Brake Light & Battery Light on

6.9.10- 1999 Forester after being driven 10 mi the brake light & battery light came on - the car was then difficult to steer - thinking alternator &/or power steering gone -the car was not driven for 9 days -live in Atlanta, GA & worry about cost- cannot buy a new car

Did your alternator/PS belt break? Is it still there and functioning? You don’t have electric power steering do you?

Will your car idle? Look at the belts and pulleys, make sure they’re all turning normally.

The simultaneous appearance of both the battery light and the brake system warning light is usually a strong indicator that your alternator is failing. However, in this case, since it was coupled with the loss of your power steering, I would be willing to bet at least a small amount of money that your serpentine belt has snapped.

If the serpentine belt has snapped, then the next step will be an overheated engine and a dead battery. Have the vehicle flat-bedded (it cannot be towed safely, due to the AWD mechanism) to your mechanic because an overheated aluminum engine like yours will sustain serious and expensive damage. If you are lucky, it will only need a new belt. If you are not lucky, you will need a new alternator and possibly a new battery.

okay - i feel like an idiot - opened the hood and the alternator belt is broken - so hopefully that is all I need-

of course I do not know the difference between an alternator belt and serpentine, but there is a broken belt that is more of a wrapped wire type than a solid 3/4 inch rubber belt and that is the one that is broken -

A “wrapped wire type” belt?

Are you referring to a belt whose underside has longitudinal ridges? Those ridges might appear to be wires, even if they are not.

Does this engine have more than one drive belt? If it has only one, that would be the serpentine belt. However, there could be more than one belt on this engine.

In any event, the same belt that drives the alternator likely also drives the PS pump. In addition, it may also drive the water pump. Unless you are absolutely sure that this belt does not drive the water pump, the engine should not be started.

Even if the water pump is not driven by the serpentine belt, you still should not drive the car. The battery has likely been drained quite a bit as a result of the broken belt, and if you start the engine this might wind up killing an already-drained battery.

Your water pump is probably driven by your timing belt, which is not broken, so you shouldn’t have to worry that you overheated your engine. Your temp gauge didn’t shoot up to hot, did it?

A serpentine belt runs around multiple pulleys, running more than just 1 accessory. This is why both your power steering pump and your alternator stopped working. Buy a replacement belt for the one that broke. If you’re lucky you can have a friend or relative replace it for the cost of the part, maybe $10 - $20.