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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wondering if anyone has seen this yet.

Driving to work today, everything is normal, car works great, no issues. About 10 minutes into my drive the Charge Fault (red battery indicator) lights up on the dash. I toggle through the DIC and my battery voltage is at 11.9. A little while later the light goes off, no change in voltage. Then it comes on again, and off, and back on before I get to work. Voltage between 11.8-11.9.

As I'm backing into my parking spot the light goes out, and my voltage starts to climb. The engine settles on a high idle, about 1100 RPM, and voltage climbs to 12.5. At that point I shut the car off.

Seems like a potential alternator issue to me, but I wanted to see if anyone here had experienced something like this before?

I've never had any electrical issues and my battery ground cable is on good and tight, so I don't think it's that. I have no warnings or messages on the DIC either, which seem to be common with bad grounds and other cable problems.

2012 Eco MT, just slightly past the warranty mileage...
 

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Are you still on your original battery? An internal short in the battery can do this as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yep, original battery. I should add that after shutting the car off, just turning the ignition on the battery was at 12.3V.

Alternator issues don't seem common based on a quick search of the forum, so I decided to post it up to see if anyone has gone through this before. Lots of threads regarding high output alternator options for car audio, lots of threads regarding random faults and DIC messages, but not much regarding just the charge indicator light.

It's been a while since I've monitored my cruising voltage in the daylight hours, but if I remember right voltage should be somewhere around 12.5V, jumping up over 14V at night with the headlights running.
 

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I'd suggest pulling the battery and having it load tested. It's possible that the PCM is commanding high idle speed for increased charging.

However, doesn't the DIC display the charging voltage? I'd think that a bad battery would cause the alternator to go to 14.9-15 volts, and the interior lights to go very bright and hot while the car is operating.

The three main fuseable links that are part of the positive battery cable connection are all tight, and appear to not be blown?

If I recall correctly those links are all over 100 amp capacity. One was the starter. Would they fuse the alternator output where it joins up at that connection?

Seems a bit odd to fuse the feed, vs. the draws, but who knows on the Cruze. I have that diagram packed away on another computer. If I can I'll pull it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
However, doesn't the DIC display the charging voltage? I'd think that a bad battery would cause the alternator to go to 14.9-15 volts, and the interior lights to go very bright and hot while the car is operating.
That's been my experience with bad batteries as well; the alternator compensates while running and when you shut the car off it won't start again. Boost it and it's fine once running, even with the battery disconnected (haven't tried that with a newer car yet, might not work).

The three main fuseable links that are part of the positive battery cable connection are all tight, and appear to not be blown?
I'll double check that cable and all the other fuses/links on top of the battery. Probably a long shot, but you never know... thanks for the suggestion.
 

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Charge Indicator Operation
The instrument panel cluster illuminates the charge indicator and displays a
warning message in the driver information center if equipped, when the one or
more of the following occurs:

The engine control module (ECM) detects that the generator output is less
than 11 V or greater than 16 V. The instrument panel cluster receives a
GMLAN message from the ECM requesting illumination.

The instrument panel cluster determines that the system voltage is less than
11 V or greater than 16 V for more than 30 seconds. The instrument panel
cluster receives a GMLAN message from the body control module (BCM)
indicating there is a system voltage range concern.

The instrument panel cluster performs the displays test at the start of each
ignition cycle. The indicator illuminates for approximately 3 seconds.

BATTERY NOT CHARGING SERVICE CHARGING SYSTEM

The BCM and the ECM will send a GMLAN message to the driver information
center for the BATTERY NOT CHARGING SERVICE CHARGING SYSTEM
message to be displayed.

It is commanded ON when a charging system DTC is a
current DTC. The message is turned OFF when the conditions for clearing the
DTC have been met.

SERVICE BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEM
The BCM and the ECM will send a GMLAN message to the driver information
center for the SERVICE BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEM message to be displayed.

It is commanded ON when a charging system DTC is a current DTC. The
message is turned OFF when the conditions for clearing the DTC have been met.

Generator
The generator is a serviceable component. If there is a diagnosed failure of the
generator it must be replaced as an assembly. The engine drive belt drives the
generator. When the rotor is spun it induces an alternating current (AC) into the
stator windings. The AC voltage is then sent through a series of diodes for
rectification. The rectified voltage has been converted into a direct current (DC) for
use by the vehicles electrical system to maintain electrical loads and the battery
charge. The voltage regulator integral to the generator controls the output of the
generator. It is not serviceable. The voltage regulator controls the amount of
current provided to the rotor. If the generator has field control circuit failure, the
generator defaults to an output voltage of 13.8 V.

