How Long Can You Drive With Battery Light On?

You are driving and suddenly notice the battery light on your dash. What does it mean? Will your car stop abruptly? How long can you drive with the battery light on?

When the battery light suddenly turns on while you are driving, you have about 30 to 60 minutes left before the battery juices are entirely used up, and your car won’t be able to move an inch. If the alternator is not charging the battery, all car’s electrical systems will not operate.

It is safe to drive your car even if the battery light turns on your dash. However, you will use up the remaining battery juices if you continue driving. This means you may not be able to reach your destination. In addition, if the battery is already weak, it can also affect the electrical circuits of the electrical components of your car.

Read on to learn more about the length of time you can still drive your car if the battery light appears on your dash and what you can do about it.

How Long Can You Drive With Battery Light On

how long can you drive with battery light on

30 to 60 Minutes

The longest you can drive your car if the battery light comes on your dash is from 30 to 60 minutes. Your battery’s juices are being used up as you continue to drive. You may not even reach your destination if you insist on continuing.

If this light appears on your dash, the battery is not getting its charge from the alternator. Perhaps the alternator is not properly working.

Safe to Drive Even with the Battery Light On

Of course, it is still safe to drive your car even if this light appears on the dash. However, this warning light tells you your battery is already weak.

A Weak Battery Will Affect Electrical Components and Gadgets

A weak battery will affect the electrical components and gadgets’ performance. They may not even run if the battery is already weak.

Causes of An Activated Battery Light

There are several reasons why this battery warning light will turn on, including:

  • Bad alternator,
  • Charging problems,
  • Wiring issues, and many more.

You can still drive your car, but it is best not to.

You will know if it’s a bad alternator if it dies immediately after the engine starts. This means your alternator is not able to charge your battery.

However, if you can jumpstart your car with another battery but can’t start it again with its native battery, your battery is already dead. You need to use a new battery.

Factors That Affect How Long You Can Drive a Car with Battery Warning Light On

The time you can still drive your car, even if the battery warning light is on, depends on several factors. In other words, you can still drive on. But remember, once the battery runs out of juices, your car will stop at its tracks.

Do you want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere? If you don’t, be mindful of the following factors that affect the length of time you can still drive your car.

1. Remaining Battery Charge

How long can you drive with the battery light on? It will depend on how much juice is left in the battery. That’s one thing that you won’t be able to know if you don’t have a unique instrument that measures the battery charge.

2. Electrical Gadgets Used

Modern automobiles use different electronic gadgets to make them run efficiently. For instance, today, electronic parking brakes are becoming the norm. This electronic gadget uses electricity, unlike the mechanical parking brake in old cars.

So, if your car uses many electronic devices to improve its safety and efficiency, the juices in the battery will run out faster.

3. Car Make and Model

The car’s make and model can also affect how long you can still drive your vehicle if the battery warning light is active. This is related to the previous factor. If you have an old model car, it probably does not use too many electronic gadgets to make it run efficiently.

If that’s the case, you’ll be able to drive your car a little longer. But still, you are advised to have the problem checked by a competent mechanic to ensure you won’t get stranded when the battery completely fails.

What Causes the Battery Warning Light to Come On?

how far can you drive with battery light on

The battery warning light is just a warning sign that your battery is having some issues. But you need to pay attention to it because if you don’t, you may get stranded somewhere you don’t like.

You will be better prepared if you know the things that can trigger this battery warning light. What are these triggers?

1. Weak or Discharged Battery

The average lifespan of a battery is from 3 to 5 years. As the battery ages, its electrodes weaken and are prone to breaking. The electrolytes inside the battery may also leak. This will result in low battery voltage and low battery power.

As time goes on, the battery goes dead. Before this happens, you will be warned. And that warning is the battery light on your dash.

2. Rusty Battery Terminals

There are two terminals in a battery – the positive and the negative. An electrolyte solution is inside the battery casing. The battery terminals will be corroded when there’s a leak in the electrolyte solution.

Then the heat from the engine will speed up the corrosion rate in the battery terminals. Once these terminals are corroded, they will be poor conductors of electricity.

Since the battery receives energy or electricity through these terminals, there will be poor electrical conductivity in the battery.

This situation will result in battery charging problems. The battery warning light will appear on your dash to warn you of this condition.

3. Failing Alternator

The alternator maintains the battery’s charge. If the alternator is good, your battery will also be good. But if anything goes wrong with the alternator, the battery will also fall in step.

This means your battery won’t get charged or may be exposed to excessive voltage. In most cars, the optimum charging voltage is from 13.6 to 14.6 volts. Once the alternator begins to fail, it may generate a voltage that is outside of this range.

This is dangerous for the battery because it can adversely affect its operation. The battery warning light will appear on your dash to warn you of this condition.

4. Electrical Wiring Issue

As an electrical system, the battery on your car uses electrical wiring to connect it from its energy source to the device it is powering. Your battery provides the initial push of electricity to start the starter motor. In return, it is constantly charged by the alternator.

All of these electrical devices are connected using electrical wires. If there is a problem with a wiring connection, such as disconnection, or incorrect connection, the battery warning light will be triggered and show up on your dash.

5. Damaged Battery Cable

The battery cable is the wire by which the battery delivers power to your car’s electrical devices. Over time it gets old and cracks. Once it starts to degrade, there will be interruptions in the flow of electricity inside it.

In addition, if the cable is not fitted correctly around the battery terminal, either too loose or too tight, the charging process will not be efficient. If any of these things happen, the battery warning light on your dash will show up.

6. Damaged Alternator Belt

The alternator has a belt connected to the crankshaft of the engine. Power generated by the crankshaft goes to the alternator so it can do the following:

  • It runs the vehicle’s air conditioner, power steering, and other electrical accessories.
  • It spins the alternator so it can charge the battery.

