Battery Not Charging Briefly

Ok, I headed out to a job site in the morning. The temperature was about
26 degrees. It has been a cold winter and this was a warmer day.

The van started normal. After about a half mile I noticed the dash mounted
voltage meter (I installed, not factory) was showing about 11.3vdc. I then noticed
that the “Battery Charge indicator” on the dash was turned ON.

Van still running OK. After another mile the voltage was dropping a tenth or so.
While pondering what may be going on the Engine Temp Indicator had reached
the point at which I turn the heat on. That is when the battery voltage really started
dropping, as it would or should. Very shortly it hit 10.1vdc and that is about the
time I could find a place to pull over. My thinking was that I threw the belt on the

I parked and got out and popped the hood. Engine still running. I looked at the
alternator pulley and it is spinning along with everything else. I scratched my head
and decided to head to my local shop to see what they could determine for what price.
I closed the hood, got back into the van and the battery indicator was off and the
voltage was up to the normal 14.2vdc.

That was three weeks ago and nothing has happened since. Ran the van almost
every day since and all is good.

Besides the fact that Murphy is playing games with me, does anyone have a clue
as to what “might” have been going on that would have caused the sequence of
events as described above??

I can put together a short list of things but all would be as if it never came back
and I had to replace something. But, that was not the case.

Anyone have any thoughts that would make sense and be plausible??

Thanks in advance.


The first thing I’d do is check the voltage meter and connections. If it does this again, have a voltmeter on hand. Check the voltage at the battery and compare it to the voltmeter reading. If it registers 14V or so at the battery and lower at the voltmeter, look more seriously at the meter.


Thanks for the quick response.

I have already checked the in dash meter against my Fluke Meter and it is within .1vdc difference. However, you may have missed the part in my text that says the “Battery Charge Indicator” on the dash console came ON as well. So I had two indicators that the battery voltage was low. One, my meter and the other an “idiot light” on the dash.

Oh, and maybe I should have also pointed out that this is 2003 E-150 with 186k miles.
Not that it would make much difference but just adds more detail.

Thanks again.


Just a thought, loose connection or bad ground. Opening/shutting hood may have been just enough to restore the connection.

Yes, maybe.
But, one would think it would have repeated. And it has NOT.
When the weather gets warmer i will be doing some additional investigation
which will include checking the connections.

That is, unless it happens again and does not self-correct which will make it
easier to diagnose not to mention leave me stranded somewhere in the cold.



Outside of connections, I guess I would wonder if your alternator was having a hick-up. Could the brushes be worn at that mileage enough to make intermittent contact, or the voltage regulator tired?

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Your E-150 may have a separate voltage regulator. Our son had an1989 Mercury Sable and had the same problem you are having. I also had the same problem with an E-150 van from our institution’s fleet. There were a group of us who taught off campus classes 60 miles off campus that ran from 6:30 pm until 10 pm. I was always wound up after class while the rest of the group was tired, so I always had to drive back. We were about 1/3 of the way back when the battery voltage gauge dropped, the headlights dimmed and the wipers slowed down (it was drizzling) and we were 15 miles from the nearest town. I cut back to parking lights when I could, used the wipers sparingly, turned off the blower and hoped for the best. Everyone else was asleep. I figured if I made it to the next town maybe I could get quick charge on the battery. About 1 mile out of town, the lights suddenly brightened and the voltmeter swung up. I drove the rest of the way with no problems, but I did turn in a trouble report. The next week, the same problem occured at the same place. Fortunately, it was a clear night. Again, as I came to the town where I could get help (it was near an interstate), the charging system started working again. I turned in another trouble report and followed up with a phone call to a mechanic in the motor pool. A couple days later another group was out with the same van and it quit altogether and left the group stranded. The mechanic I had called told me it was the voltage regulator, but it was intermittent and didn’t show up in the shop.

Now that does make a little sense. Hadn’t thought of a voltage regulator causing an intermittent problem. Kinda thought that it either did or it didn’t… forever.

Well should it happen again I am going to place the voltage regulator at the top of the list.

BTW why is it that a voltage regulator cost $50 - $100 or more?? Seems a lot for a small part. Or…am I just missing all of the personal hands on quality machining and assembly that it takes to make just one??



This is a modern charging system

The voltage regulator is NOT separate and on the firewall. It’s bolted onto the alternator.

In my opinion, the alternator is giving you signs that it’s on the way out.

Make sure the idler, tensioner and belt are in reasonable shape. If in doubt, replace them all, along with that alternator.

Well that makes it a little more scary. For a one time, I will wait and see.
I do have AAA to get me out of a breakdown. It comes in handy.

Should I get another hick-up I will then look at the nasty alternatives.



I agree. Unless you can spot a problem in the harness or ground wiring for the alternator/battery, best bet is to replace the alternator. Likely either a bad connection/broken solder in the voltage regulator circuit board or a brush is sticking, brush spring is broken, etc.