If the generator defaults to an output voltage of 13.8 can low voltage only occur due to another situation such as grounding wiring ect?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Great info, carbon! Thanks for posting.

Based on the conditions for the charge indicator, it would seem the only one applicable would be this:

"The engine control module (ECM) detects that the generator output is less
than 11 V or greater than 16 V. The instrument panel cluster receives a
GMLAN message from the ECM requesting illumination."

The only issue with that is, the Cruze has a DIC and I'm not getting a message... only the charge indicator lights up, nothing else.

carbon02 said:
If the generator defaults to an output voltage of 13.8 can low voltage only occur due to another situation such as grounding wiring ect?
It would be an awful coincidence that an alternator fault happened at the same time as a wiring issue came up. Also, with a low operating voltage condition (11.9V) I would expect a default 13.8V output is not present. I'm leaning towards an internal alternator failure right now.
 

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I understood the charge indicator to be the red dash light, not the display. However, upon reading more carefully it also mentions a warning message on the DIC display.

My understanding was that if the alternator fails it fails to a voltage of 13.8 volts. Which we're not seeing on the display with the car running.

I still believe the GM batteries for early 2011's and 2012's were either undersized for weight fuel economy or questionable problems. The 2013's have a slightly different larger CCA battery. I'd start there.

I'll be interested in how you hold the engine for alternator removal if you do it. Holding under the pan with a jack still scares me. With 42,000 miles hopefully I still have some time, but it seems every serviceable component requires removal of the engine mount.

There's a really nice NORCO engine support bar, and a few on amazon that are cheaper.

http://www.tooldiscounter.com/ItemD...&kw=NOR78099&gclid=CP_R-vfR-8YCFcESHwodgmQI0g

This puts the force on the strut mounts and not the top fender supports. I'm sure there's cheaper ways, all depends on how long you plan on keeping the Cruze, and how many times you may have to remove that engine mount!
I guess this will become a necessary service component. With all the oil pans leaking due to sealant used for the gasket, yea I'm scared of support there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Funny, the GM tech who replaced my water pump supported the engine from below... he had a contraption with two steel plates joined with an acme screw or something similar. I wonder if he managed to screw up my oil pan while he was in there.

Come to think of it, I wonder if there's anything he could have done to mess with the alternator? Obviously I'm stretching here, but the car was absolutely fine before going in and alternator problems are not common. I wonder if he removed the alternator to service the water pump, or perhaps dumped coolant all over the alternator when removing the rear heater hose from the pump.

Oh man, now my gears are turning. The pump was replaced just a couple weeks ago.
 

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Amazing-

The Factory Service Manual clearly states that the engine is to be supported via the front left engine hook with a engine hoist. As facing the engine.

I wonder if all the electrical connectors are attached to the alternator?

I've heard water is ok for alternators, but coolant? Most of the alternators that are mounted low have splash protection around them, so I don't "buy" the argument that alternators can get wet.

Lifting engine from below at a GM dealership? If there's anyone out there that lives at dealerships that can confirm that there's a lifting location other than the oil pan, please chime in and correct me.

As we're seeing more leaking at oil pans due to sealant issues, I wouldn't be surprised that force against the pan would cause leaks in this sealant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I went out at lunch to check it out. All fuses on the top battery panel are good, connections seem tight, battery ground is solid. I can't get to the fusibles with a white shirt on, but I'll check those out later.

carbon02 said:
I wonder if all the electrical connectors are attached to the alternator?
I was thinking the same thing. I'll lift the car and check all that out tonight. Man, if he did have it out to replace the water pump and didn't remember to tighten the main charge cable or something, causing the alternator to over work and cook itself, that dealership will have an alternator to replace free of charge.

I can't see why the alternator would need to come out to replace the water pump, it seems far enough back and out of the way. You never know though... step one in the service manual is often to do a bunch of safety prep steps prior to commencing any work.

I'll check the alternator mounting bolts for signs of recent use.
 

