What ‘Check Charge System’ Means in a Ford Explorer

If your Ford Explorer’s “Check Charging System” light turns on, it means you could have a problem with your battery, alternator, or accumulator.
Written by Zachary Morgan
Reviewed by Jessa Claeys
If you notice the “Check Charging System” light has turned on in your Ford Explorer, you should try to see a mechanic as quickly as possible. Your charging system could be on the verge of a breakdown—one that could quickly depower your vehicle and leave you stranded.
Cars require more than the power generated by gasoline combustion in the engine. They also need the electrical energy generated by your charging system. Under normal circumstances, your alternator will charge your car’s battery as you drive it, meaning that you will usually have a steady supply of electrical power. If any of the charging system’s components break down, however, you could be left on the side of the road when the battery’s juice runs out.
To keep this from happening, let’s walk through tips and tricks you can use to figure out the specific problem with your charge system and resolve it as quickly as possible!
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Ford Explorer check charge system: what does it mean?

When your Ford Explorer’s “Check Charging System” (CCS) light turns on, it means that part of your electrical charging system is on the fritz—the battery, alternator, the electronic control unit (ECU), or the wires that connect them all.
While your first instinct might be that you have a bad battery, that’s not always the case when the CCS light comes on. The solution could be as simple as cleaning a terminal or as complicated as replacing the alternator. 
No matter what the exact issue is, though, the end result is the same: When the CCS light turns on, you’re more than likely driving with the limited power reserve stored in the battery and could completely lose power anytime until the problem is resolved.

Common causes of charging system problems

So, why is your “Check Charging System” light turned on, then? There could be any number of reasons, but here are some of the most common for the Ford Explorer.

Bad alternator

Often, issues that seem to stem from a bad battery can be traced back to the
alternator
. The alternator’s job is to keep the battery fully charged and power your vehicle’s electrical components by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy while you drive
Because of its important role in powering your car’s electrical systems, a bad alternator can quickly lead to a drop in battery voltage or even a complete loss of battery power.
Signs of a bad alternator include weak, dimmed lights on the dashboard and in the cabin, as well as wonky functioning from accessories like the radio. Another strong clue is when you
jumpstart your car
, it runs temporarily, then it dies again.
If you’re the proud owner of a multimeter or a voltmeter, you can
test the alternator
and the voltage regulator by disconnecting the battery terminals.

Battery problems

If you can’t find any problems with your alternator, the culprit could be a defective battery—especially if your battery is more than three to five years old.
Don’t head to the auto parts store just yet, though. First, pop your hood and inspect the battery terminals and cables. The battery light on your dashboard could be activated by something as simple as corrosion or a loose connection, so check for those easy fixes before replacing the battery in your
Ford
completely.

Drive belt issues

Dead battery or defective alternator aside, your “Check Charging System” light could be the result of an issue with the
serpentine belt
, which provides power to the alternator. Much like engine belts, your serpentine belt is prone to a significant amount of wear and tear. A loose, worn, or improperly-tensioned belt can interrupt your alternator from properly charging the battery.

Wires, fuses, and connections

Whenever you’re dealing with a breakdown of your car’s electrical systems, take a look at the fuse box and wiring connections to make sure it’s not a simple matter of crossed or disconnected wires. Wiring issues can lead to other seemingly random problems with various parts of your car—like the alarm system, cabin lights, or brake lights.

Faulty ECU

Lastly, the CCS light on your Ford Explorer could be the result of an issue with the onboard computer system—especially if you’re driving a newer model. It’s much rarer than other causes, but a defective electronic control unit can activate the “Check Charging System” light, as well as the check engine light.

How to reset the check charging system on a Ford Explorer

As you may have guessed by now, there isn’t exactly an easy fix for the CCS light. Given that it indicates a possible issue with your Explorer’s charging system, you’ll want to schedule a visit with a mechanic right away. Ideally, a professional will be able to diagnose and fix the problem before it causes any further damage. Once that’s done, the light on your dashboard should switch off.
Make sure to bring your Explorer to a Ford dealership or a mechanic you know and trust. Going to a mechanic is much cheaper than visiting a dealership, but keep in mind that dealers benefit from specialized Ford knowledge. 
Other ways you can potentially save a little money on repairs is by getting them to use aftermarket parts or asking if the problem is covered by your warranty.
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Can I drive with a charging system warning light?

Yes, you can drive around for a short period of time with the CCS light on—but not for long. Remember that virtually any issue with the charging system can cause your vehicle to suddenly and completely lose power, leaving you stuck by the side of the road or worse. 
Whenever you see the “Check Charging System” light turn on, try to schedule a mechanic visit as quickly as possible. If you have to drive before your appointment, make sure you have a portable battery charger and jumper cables with you.
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