By on August 10, 2011

Our buddy Mark Whinton from Carquestions, who always manages to find the obscure problems with today’s complex automobiles, wonders: why can’t the new Jeep Grand Cherokee tell if it’s battery isn’t being charged? As he points out, this omission could leave drivers stranded if their accessory belt were to break, without ever warning them of the problem. Is Mark nit-picking? Possibly, but in this business, one lesson gets learned again and again: you gotta sweat the details. In light of Mark’s research we’re as curious as he is: did Chrysler simply overlook this, or is this a case of conscious decontenting? Over to you, ChryCo…

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55 Comments on “Carquestions: Where Is The Jeep Grand Cherokee’s Battery Charge Monitor?...”


  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Oh dear. There’s no answer to that. I know drive belts are pretty reliable these days, but this is a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      When the alternator died on my Chevy truck I had no other indication than the ammeter gauge in the instrument cluster which started to point to the ‘-’ side.

      I turned on my headlights and the gauge started to point even more to the ‘-’ side. That was a good indication that my charging system was out to lunch, or had gone South. Turned out, it had gone South.

      Without some kind of indicator, like a gauge or idiot light on the instrument panel you would not know if your charging system had failed until you ran out of juice.

      I was on the road when this happened to me and had enough juice to make it to the nearest xxxxxxxx store where I bought a rebuilt alternator and installed it right then and there in their parking lot.

      With the help of a jump I got the truck started and the charging system worked as advertised, with the gauge pointing solidly to the ‘+’ side of the dial.

      All’s well that ends well, unless you haven’t got a clue about what’s going on because you have no way of telling if your battery is getting charged, or not.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Does the JGC use a belt driven AC compressor or an electric one? If the accessory belt broke you’d likely notice the lack of AC pretty quickly (assuming it wasn’t winter somewhere where it gets cold).

    The lack of a battery charge gauge is odd, but even more odd is that a missing belt doesn’t result in a CEL.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    His test seems to be missing an engine start. Just because the vehicle moved in Drive doesn’t tell me that it was actually running (maybe it drifted downhill). Yes, the tach was up around 1k, but that almost looked like an intermediate position to indicate the key had been turned to “Run”.

    Since belts only break on running engines, maybe Jeep doesn’t care whether an indicator is shown in this mode. “Run” mode without starting is different from the “Run” mode after starting.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Wouldn’t the Jeep overheat before the battery dies?

    IIRC, the V8 has belt driven power steering, so the driver would know immediately that the belt was broken.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I didn’t even think about the steering, I just assumed the JGC has an electric system like many new cars.

      What’s the bigger fail here though, the lack of battery gauge, or the fact that a missing belt doesn’t throw a code and trigger a CEL?

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        The bigger fail is the lack of a battery gauge/light.

        a thrown belt isn’t terribly common anymore, besides there’s not very many ways you can monitor a belt.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    If the belt broke you’d have lot’s of warning before the battery charge dropped below the point it will run the vehicle. Like the steering wheel that suddenly got way harder to turn, that fact that the heater is blowing cold/hot air even though the temp gauge is pegged and you have it set on full hot/cold, that pegged temp gauge, and the coolant/steam spewing from under the hood and eventual heavy pinging and loss of power. Unless of course it has fail safe cooling cylinder deactivation or shut down, in which case some of those signs would be replaced by some sort of message on the display and loss of power.

    Still there is no excuse for not having some sort of indicator for a lack of charge or low voltage. The power train control computer has to know the voltage to apply corrections to injector pulse width among other things. It does put that info out on the CAN bus so it is certainly available for the instrument cluster’s controller.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Wow, now I miss the old Honda practice of having the alternator, power steering pump, and AC compressor all driven by different drivebelts. And isn’t the water pump driven by the timing chain on these engines?

    • 0 avatar
      garythompson

      Scoutdude, I heartily agree there is no excuse, as the computer has the information. This brings up one of those things that bugs me and I think this is what Mr. Whinton was alluding to: A car has an information display, why can’t it display real information. A case in point, I recently drove to Las Vegas from California and my car’s service engine soon light came on (fortunately, at the edge of town). In 104% heat this can be a bit disconcerting. The frustrating part is that the car (cadillac) has a perfectly good information display, why can’t it tell me in real words what the problem is? I called two dealers both of whom wanted to charge me in the neighborhood of $120 to tell me what the problem was. I took a chance, as it seemed to be running fairly well, and drove to Autozone. They brought out a obd II reader and told me that the throttle position sensor had a short. I purchased the sensor and changed it myself at the home of the person I was visiting. What if it had been something more serious? How do I know when to stop immediately or wait until later? Couldn’t the display simply have said ‘Throttle position sensor short’ or ‘sensor short’? In the case of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it just seems to be a case of lazy programming. They already have the code written to display other functions, it would be pretty trivial to display voltage or better still a real english message ‘Hey, your alternator isn’t working, better get it seen to before the battery dies!’. :P

