Starting and Charging System

How to Check Your Starting and Charging System: A Quick Guide

If you are having trouble starting your vehicle, the problem could be originating from the starter, battery, alternator, or another part of your vehicle’s starting and charging system. Before you begin replacing these parts, it would be mandatory to inspect each one of them first. You can either bring your car to a professional, or you can follow the easy steps we have provided for you in this post.

In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about how to check your starting and charging system. Here are a few steps you need to follow to check the starting and charging system. 

  1. Put the battery on a charger. 
  2. Check the dashboard.
  3. Check all the fuses.
  4. Check the battery cables.
  5. Check the connectors to the alternator.
  6. Inspect the belt. 

Since you will be working under the hood, we also laid out some safety precautions for you to take note of. We will be providing you with information on what symptoms to look out for and the steps on how to perform the inspection. Read on if you want to know more.

Safety Precautions

Working under your vehicle’s hood could be fatal and very dangerous, especially if you neglect the following safety precautions:

  • Set the parking brake.
  • Ensure that the automatic transmission is in the park and the manual transmission is in neutral.
  • Always use jack stands when you lift your vehicle.
  • Remember to always chock the wheels to prevent them from rolling.
  • To avoid burns, let your engine cool down first before you perform any type of repair or maintenance.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing, as well as jewelry, which could easily get caught in the moving parts or might bridge an electrical connection.
  • Always wear proper eye protection.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Before you begin checking under the hood, it is important to discuss first the common symptoms your vehicle might be experiencing. Knowing the following symptoms will give you a hint that there might be something wrong with your vehicle’s starting and charging system. Here’s what you should take note of:

checking under the hood

1. Noise Comes from the Engine

You could be hearing strange noises like a rumbling sound caused by the damaged alternator bearings. It could also be a squealing sound caused by a loose or worn drive belt.

2. The Battery Could be Dead or Discharged

Another reason why you are experiencing problems with starting or charging your vehicle could be the battery. It may be because it is already dead, or it may not be holding a charge anymore, which is very common when you have a bad alternator.

3. The Starter Might Not be Functioning Properly

If the starter is not functioning the way it should, it just makes a clicking noise. To add, it does not turn as strong as it should. If there is not enough charge in the battery, it would only make sense that the starter would not be able to properly crank the engine.

4. The Headlamps And Interior light Could Appear Slightly Dim.

These lights may appear to get brighter as the engine speed increases. The alternator or charging warning light on your dashboard may or maybe not be turned on, and all you can hear is a clicking sound when you turn the key. This might also be because the starter is not getting enough electrical current to operate properly.

How to Check Your Starting and Charging System?

Below you will find the steps for checking the starting and charging system. These are all very easy-to-follow steps and will never require you many tools and equipment. Here’s what you should follow:

Check Your Starting and Charging System

  • Make sure that the battery is in good condition and has a full charge. If it’s not, put the battery on a charger or take it to your local store for free charging and testing.
  • Check the dashboard for the warning light gauge or LED readout. These might already give you a clue to the problem your car is experiencing.
  • Check all the fuses and fusible links. Generally, a blown fuse interrupts the flow of electricity, which causes a problem with your vehicle’s charging system. Locate the fuse box and ensure that there are no blown fuses. You will know if it’s blown if you notice a break or a gap in the wire filament.
  • Check the battery cables. Make sure that you have cleaned it well and reconnect them if necessary. Remember to always disconnect the negative terminal first and when reconnecting, always reconnect the negative terminal last. If you see that these cables are damaged, have them replaced immediately.
  • Check the connectors to the alternator and make sure that if they’re loose, tighten them up so that they are snug and secure. Remember to never disconnect a battery cable while the engine is still running, as it may cause damage to the other components.
  • Inspect the belt. In case you are not familiar, it is the one that drives the alternator pulley, and obviously, if it’s not doing its job, there could be something wrong with the belt. You must look for cracks that are blazing on the belt, which is an indication that the belt is failing.

You might also want to check the movement of the belt tensioner for rough spots where it seems to hang. To add, check if the spring has no tension, as well as the bearing inside, for excessive wobble or noise.

  • Watch out for contamination, as these components can easily be damaged by fluids that leak into them. Typically, these leaks are caused by coolants that leak from the pump, or they could also be caused by the steering fluid from a hose or leaking pump.
  • You might also want to check for burnt areas or any sign of overheating. This can be caused by a charging system strain caused by electrical accessories.
  • After you have checked these basic procedures, you might want to retest the vehicle for further investigation. If the problem persists, you should consider replacing the battery, starter, alternator, or cables to fix these problems.

If you are not confident doing these tasks on your own, you might want to consider having it checked by a professional. In addition, if you are having trouble checking for signs, it would also be better to bring it to your mechanic to have it thoroughly inspected.


Knowing the basic steps on how to check your starting and charging system will come in handy, especially if you are trying to cut costs in having your vehicle inspected and repaired. Preventive measures like these have always been proven to decrease maintenance costs, as well as time and effort. You just need to follow the above steps to be able to do this job right the first time.