Over time, the alternator belt gets old, develops cracks, and eventually breaks. When that happens, it can no longer charge the battery. So the battery warning light will appear on your dash.

7. Electrical Overload from Accessories

Modern vehicles have all sorts of electrical devices. And these gadgets need electricity. They draw their power supply from the alternator. The accessories include the AC, power steering, auxiliary lighting, audio system, and many more.

But the thing is: the alternator is also charging the battery as you drive your car. So, suppose many electrical devices are running while driving your vehicle. In that case, there’s a greater risk that the alternator will not be able to charge the battery adequately.

That’s why the battery warning light on your dash will warn you of this situation.

8. Headlights On for an Extended Time

If you forgot to turn off your headlights when you parked your car or did not notice that the headlights are still on, you might get the battery warning light on your dash. The engine is not running anymore, so the alternator can’t charge the battery. So, the battery goes dead.

The lesson is: do not forget to turn off your headlights or any electrical device once you turn off the engine.

9. Defective Battery

It is also possible that the battery warning light appeared on your dash because the battery is simply defective. This would be the apparent reason if you had just bought and installed a new battery. Or the battery is still relatively new, but its warning light is already showing up on your dash.

Again, how long can you drive with the battery light on? You can drive with an activated battery light for around 30 to 60 minutes. Then, the electrical system will fail if the battery cannot charge.

What Should You Do If the Battery Warning Light Comes On While Driving?

is it safe to drive with battery light on

1. Do Not Panic

It’s natural to be disturbed when the battery warning light suddenly appears on your dash while driving. But, no need to panic. You are just being warned that something is wrong with your battery.

2. Slow Down and Find a Safe Place to Park the Vehicle

You need to know why this light appeared on your dash. So, the second thing you need to do is to slow down and find a safe place to park your vehicle. Once your car is safely parked, turn off all the electronic devices and shut off the engine.

3. Perform Basic Checks on the Battery, Cables, and More

With the engine not running, perform basic checks on the battery, cables, and connections.

4. Observe the Dashboard After Starting the Engine

Now, after a few minutes, start the engine again. This time, observe your dashboard and see if the battery warning light will not turn off on your dash.

Each time you start your engine, it self-checks on all its components. The battery also does a self-check. The battery light is on, but the car runs fine.

This light will show up for a few seconds and then fade away. So, if this light shows up during the self-check and fades away, you can reset it. There’s no problem with your battery.

But if the battery light stays solid, you have a problem with your battery. You must bring your car to the nearest car service shop so a qualified mechanic can properly diagnose and fix your battery problem.

Is It Safe to Drive with the Battery Light On?

Generally, it is unsafe to continue operating while this light is still on. If you do, you will be using the battery’s reserve power.

Eventually, you will use up all its juices and be stranded when and where that happens. The best thing to do is pull over as soon as possible. Don’t drive your car for another 50 miles or so, or you may get stranded.

How to Extend a Car’s Battery Life

Batteries can only last for so long. A good battery, used reasonably and maintained well, will last 3 to 5 years. If you want your battery to last long by more than five years, you must follow specific guidelines:

1. Maintain a Full Charge All the Time

While the alternator is the one that should take care of this, you should also do a battery recharge, especially during the cold months. Dead cells can develop inside if you allow your battery to be discharged for an extended period.

You can no longer use the battery, even with just one dead cell.

2. Keep Your Battery Clean At All Times

You should inspect your battery regularly. If there are any traces of corrosion on the terminals or the cables, clean them immediately.

Battery terminals left to fend for themselves will quickly develop acid, which will start the corrosion process. Corroded battery terminals make recharging more difficult.

3. Keep Cables Snugly Fitted on the Terminals

You should also regularly check the cable connections to the battery terminals. They must snugly fit the terminals, not too tight or too loose.

Frequently Asked Questions

We now come down to the most frequently asked questions about this topic. Perhaps the answers to these questions will help you get a better understanding of the battery warning light:

How Long Can I Drive My Car with Its Battery Warning Light On?

You can drive no farther than 30 to 60 minutes at the most. If the battery warning light is on, you may run on your battery’s reserve power. You don’t want your engine to stop while you are out.

Is It Still Safe to Drive with the Battery Warning Light On?

Yes, there is no problem with the safety components of your car. It’s just the battery that is having an issue.

But, it would still be better to drive to the nearest car service shop so a qualified mechanic can check your battery and its related components, like the alternator, so that they can fix the real issue.

What Can Cause the Battery Warning Light to Turn On?

There are several reasons why the battery warning light will illuminate your dash. The most common causes are:

  • Discharged or weak battery
  • Corroded battery terminals
  • Bad alternator
  • Issues in the electrical wiring
  • Damaged battery cable
  • Damaged alternator belt
  • Power overload from electrical accessories
  • Forgot to turn off the headlights
  • Defective battery

How Do I Reset the Battery Warning Light?

To reset the battery warning light, park your car in a safe place and turn off the engine. Then turn off all the lights and all the other electrical devices inside the vehicle. After a few minutes, start the engine again.

If there’s nothing wrong with the battery, the battery warning light will fade away after the standard self-check when the engine is started.

However, if it stays solid, you must head off to the nearest car service shop so a qualified mechanic can check your battery and recommend the necessary fix.

In Closing: How Long Can You Drive With Battery Light On

If the battery light turns on your dash while driving, the maximum time you can drive your car is 30 to 60 minutes before all the battery juices are used up. This happened because the alternator was not charging the battery.

Additionally, all the electrical systems of your car will also stop running. Don’t drive your vehicle farther until this issue is diagnosed and fixed, or you may end up somewhere where it’s difficult to pick you up.