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        @ Gary, If the check engine light comes on it is fine to continue driving the car, if it flashes they you should pull over and shut if off as soon as it’s safe. Funny your concern was with a Caddy, the second gen Cad EFI allowed diagnostics through the climate control and/or info center. You could push the right combination of buttons and read the codes and monitor data, granted only 1 parameter at a time. To be fair it is possible that the computer may set off a warning and/or set a code if it senses an electrical problem with the alternator. It is likely that the power train controller is the ultimate voltage regulator for the charging system. Chrysler was the first to put the voltage regulator circuitry in the computer. Now it’s pretty common practice for the computer to be involved somehow in the charging system and have specific codes for that.

        @ aristurtle, I thought about that after I posted, I was thinking the older Chrysler motors, I’m not sure how the water pump is driven on this engine. So a broken accessory belt may not cause a problem with the cooling system. I always liked the separate belts so you don’t loose everything if one goes. Most of the old school American cars usually ran more than one of them over the water pump so there is redundancy on that critical item. Being a IH kind of guy I’m a little spoiled since my trucks have dual belts on the water pump/alternator. On most big trucks until recently they would have double belts on the PS pump too, so there are 4 belts running the water pump.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    In the old days, when Chrysler was still an American company ,located in Highland Park, staffed by a heck of a lot of polish people, it seemed that, from even the lowliest Dart or Valient all the way up to the Imperial, each and every car or truck came equipped with the famous gen/alt charging gauge.

    How can it be that the TOL GC can’t even have this virtual function incorporated into its CAN-BUS and virtual display gauge?

    Given all the changes in ownership, but it seems somebody was more focussed on his Stuttgarter-bratwurst, NY-wiener, or Turin-salami… oh, for the old reliable days of Hamtramck-kielbasa Kowality!

    • 0 avatar
      anonymic

      I miss the ammeter from my Valiant! I still have trouble reading voltmeters 15 years after I got rid of that car because I relied so much on that ammeter that I expect them all to work the same.

      • 0 avatar
        jpcavanaugh

        Right there with you, anonymic. That Mopar ammeter was wonderful. You could monitor all kinds of electrical things with it because it was so sensitive. I have always wondered why everyone went to voltmeters, which I have always considered next-to-useless.
        Fun fact of the day – did you know that the very first place that electrical current in your Valiant went after leaving your battery? Straight into that ammeter in the dash, then back out to power every other thing in the car (except for the starter). This is why they were so sensitive (and why if the connections got loose, you could have a bad issue with the full voltage and amperage of the electrical system going through that point.

      • 0 avatar
        anonymic

        JP, I didn’t know that, but I did notice how sensitive it was. I could watch my turn signal twitch the needle at idle. Those old alternators weren’t terribly good either, with the wipers, defrost on high and lights on, I had to give it a little extra gas if I wanted to use the lighter and continue to see where I was going.

        Also: anyone know what the deal is with such a low limit on nested replies?

      • 0 avatar
        anonymic

        n/m i figured it out lol

      • 0 avatar
        scottcom36

        I put a powerful stereo in a Dodge van with an Alternator gauge. The power drawn by the amp came directly from the battery connection, so it didn’t go through the gauge. But the charge from the alternator does, of course. So when I turned up the volume the gauge would jump toward “Charge” in time with the music!

  • avatar
    segfault

    Most cars have an idiot light that is supposed to come on if there’s a problem with the charging system. It could be that there is a built-in delay from the time the low voltage condition is detected until a warning displays.

    Still, given the trans temp, oil temp, and coolant temp readouts, how hard would it be for Chrysler to include a battery voltage readout on the info center? Especially since that information is probably already collected by the car’s computer.

  • avatar

    What happens to ESC when the belt stops turning the power steering pump? Won’t the steering inputs monitered by the computer be delayed by the lack of power steering assist due to a broken belt? This will certainly throw off the yaw and ABS control response programs.

