check the battery and other components.
  • Inspect the battery terminals: the terminals connect the battery to the car, and it may be loose or have corroded. Tighten the terminals and clean them if there is a greenish or whitish build-up surrounding them.
  • Inspect the fuse box: remove the cover of the fuse box and examine each fuse carefully. If one is tripped, reset the fuse and check to see if the problem is fixed. If multiple fuses are tripped, especially the big ones, it may be time to seek professional help as the issue might be bigger than the battery.
  • Turn off accessories: the electrical components take a lot of power, and if the battery is not charging, it can cause it to die fast. To help extend the battery life, no AC system, no power windows, no radio, and no phones charging with the car.

How to fix the car battery light?

When you notice the battery light on, there are a few things you can do to try to rectify it at home before calling a mechanic. They are:

  • Check the battery: check all the connections and the battery’s terminals and make sure all are intact. If the battery light is still on, test the battery with a voltmeter to check the voltage and determine what the battery needs.
  • Check the alternator and its components: if the battery can’t hold a charge, the alternator may not be charging it right. To test the alternator, pull out the positive terminal of the battery. If the car dies, the alternator has problems and should be checked out by a professional.
  • Check the wiring: follow the wiring from the battery to the alternator and the car engine to see any damage or breakage. You can easily fix it or call a professional depending on the damage.
  • Check the fuse: the fuse provides support to the car’s electrical components. If there was a power surge, the fuse could blow out. Fix the fuse that’s still working and replace the bad one. It is advisable to seek professional help if you’re not very familiar with the car system.

How to make a car battery last longer

These are simple ways to extend the life of your battery and keep the battery light from coming on.

  • Check battery terminals always: check the battery terminals for loose grips and corrosion. The battery terminals may be loosened over time due to the vibrating and wiggling of the car, which may short circuit the electrical system. Also, the terminals can be corroded over time. Check for corrosion build-up and clean with a steel brush and water and baking soda solution if you notice any.
  • Limit the electrical component used while idling: when the car is idling, try to limit the electrical components like the headlight, A/C, radio, etc. Using these electrical components while idling for a long time can wear the battery down.
  • Test the battery: when you test your battery consistently, it keeps you updated on the battery’s condition and helps steer clear of surprises repairs.


The car battery is one of the essential parts of the car. The car battery is on means the car may not run for more than 15 minutes, which is short. Things to look out for and quick fixes may work when the car battery light comes on. It is paramount that you take care of your battery to extend its life. Also, always seek professional help when handling problems dealing with the car’s electrical system.

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