I drive a 2002 Honda Civic and today on my way to work the battery light came on. I drove my car to auto zone and they told me my battery is no good anymore. However, I was planning on driving home tomorrow from school (it's a 4 hour drive) and he told me that I might make it I might not. I called a friend and he told me that as long as the car turns on and I don't make stops I will definitely make it all the way to Chicago.

Should I still drive my car? I need to make it home for Thanksgiving and there are no train tickets left.

  • 1
    The battery light coming on can mean a problem with the alternator (which charges the battery). If the alternator is going out, you would get stranded on that long of a drive. Even a good battery can't keep a car running for long if the alternator is having issues. Basically, I would be sure its not the alternator. If you could have another parts store check, ask them what the charging voltage is while the car is running. It should be close to 14 volts.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 19, 2015 at 19:58
  • Welcome to the site. Is the battery light always on regardless of engine speed?
    – Zaid
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:13
  • Hi thank you both! No it would kind of come on and come off. It's a small town and I didn't drive it too much since auto zone is only a few blocks away.
    – Jessica
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:17
  • How old is the battery? If it's more than a few years old, it's entirely possible that the battery isn't holding a charge properly. Have you had trouble starting the car? Do the lights dim when you're using at a stop sign / stop light?
    – Bob Cross
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:36
  • The battery isn't even a year old yet. No, my car has been perfectly fine lately and today it started up like normal but when I put it in drive the light came on. The lights do not dim either.
    – Jessica
    Nov 19, 2015 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


It's hard to say if you can make the trip without narrowing down the reason for the battery light.

The battery light turning on is usually an indication that the battery is not getting charged properly.

Some common reasons for this include:

  • Alternator not properly charging.

    The voltage regulator on the alternator might malfunction and cause issues related to undercharging or overcharging.

    If undercharging or not charging at all, your car will not run for long because a lot of systems need electricity to keep the car running.

    If overcharging, this may let you run your 4-hour journey but it won't make your battery happy.

  • Battery gone bad.

    It should be easy to test the battery or have it tested and replace if need be from your local AutoZone-esque shop.

    If all else is well, replacing the bad battery should restore normal service.

  • Corrosion of the battery terminals.

    Inspect the battery terminals for signs of excessive corrosion that may be robbing the battery of benefitting from the charging alternator. A multimeter will be handy to confirm if there is big voltage drop across the terminals¹.

    IF this is the case, you may or may not be able to make the journey depending on how severely corroded the terminals are.

  • A physical break or short in the battery-charging wire.

    If this is the case your car will not charge the battery properly and the car will stop running after some time.

So really, whether you can make it or not depends on what kind of failure caused the light to turn on.

All in all, I wouldn't chance it for a 4-hour journey; have the problem addressed beforehand.

¹ - take due precautions when testing batteries as they can pose serious electrical and chemical hazards.

  • Well when I took it to auto zone all he said was that my battery wasn't good anymore and that I would need a new. He didn't say anything about an alternator, maybe because he knew I would have no idea that meant which I didn't up until 2 minutes ago, so does that just mean that it is definitely the second option?
    – Jessica
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:20
  • 1
    @Jessica If the light turns on when the engine is at idle and goes away at high engine speeds, this indicates the alternator is probably undercharging. If vice versa (off at idle, on at high RPM), the alternator is likely overcharging. Both scenarios are typically caused by a bad voltage regulator; so your Civic might just need a new voltage regulator. My hunch is that replacing the battery won't make the battery light go away.
    – Zaid
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:22
  • Also, terminal corrosion might cause undercharging
    – Zaid
    Nov 19, 2015 at 20:28
  • 3
    Beware the case of a battery with a dead cell, but a normally charging alternator... The remaining cells will pick up the slack, which results in localized overcharging, which means overheating, and potentially a fire. I had a battery fail that way (no indicator lamp) on a half hour drive home. I recognized the stench of a battery cooking off (in my IT work I've smelled it a number of times when UPS units failed). Luckily I was just about home. The battery was so incredibly hot I needed gloves to pull it out of the car. Nov 19, 2015 at 21:10
  • Did they at least take a look at the car, or they just straight told you to buy a new battery? Nov 20, 2015 at 9:33

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