    The IIHS won’t be happy

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      There’s a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels–the wheel may be harder to turn but I don’t think the lack of power steering would affect the steering angle at a given wheel position.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Generally it won’t, but with this caveat, depending on the friction at the contact patch, if it is high, then the wind-up of both the torsion-bar, and the steering shaft isolator will increase the delta-angle between the steering-wheel, and the pinion-half of the pinion-/input-shaft assy.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Alternators do fail without the belt breaking. That said, are we saying the dash does’t have the battery shaped warning light? I’m guessing that the check engine light would come on. Perhaps that computer screen would day what’s happing.

    My cheap Fiesta has more warning lights than I can count, maybe they ran out of space for one more.

    The real reason is that electrical systems in Chrysler are so reliable it’s just of waist of a light bulb. (LED)? That said my wives ’09 Caravan has 40k miles and has not had any issues. It the first car we’ve ever had to make it without a warranty claim.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Well, you could always try reading the owners manual.

    Page 269.

    Charging System Light
    This light shows the status of the electrical charging system. The light should come on when the ignition switch is first turned ON and remain on briefly as a bulb check. If the light stays on or comes on while driving, turn off some of the vehicle’s non-essential electrical devices or increase engine speed (if at idle). If the charging system light remains on, it means that the vehicle is experiencing a problem with the charging system. Obtain SERVICE IMMEDIATELY. See an authorized dealer.
    If jump starting is required, refer to “Jump Starting Procedures” in “What To Do In Emergencies”.

    My guess if you try driving it around some, this light will come on. But I could be wrong. It might be broken on this one. But, it should be there. Like the manual says it should come on when starting as a bulb check, but I didn’t see that happen on this vehicle.

    Cliff Notes:
    In the lower right of the center read out, there should be a red light that comes on in this condition. It isn’t decontented.

    http://www.jeep.com/en/owners/manuals/

    • 0 avatar
      anonymic

      Also, the alternator is probably only putting out 10-15 amps at idle, and not much more at very low revs. The computer is going to want the engine spun up for a short time to evaluate the output voltage, as some failed alternators will output this low amperage at cruising speed.

      • 0 avatar
        Buster Brew

        I agree. Until the charging system is asked to charge the battery, and doesn’t, the car does not recognize a problem. Many modern vehicles don’t engage the alternator at all, until called upon, to reduce fuel consumption. If our narrator were to accelerate off idle and up to road speed I suspect the ubiquitous red battery symbol will indicate a failure.

    • 0 avatar

      The red battery symbol listed on pg 269 is supposed to be in the bottom left corner of the EVIC according to the manual and come on when you start the car as a bulb check or when there is a system failure – which as you can see in the video does not occur

      • 0 avatar
        nuvista

        So the bulb is blown or there is some other fault in the system. That’s the purpose of the bulb check at startup, isn’t it?

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Did you trying running it down the road @ 65 mph? When you turn it on, does it always display the temperature indicator? How long did you leave it running? Depending on how the system works, it might require a voltage drop past a certain level to display an error. Running a car for a minute with out an alternator doesn’t prove anything.

      • 0 avatar

        The US manual is much bigger and has no page like 269

        The Canadian User’s (first edition) manual only has 92 pages and the only ref to it is on pg 59 under “What to do in emergencies” and all it says is “the light shows the status of the charging system…have the vehicle serviced immediately”

        The vehicle was driven up to 50 mph for a couple of kms and still no warning of any kind – note: – steering is very heavy and the vehicle will overheat after five or six minutes wo the belt.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        What was the battery charge after you drove that far (measurement in Volts)?

        If the charge is at or over 12, try this. Try just turning the car to on without starting the car. If you get no light, let the accessories run hard, including the A/C, charge a phone, play music, what ever use electrical power. It might take 30 minutes to take the charge down enough. Go back and check after a bit to see if the light comes on.

    • 0 avatar
      Buster Brew

      The light (as well as the other red indicators on pg 269)will appear in the bottom left of the information display, opposite the gear indicator (#22 on page 247) . In the video that area lights up a door warning as he gets in, and the “over-temp” light during start-up as a system/bulb check.

      I suspect the warning alternates at start-up since there are several that appear in the same window.

  • avatar
    Tangotx

    Thanks Steven02 I was about to post the same information

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    Guage heck, why not at least an idiot light?

