Check gauges light?! - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 19 Old 09-10-2020, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
LEO_WRANGLER
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Check gauges light?!

Hi Folks,

Vehicle is a 98 Cherokee, 6cyl 4Ltr, Automatic.

I come to a stoplight and while idling there, the Voltage Meter on the instrument panel slowly drops to Zero. Then the CHECK GAUGES (not the Check Engine) light comes on.

The traffic light turns green, I rev it up to go, and the Voltage Meter comes back up to normal, and the CHECK GAUGES light goes out.

All thru this, the engine keeps runnung, smooth and normal. I'm thinking the system voltage isn't REALLY going to Zero, else the engine would die.

I haven't started troubleshooting this problem yet. Any suggestions??

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post #2 of 19 Old 09-11-2020, 04:40 AM
CJ7-Tim
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Perform routine maintenance of the start and charge systems. Remove, clean, and firmly reconnect all the wires and cables to the battery, and alternator. Look for corroded or damaged cables or connectors and replace as needed. Copper wires should be copper color, not black or green. Battery terminals and battery wire connectors should bright silver, not dull gray to blackish and corroded. Do the same for the grounding wires from the starter to engine block, the ground wires at the coil, and the ground wires from the battery and engine to the Jeep's frame/body. You must remove, wire brush, and clean until shiny the cable/wire ends and whatever they bolt onto.
 
Jeeps do not tolerate low voltage, bad wire connections, or poor grounds.

Low voltage is typically a failing alternator. Have the battery, and the alternator Load Tested for proper function in a test machine that applies a simulated work load. Handheld testers are inaccurate and will often pass faulty parts.

.
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post #3 of 19 Old 09-11-2020, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
LEO_WRANGLER
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Hi CJTim,

Were you like an engineer or a technical writer in some previous life? Your explanations are so awesome, and always helpful.

Here's a quick update-- Went out just a while ago, after the Jeep had been sitting overnight. Grabbed my meter and measured the battery voltage directly: 11.83V. Not good, as it should of course he more like 12.5.

So it appears the battery is not getting charged, either because it can't accept a charge, or the charging system isn't delivering.

I'm short on time right now, but my gut feeling is not to trust this battery. It has been in use for some years, including the last 11 months that the Jeep has sat unused.

I've been out of commission myself for over a year, in and out of hospitals and recoveries. I've got another doc appointment this afternoon in fact, then after that I can get some time to look at the Jeep more.

I'll keep you posted.
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post #4 of 19 Old 09-11-2020, 02:25 PM
UKXJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ7-Tim View Post
Handheld testers are inaccurate and will often pass faulty parts.
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post #5 of 19 Old 09-11-2020, 05:31 PM Thread Starter
LEO_WRANGLER
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Hi CJTim,

Were you like an engineer or a technical writer in some previous life? Your explanations are so awesome, and always helpful.

Here's a quick update-- Went out just a while ago, after the Jeep had been sitting overnight. Grabbed my meter and measured the battery voltage directly: 11.83V. Not good, as it should of course he more like 12.5.

So it appears the battery is not getting charged, either because it can't accept a charge, or the charging system isn't delivering.

I'm short on time right now, but my gut feeling is not to trust this battery. It has been in use for some years, including the last 11 months that the Jeep has sat unused.

I've been out of commission myself for over a year, in and out of hospitals and recoveries. I've got another doc appointment this afternoon in fact, then after that I can get some time to look at the Jeep more.

I'll keep you posted.
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post #6 of 19 Old 09-13-2020, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Hey, I was able to get outside for a little while today and check some things in the Jeep. (I'm only good for a short time on my feet right now, but I can give you a quick update.)

The Jeep was down for about 11 months, due to a bad Crankshaft sensor. This past week I had recovered enough mobility to finally crawl under there and fix that.

So, she's running smooth and sounding good, and I was about to take her out for a quick test drive. I had just begun to back out of the driveway, when there was a loud PoooSHhh! sound from under the hood.

Took a look, and found the AC pipe that routes up next to the battery, had popped loose at the joint there. (I found the little locking bracket on the ground under the Jeep later.) So it had spewed green refrigerant all over that area by the battery-- and coincidentally enough, also onto (and probably into) the Alternator sitting directly below.

Well, so of course the AC doesn't work now, but the fix for that is pretty obvious .

But then later, the Jeep started having that low voltage reading along with the Check Gauges light, at idle. Do ya think maybe the refrigerant coulda got into the Alternator and made it sick??

