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Old 12-31-2019, 11:44 AM   #1
97SL2guy
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Default Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Well, after just over 2 years, my 1997 SL2 finally died. Well, it didn't "die", it just stopped starting, and after almost a month and a couple hundred bucks later replacing and checking every possible thing, I gave up and sold the car!

Now, I purchased a 2006 Ion with 186,000 miles on it. The car is in excellent condition inside and out, and runs like a new car! It's the first Saturn I've owned that didn't have an excessive amount of engine vibration at idle. Apparently, after years of complaints about the S series engine vibration, Saturn fixed the problem with a crankshaft counterbalance.

ANYWAY, now to my issue: I saved my brand new 600 CCA battery from my SL2 and put it in the "new" Ion, figuring it would be better than the O'Reilly battery that came in the car. Well, to my dismay, I noticed right away that the battery light comes on every time I start the car and STAYS ON. I tried another new battery, but no change. The light still comes on.

I replaced the alternator with a $200 one from O'Reilly but the light still comes on and stays on! So, I went to a reputable auto repair shop and they hooked some fancy charging system checker up to the car. It showed that the battery was fine, and the alternator was charging perfectly, even under load. In fact, when I turned on the high beams and heater fan, the draw only went from 14.40v to 14.43v, nothing to worry about.

SO, I've read a gazillion posts here in the forum about that dreaded battery light coming on, but still can't figure out why mine does. Again, it has a brand new rebuilt alternator, 105 amps as it should be, and 2 brand new batteries didn't help. I even checked the ground in the trunk and it was fine.

When I hook up a voltmeter, the car is charging at right around 14.5 volts with nothing on, at idle. Then when I drive, and the DRL's are on, it only goes down to around 13.9 volts. If I shut off the car and let it sit, it very slowly goes down to maybe 12.9 volts after an hour or two. NOTHING that seems out of the ordinary!

Am I missing something here? Seriously, I'm 61 years old and have worked on cars most of my life and have never seen THIS issue on any other car. Sure, I've seen battery/alternator lights come on, but it was always something easy to figure out and fix. Not this car!

Is this by any chance a normal problem with the Saturn Ion? I can't help but ask myself this question since there are so many google hits from other people with Saturns that experience the same issue. Besides checking all the grounds, replacing the alternator and battery, WHAT ELSE COULD/SHOULD BE CHECKED? A couple thousand dollar automotive charging system testing tool shows my alternator is perfect and my battery is too, so there is really nothing more I can think to check!

I'm getting ready to just put electrical tape over that annoying red battery light, but before I do, I'd like to find out if anyone else had (or still has) the same problem with their battery light coming on after about 20-30 seconds then staying on all day, even though everything has been checked and/replaced, and find out what they discovered the problem was and how they fixed it. About the only thing I haven't checked was the connection plug to the alternator. I guess that's next. I didn't look to see if it was corroded or dirty. All I know for sure is if your alternator is working perfectly and the battery is fully charged, SOMETHING isn't right if the stupid battery light comes on and stays on! There is no change in the way the car runs or drives, and the light stays on no matter if I drive the car hard or like a little old lady.

Thanks for any advice. I hate to post a question that has been asked here in the forum a million times, but this seems to be a haunting issue for many Saturn owners besides myself.