    What next, a dipstick for a gas guage? Or better yet use the old VW Beetle system, a small reserve tank and when you use up the main tank, the engine stops and you turn the valve to the right and run on the reserve until you reach a gas station. I got pretty adept at it. Could do it with my toes. Ah, German engineering at its best!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Read the comments, it has an idiot light. carquestions didn’t read the manual.

      • 0 avatar

        If this car has an idiot light Steven02 – please let us know exactly where one might find it. The Canadian manual on pg 6 and 7 says it has a battery symbol and says it is to have a “bulb check with key on” -but it doesn’t show where it is on the picture of the gauges – it shows other warning lights on the picture but not that one. And there is obviously no “bulb check” as required by US code 49 571.101 FMVSS

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Actually, a bulb check is not required. It is one of two times when an indicator may be lit. Indicating a problem or bulb check. Consequently, since it is a shared display, there are different rules about that as well.

  • avatar
    derek533

    I would venture a guess that all those people having problems with Honda’s battery management system in their brand new 2011 Odyssey’s would love to have this problem right about now.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    http://i52.tinypic.com/15ojfqf.jpg

    It does have a charging system light. A modern car’s battery warning light is not attached directly to the alternator anymore. It is set by the computer. I know for a fact that in the latest Mustangs, they will run for around 4-5 minutes before the charging system failure light comes on.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Maybe yours needs to be fixed. Could be that there is a problem with the one you have and this isn’t a case of Chrysler forgot…

    Here is a guy in a forum complaining that his battery light was coming on when it shouldn’t have been.
    http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f309/battery-idiot-light-problem-1241447/
    2011 V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    Here is a picture someone else posted on TTAC.
    http://i52.tinypic.com/15ojfqf.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      The picture that is being posted is not a warning light for the battery or charging system – that symbol in the bottom left corner that looks like a lightning bolt is for the electronic throttle control

      http://dashboardsymbols.com/the-symbols/

  • avatar
    Ion

    I’ve seen plenty of car’s omit the battery charge indicator for example a 2010 Camry. What I find interesting is that most cars now have tachometers.

    Is that really the only knock they have on the GC? I’ve seen cars like the Fit without a temp gauge and it’s more likely that your car will overheat than your belt will break.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s a picture of a 2010 Camry hybrid showing the proper battery light. You sure the regular one doesn’t have the same thing?

      http://www.carsculture.com/1655/toyotas-hybrid-camry/2010-toyota-hybrid-camry-tachometer/

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Yes, at least on the lower trim levels.
      http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2010-TOYOTA-CAMRY-SE-/160635605908?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item2566a0d394

      the higher ones have one of those displays like the hybrid but I haven’t fiddled with them more than I needed to reset the oil light.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    Bottom line is this. You (carquestions)said in a reply to Steven02,

    “The red battery symbol listed on pg 269 is supposed to be in the bottom left corner of the EVIC according to the manual and come on when you start the car as a bulb check or when there is a system failure – which as you can see in the video does not occur”

    and

    “The Canadian User’s (first edition) manual only has 92 pages and the only ref to it is on pg 59 under “What to do in emergencies” and all it says is “the light shows the status of the charging system…have the vehicle serviced immediately”

    So … Have you taken it to dealer to have it checked out? It’s under warranty right?

    Stop beating around the bush with your answers and have a qualified service technician look at the problem then report back to us. It’s pretty obvious that a battery light is supposed to go on during the “bulb check”, regardless if its giving you a warning about the battery or charging system.

    • 0 avatar

      PGcooldad – The car and others here like it have been checked all have the same problem. I happen to be a fully licensed mechanic for over 29 years as well as an automotive instructor – not to put to fine a point on it but yes you are correct – there should be a light and it should come on – question is why isn’t it working and do US vehicles have the same problem?

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        There is a difference between it not working and stating that it isn’t there (as your video states).

        Did you try turning the key to on and letting accessories run down the battery? What was the charge of the battery after you short trip with it?

  • avatar
    windswords

    “Possibly, but in this business, one lesson gets learned again and again: you gotta sweat the details.”

    Or in the car blog business you could Google the owners manual before accusing a business of not, well, doing its business, and find that yea, it does have such a warning. And if it’s not working on this particular vehicle, then have it serviced under warranty.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @Mark

    Why didn’t you just let it run down until the engine stalled? Turn on some lights, defroster, radio and maybe a blower fan or two? These are just “Questions” Brian Ross would ask…

    Actually most of those accessories would get shut down systematically as computer sees them as non essential for travel. Oh and if not the “batt” light, the ABS light & CEL among others would kick on long before the engine stalled.


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