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Dashboard lights doing the disco

Hello Cartalk community and hope everyone is well, Today while driving to work my 1997 Buick Lesabre limited dashboard lights did a “Disco” today. My car has the twilight centennial with the option to turn on the lights and parking lights manual. When driving the airbag light started to flash while driving then it shut off. When the lights came on again the abs light came on and then shut off. After that the Automatic A/C control the temp started to flash and after that everything shut off including the Tachometer and Odometer. After that everything came back on including the radio. The clock was reset as well and everything was normal. Any ideas of what could cause this? please and thank you

I can say with a fairly high degree of assurance that your alternator is failing, and may totally die the next time that you drive the car.

If you want to minimize your losses, I suggest getting it to a mechanic immediately, because otherwise you will wind up needing a tow and will very likely also need a new battery.

Thank you for responding VDCDriver, I was planning on bringing it to the mechanics after i get off from work. Would it be safe to drive it back or have it towed right away?

Nobody can say, unfortunately.
If it is a very short drive, you might be able to make it without a problem, or it might crap-out 2 blocks from when you begin your drive.

I can tell you that, when this situation took place with one of my cars years ago, I only managed to drive ~10 miles before the engine died and I needed to be towed.

If you don’t want to be inconvenienced, I would suggest having it towed, rather than risk getting stranded somewhere.

Good idea by VDC. It’s usually possible to quick-check the alternator by measuring the voltage with a shop volt meter at the battery with the engine running. If it measures 13.5 volts or above (engine running), the alternator isn’t likely to be the source of this problem. Could still be, but not the most likely cause. Anything less than 12 volts, your car’s engine will soon stop working. If it turns out not to be the alternator, next guess I’d make is a problematic dashboard power connector. You could try wiggling /tapping the under-dash connectors that you can see, see if there’s any change. Broken fuses cans cause this kind of symptom too. Unlikely tho. It’s not unheard of for the entire dashboard to need to be replaced to fix this symptom, but hopefully your problem doesn’t require that. Best of luck.

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The alternator could be generating excessive AC ripple voltage due to bad diodes inside it. Have it checked along with the battery. If the battery is fairly old you should consider replacing it also if the alternator is replaced. They work together and a bad battery can kill a good alternator. The fact that you stated the clock memory was interrupted makes me think there may be a connection problem possibly to the battery. Another thing you should do is make sure the battery connections are very clean and sealed.

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