OLD ALTERNATOR: battery light on
REBUILT ALTERNATOR: battery light on
OLD BATTERY: battery light on
NEW BATTERY: battery light on
CHECK ALL GROUNDS: battery light on
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Old 12-31-2019, 12:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Some background info may help. Here's a link to one thread, post #23 with a wiring diagram for Ion charging systems. Although it's for Vue 2.2l engines, I'm presuming all GM 2.2l engines use the same charging system; http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...=238504&page=2. The battery indicator is driven by the ecm.
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Old 12-31-2019, 01:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Background info? I thought I was clear as possible. It's a 2006 Saturn Ion with 2.2 Ecotec that has 186,000 miles on it with an automatic. Just got it less than 2 weeks ago and it needed a radiator. Just got the radiator in on Saturday and started it up. Runs like a brand new car! Rides smooth! But I don't know much about the background on the car besides the guy I bought it from works in construction. He obviously didn't take care of the car because it was out of oil (none on the dipstick!) and the interior was filthy as was the engine compartment (dusty, not oil). The battery light came on within less than a minute after I first started it the day I replaced the bad radiator. Got an Ultima 105amp alternator from O'Reilly for over $200, plus a new 600 CCA 5-year battery, but the light still comes on and stays on. Had the charging system checked as well as the battery, and both are showing exactly as they should. In fact, I thought maybe the battery was weak so I had it load tested out of the car and it tested the same under load as another brand new battery. The charging system showed 14.40 volts with nothing on.

Thanks for the link! I'll check it out! Just ordered a Haynes manual off eBay that will be here today. I love the Haynes books because they tell a lot of things to check, and how to check them, plus they usually have decent wiring diagrams in back.

I'll update this post as soon as I get this stupid light to stop coming on. Frustrating yes, but at least I know the alternator is working properly and the battery is good. Can't be too many other things to check.

Mainly I was wondering if this was a common issue with Ions, like a complaint that Ion buyers had at the dealers. I do know that Saturn upgraded several things people complained about from the S-series when they designed the Ion, but I didn't see any mention of the charging system.

Thanks again!
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Old 12-31-2019, 02:04 PM   #4
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Background info for your Ion charging system.......

If you wade thru Ion forums, you won't find this problem of the battery light always on.
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Old 12-31-2019, 02:26 PM   #5
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Thumbs Up Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Thanks. I was finding a ton of people posting about the same problem, but most said their lights eventually went off. I figured maybe it was some sort of tech glitch with Ions. I haven't owned it long enough to know much about them.

I went to that thread you linked me to and copied every single post from start to finish into a Word document for further reading! After a little editing, I managed to squeeze it all "down" to 23 pages in a Word document! LOL!

I'm going to read every word and see if that magical answer pops out at me and causes me to find something I was overlooking. THIS is part of the reason I stopped turning wrenches years ago! I worked on mostly 60's and 70's cars, then slowly weened my way out of shops when these stupid computers started showing up! To every computer is connected a billion different sensors and switches and stuff we really could live without! Hey, our cars ran just fine before they started putting emissions crap and computers in them.

I can do carb rebuilds in my sleep, and brake jobs blindfolded, and install car stereos and alarms with one hand... but pretty much anything related to control modules or computers in cars I get lost! Sure, I have a code reader, but all those do is tell you what expensive part you need to replace IF you can even find it on the car! LOL!

Welp, I got a lot of reading ahead, so let me get crackin' there! Thanks again! I have much hope I'll find my answer in that thread!
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Old 12-31-2019, 03:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Okay, I read through that entire thread about the guy's granddaughter's car not starting. I saw the F and L terminals mentioned a lot. But what I didn't figure out was why MY battery light STAYS on. His went off, as most other posts here. So, today I'm going to do a bunch of checking of grounds and wires and fuses. Not much else I can figure out. Besides the battery light coming on, the only codes I'm getting on my code reader are 0411 and 0466, both having to do with fuel and vapor stuff, not charging system.

What baffles me so much is how the alternator and charging system checked out perfect on every test and even that expensive test computer at the parts store.

So, before I get out the electrical tape to cover that annoying light, all I can really do is check wires and grounds and check my battery connections and terminals in the trunk.

After spending almost a month trying to get my SL2 started again without success and being forced to sell it to finance this new car, the last thing I want to do (or can even afford to do) is sink more money into another car that runs so perfectly. I'm scared to even THINK how much a new ECM costs!