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Connections sound possible, if there is a fuse link wire the mechanic may have stretched the wire and damaged it, I had a intermittent that drove me nuts for at least 2 months on a sunfire that was worked on by the dealer, turns out the mechanic got lazy and did not unplug connectors to replace the valve cover gasket, he stretched the wires and broke a sensor wire which caused all the trouble, I mean the car would go into limp mode and acted like it was on its last limb, all caused by the mechanic stretching the wiring out-and the wire insulation was not even broke-just the wire inside--to test pull wires and see if they give inside, kinda suttle but you can see the insulation stretch at the break, if your problem just started after they worked on it I would highly suspect what I said or it's possible he spilled water into the alternator pulling the water pump
 

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Blue Angel, I've noticed that a lot of the warning messages we get in the US are not displayed in Canada. This may be why you're not getting the DIC text warning.
 

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Boost it and it's fine once running, even with the battery disconnected (haven't tried that with a newer car yet, might not work).
Running a car without a battery sounds like a good way to fry all the electronics. Not a good idea. (Yes, I've done that with my '67 - but "on board electronics" in that car was the AM radio. I wouldn't chance it on a Cruze.)

I'd check belt tension. If the belt is slipping (even if the alt is still spinning), the amps won't be there to keep the voltage up.

Something else to consider: Do you have anything wired to the battery? Is it running though the current sensor (if you car has one)? Added wiring could cause the car's charge controller to get confused about how much power is going into the battery.

I'm not sure why you'd have to support the engine to change the alternator - unless you were also changing the belt.
 

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The AllData procedure for the water pump does not mention removal of the alternator. However there's a lot of bolts on that pump, and there's only two holding the alternator, so maybe it was pulled by a mechanic looking for more space?

ChevyGuy-

Maybe if you could get on the tensioner to loosen the belt off the alternator pulley the alternator may come out without removal of the top engine mount.

There have been a few you-tube video's of people removing the old belt without pulling the engine mount, but he was not successful in reinstalling the factory belt.

Alternator maybe you could do by just loosening the belt. Water pump is another story.
 

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Water pump is another story.
I haven't looked at it, but how so? I know why you have to pull the mount to change the belt, and the manual probably calls for "remove belt" as SOP for anything to do with it, but I'd think you could slip the belt off and move it out of the way for most changes.
 

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I don't believe there's enough clearance around the engine support bracket connecting to the timing chain cover directly on top of the water pump.

There's only one person here on the forum that has done his own water pump, because he rebuilt a salvaged title car, and both times he had to remove the engine bracket/belt assembly.

I haven't done it, so there maybe an alternative way, but I think dealerships that are supporting the engine when doing water pump changes, could be damaging oil pan seals. I would definitely support it from above using the engine support hook points.

Could it be done, maybe it would be a good challenge working the pulley and the pump away from the engine support. I'm a Cruze nerd, and have collected several engine pictures..


Engine End View_57.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Running a car without a battery sounds like a good way to fry all the electronics. Not a good idea. (Yes, I've done that with my '67 - but "on board electronics" in that car was the AM radio. I wouldn't chance it on a Cruze.)
I should have added "may fry electronics" to my "may not work" comment, agreed. :)

Do you have anything wired to the battery? Is it running though the current sensor (if you car has one)? Added wiring could cause the car's charge controller to get confused about how much power is going into the battery.
The electrical system in this car is 100% stock, I bought it new and haven't changed anything. I added the GM foglight kit, but that's all. 100% agreed on bypassing the battery's current sensor, I've been preaching that ever since people started doing the "big 3" mod and adding a second ground cable in parallel with the stock battery ground, and leaving it outside the sensor. If I was to do such a thing I would add a single larger cable that replaces the stock one, and be sure to pass it through the sensor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Blue Angel, I've noticed that a lot of the warning messages we get in the US are not displayed in Canada. This may be why you're not getting the DIC text warning.
Interesting... I wonder if the manual says anything about that on exported vehicles. I have the service manual set at home, I'll check into it tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
There's only one person here on the forum that has done his own water pump...
Based on all the speculation I have surrounding this service visit, I wish I was the SECOND one to do his own water pump! It's covered under warranty, but I was SOOOO close to pulling the trigger on buying a new pump and just putting it in myself. If the car didn't need to go in for two recalls anyway I probably would have just done it myself.

For what it's worth, the two recalls performed were the airbag coil wiring and the engine shield cut/power steering wire clutch fluid insulation. I removed the shield before taking it in so they couldn't cut it.
 
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