I know you've advised getting the Alt and Batt load tested-- on my to-do list. Last night I disconnected the Batt and put it on the trickle charger. This morning the charger showed a green light (good) and the battery had 12.75V (no-load). Connected back to the system, it started up strong and fine, with no more Check Gauges light at idle.

I was fading and hurting again by this point, so I flat-out didn't get to read the Batt voltage with the engine running. I know that would tell us a lot. But let me rest, and tomorrow's another day, to continue.
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post #7 of 19 Old 09-13-2020, 03:31 PM
CJ7-Tim
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Not working because it is full of A/C oil is different than not working due to wear. I do not think that A/C refrigerant is good for it. The alternator is pretty tough, filling it with water doesn't seam to faze it, however I would wash it out with a can of electrical contact cleaner and see if that helps. The load testing can wait for a bit.

.
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic.”

- Benjamin Franklin
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post #8 of 19 Old 09-13-2020, 04:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again CJ7-Tim. As someone else posted recently, you're a class act.

One more quick question for now-- Is it easier to pull the Alt from below or above?
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post #9 of 19 Old 09-14-2020, 04:55 AM
CJ7-Tim
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I always remove the alternator from below, you have wiggle it around and turn it until it is just so, and it will come out. Removing the battery and battery tray is another way.

.
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic.”

- Benjamin Franklin
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post #10 of 19 Old 09-23-2020, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Update on my Check Gauges Light issue.

Voltage measured at the Batt with engine at idle and Check Gauges Light on: 11.65V

Rev the engine, and voltage at the Batt becomes 12.5V.

I was still able to drive the Jeep, for a couple of days.

I took this as pretty good evidence enough to indict the Alternator.

Then on this past Monday, the Alternator apparently failed completely. Now it was not delivering a charge at Any speed.

Running only on Battery, I was able to get home, and put the Jeep up on ramps, preparing to do an Alternator replacement.

More to come.
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post #11 of 19 Old 09-24-2020, 01:14 PM
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Sorry to interupt your flow, but did you ever give the alternator a good dousing with contact cleaner?

b-t-w, ignore the "check gauges light" (something I've never seen on anything other than XJ's) as it is simply triggered if volts (&, presumably, oil pressure) drop too low, or temp. goes too high: a kind of universal idiot light. It's the gauge it's prompting you to look at (in this case, the voltmeter) & what that might be indicating that's important.
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post #12 of 19 Old 09-26-2020, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Continuing Progress And Updates

UKXJ, no apologies needed, Bro. You're not interrupting the flow, you're adding to it. This is the beauty of why we post here-- to share info and enjoy the responses.

To answer your question, no I never doused the old alternator with contact cleaner. That might have helped, but for two factors: Alternators are often near their end of life somewhere between 150 and 200 thousand miles. And, this alternator wasn't helped by its baptism in R134.

I already had a replacement unit standing by, so I figured the most efficient course would be to just go ahead and swap in the new one.

When I pulled out the old unit, here's what I found.

From here you can see the windings on the original alternator are pretty well corroded. Combine that with I was smelling electrical overheating in this unit's last hours, and I'm not sure I'd want to trust this Alt any more.

So a new one is going in. I'll post more progress reports later.
Attached Thumbnails
Jeep Old Alternator Corrosion 1.jpg   Jeep Old Alternator Corrosion 2.jpg  
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post #13 of 19 Old 09-26-2020, 03:14 PM
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@Leo Wrangler:
Thanks for the update and the pix
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post #14 of 19 Old 09-27-2020, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
LEO_WRANGLER
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Meet the new alternator

I'm led to believe the 98 XJ stock alternator is rated at 90 amps (y/n?).

The new alternator going in is a BBB INDUSTRIES N13746 rated at 120 amps:

jeep-new-alternator.jpg

I figure if it works as good as it looks, it should be great .

The new Alt came with a pulley, just a bit bigger than the original. This makes it a little bit of underdrive, but shouldn't matter much (?). It's still within the tensioner's adjustment range.

jeep-alternator-pulley-difference.jpg

And finally a pic of the old Alt out, showing the root cause of all this grief, the busted AC line. One more thing to fix.

jeep-busted-ac-line.jpg

Stay tuned-- more coming.
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post #15 of 19 Old 09-27-2020, 01:41 PM
UKXJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LEO_WRANGLER View Post
I already had a replacement unit standing by, so I figured the most efficient course would be to just go ahead and swap in the new one.
Absolutely - but we didn't know that before.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LEO_WRANGLER View Post
Alternators are often near their end of life somewhere between 150 and 200 thousand miles.
Damn, my spare's done 170K!

b-t-w, with the 1/3rd increase in output of your new alternator, maybe you should consider a "big 3" upgrade.
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