Let me go outside in the pouring rain and check stuff.
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Old 12-31-2019, 03:42 PM   #7
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

You can probably reduce those pages to a few with service manual reprints. The only stuff left out of service manuals are interpolating real world symptoms to determine why something is wrong with how things normally work. Relating background info from service manuals provides a technical perspective but doesn't explain when thing go wrong. This leaves room for diyers, dealer services, repair shops and independents to figure it out. The experts paid to figure it out are out there as well as diyers not paid and contributing their knowledge in specific areas.

My guess is the ecm or wiring isn't turning off the battery light. One clue is the battery light is always ON when ignition is turned on then turns off as soon as the engine runs when the alternator outputs power. At the least, the battery light remaining on indicates the circuit appears to be operating but the signal to turn off the light is missing. Two signals come to mind for this indicator, 5v or ground. One is missing. The battery light is an led using less than 5v to turn it on.
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Old 12-31-2019, 08:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

My light comes on with key to run, then goes off once it starts. Like it should. But once it starts and is running the battery light comes on after about 15-20 seconds. Just checked all grounds and wire, all fine.

What was that I read about a fuse? Would one bad fuse cause the battery light to come on after about 15 seconds after it starts? I wouldn't think so, but I guess I can check them. Nothing else is working.
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Old 01-02-2020, 12:38 AM   #9
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

No fuse in the charging circuit. Examine the wiring diagram. The F terminal on the alternator receives a turn on signal from the ecm when the engine's running to turn on the voltage regulator. It's the one with the red arrows pointing to the circuit. You should see either 5v or 12v on the F terminal. Measure this as soon as the engine's started with battery light off. What you're doing is measuring for a turn on voltage signal. Make a note of this; leaving the dvm probes connected to the F terminal and ground, monitor this voltage when the battery light turns on - a loss of signal here may be a ecm problem but no loss of signal would mean the L terminal may be outputting a signal to the ecm to turn on the battery light or an intermittent connection is creating a false signal.

Review the service manual descriptions about Ion charging systems.
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Old 01-03-2020, 10:35 AM   #10
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Thanks! I'll try this!

So, if there is NO turn-on voltage, then we could presume the ECM is faulty and needs to be replaced? I don't even WANT to know how much one of THOSE costs new! LOL! I'll find one at the wrecking yard with all the exact same numbers on it. Scared to buy one off eBay unless it was brand new.

Ironically someone mentioned in another thread about power mirrors not working that there is no fuse (which I already discovered) and a new switch didn't work, so they said the mirrors are powered off the ECM or BCM (forgot which one, probably Body Control Module). Weird... sounds like BOTH modules are bad! The only thing worse than a bad BCM and ECM going bad at the same time would be if the PCM died too. Geez, too many ******* modules! THIS is why I stopped working on cars at shops years ago... they got way too complicated. Give me a 70 Torino with any engine and I'll work on it all day without a cuss word, but put ANY computerized 90's or 00's car in front of me and I'll start cussing before I even open the hood!
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Old 01-03-2020, 11:05 AM   #11
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

For inexplicable reasons, you're the second Ion with charging issues. A current thread similar to yours; http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=238504. No solution yet.
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Old 01-03-2020, 04:05 PM   #12
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Well THAT test took some ingenuity! Had to figure out a way to probe the F wire and still read the meter AND start the car, since nobody is around to help me! LOL! But I managed. I stripped the wire a bit, then attached an alligator clip to a long wire with another alligator clip at the cabin end. Perfect! I was then able to hold the ground lead of my DVM to a good ground and start the car! Here is what I found:
Key on at Run: 0 volts
Engine started: 1.32 volts
After 20 seconds when battery light came on: 1.32 volts
Conclusion: No voltage drop after light comes on, BUT 1.32 volts with engine running! Far LESS than 12 volts, AND less than 5 volts!

Your take on this? Thanks again!
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Old 01-03-2020, 05:01 PM   #13
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

I believe I saw it mentioned somewhere to unplug the PCM and check for dirt and corrosion. My question is, does the battery need to be disconnected first? I ask because it's such a pain to get to since my trunk is full.
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Old 01-03-2020, 05:25 PM   #14
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

I know, that was a stupid question. So I'm going to disconnect the battery now.
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Old 01-03-2020, 06:14 PM   #15
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Okay, found no dirt or corrosion or any other issue inside PCM connectors. Blew everything out anyway with compressed air. Started car. Battery light came on after about 20 seconds as expected. I think I'm ready to give up until I can find a friend with a real automotive computer to hook up and hopefully diagnose my problem. Everything is charging fine and battery is new, so I'm pretty sure it's safe to drive. Car runs like a top and has no issues other than 2 EVAP codes, so I'm giving up until I figure out what to check next or replace. Just over 1 volt on F wire to alternator can NOT be good, but I can't afford a new alternator right now, and this one is already a replacement. I'm 98% sure the problem is NOT the alternator, but rather the signal to it.
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:17 PM   #16
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

In my haste () I wasn't paying attention to editing the wiring diagram in post#9. My error. Corrected editing below. The L terminal (or pin B on connector) should have 5v on it to turn on the alternator voltage regulator. The connector may have to be disconnected to see this 5v (the circuit may load the ecm signal stopping the regulator from operating). The result is having battery voltage higher (13v-15v) with engine running compared to standby voltage with engine off (12.5v). As long as engine running shows battery voltage around 13.5v+, the alternator is operating correctly. The problem seems to be the F terminal either outputting an incorrect signal voltage back to the ecm telling the ecm to turn on the battery light or the F terminal wire is grounded. My guess is either the 5v(?) signal or switched ground is being detected by the ecm, turning on the battery light.
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Old 01-04-2020, 12:49 PM   #17
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

So I can test the red B wire from the harness with it disconnected and the engine running? Or should I not start the car with the plug out of the alternator? My alternator is charging fine, so I'd hate to burn it up by running it with the 2-wire plug out. It got rainy yesterday so I never got a chance to check the output voltage of that red wire. I still think it's kind of odd that the grey wire is only showing 1.32 volts at idle.
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Old 01-04-2020, 01:14 PM   #18
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

The engine doesn't need to run to measure ecm voltage signal on the red B wire, disconnected from the alternator. The turn on signal comes from the ecm, having ignition on without the engine running powers up the ecm with the 5v output on the red B wire.
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Old 01-04-2020, 01:42 PM   #19
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

I'm pretty much giving up for a while. It's pouring rain here and I have to work on the car outside, so I won't be crawling under the car to check the fusible link at the starter end anytime soon. The light is very annoying, but as long as I know everything is working, I'm good.

It's really hard to do many tests on the alternator with DVM probes while the car is running because the airbox is in the way, and the car won't stay running with it removed.

Yesterday, the last test I did was to check the voltage at the stud coming out of the alternator, which showed 12+ volts.

Today, IF it stops raining for 5 minutes, I'll probe the red wire to the alternator plug for voltage.

I'm still baffled by such low voltage at the grey wire, but oh well.
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Old 01-04-2020, 03:24 PM   #20
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Default Re: Battery light comes on after about a minute, stays on!

Here's an overall perspective so you won't become lost in the forest.

*Standby/engine off battery voltage is supposed to be around 12.5v.

*Engine idling, battery/alternator voltage should be around 14.5v. The difference in voltage is the alternator outputting all the electricity a vehicle needs and recharge the battery. This means the fusible link wire is fine. If the f/l/w is damaged or broken, battery power won't allow the alternator to output resulting in the battery supplying power and voltages dropping from 12.5v.

Regardless whether the battery light is on or off, as long as you see 14.5v at all times, idling or driving, the alternator is fine. The battery light staying on is a separate issue with this peculiar problem so try not associating a serious problem here. This isn't a normal alternator issue. You and the other Ion member are having very unusual problems apart from virtually everyone having common issues with alternators everywhere.
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