What 'Check Charging System' Means in a Ford F-150

If you see the “Check Charging System” alert turn on in your Ford F-150, it’s signaling a problem with the battery or alternator. Have a mechanic check it out.
Written by Mary Cahill
Reviewed by Brenna Swanston
When the “Check Charging System” alert pops up on your Ford F-150’s dash screen it can be alarming. It can be dangerous to drive while having issues with your charging system, so you should see a mechanic immediately to fix the problem.    
The mighty Ford F-150 is known for its robust engine, but its charging system also has a robust role in delivering power to your pickup. The “Check Charging System” dash light is a warning that something is likely amiss with the battery or alternator, which could cause your truck to lose power suddenly while you’re driving. 
Stay safe on the road by learning more about the causes of an illuminated “Check Charging System” alert in your F-150. You can also get some helpful maintenance info in our
car repair
guide. 

Ford F-150 check charging system: what does it mean?

If you get a “Check Charging System” dash alert, this is your F-150’s way of saying that the battery is not charging as you drive. 
Your Ford’s alternator is what keeps your battery charged while the truck is in motion, so if it has a damaged component or dies suddenly, your battery will die too. If the battery itself is faulty or on its way out, this could also negatively affect the charging system and leave you with a truck that won’t start
The last thing you want is to have your pickup stop abruptly when you’re driving, so if you see the “Check Charging System” alert light up on your dashboard, you must address the issue right away. 
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Common causes of charging system problems

There are several reasons why your Ford F-150’s charging system warning has been triggered. Here are some of the most common culprits for this particular maintenance issue and how to fix them. 

Bad alternator

When you’ve got a bad
alternator
, your battery can’t get the charge it needs to function correctly, and eventually, it won’t power your truck at all. A faulty alternator is often the cause for the “Check Charging System” light to turn on. 
The alternator doesn’t just charge the battery. It’s also the source of power for many other electrical components in your Ford. If you notice that your interior lights are dim or that the radio stops working, your alternator is to blame. 
Jump-starting
an F-150 with a bad alternator is a losing battle—despite all your efforts, the truck will quickly die again because the battery won’t hold a charge. If you suspect you’ve got a bum alternator under the hood, you can disconnect the battery and
test the power levels
with a multimeter or voltmeter

Battery problems

Other times, it's the battery that’s the problem. The average life span of a Ford F-150 battery is between three and five years, so if the battery on your truck is nearing that age it could be time for a replacement. 
That being said, you shouldn’t assume your battery is kaput before taking a closer look at the terminals and cables. A loose wiring connection or corrosion around the terminals might be the reason for the charging system warning light going on—not the entire battery. These components are usually cheaper and simpler to repair than going out and buying a whole new battery. 

Drive belt issues

Just as your Ford F-150’s battery has several components, so does the alternator. That’s why you shouldn’t rush off to replace the entire alternator before taking a closer look at the smaller parts that help it to function as it should. 
One such part is the
serpentine belt
, which powers the alternator. If the belt is loose, broken, or just plain worn out, it’s relatively affordable to fix. 
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Faulty ECU

Newer vehicles contain a computer device known as the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that is programmed to control several system functions on your truck. If there’s a faulty ECU sensor or another malfunction within the ECU this could trigger your “Check Charge System” dashboard alert. 

How to reset the check charging system on a Ford F-150

You’re probably eager to wipe this alert off your dashboard as soon as possible, but unfortunately, it’s not the kind of service light that you simply reset. To properly address the “Check Charging System” dash alert, you need to bring your F-150 to a professional mechanic shop to be diagnosed. 
Depending on what the exact problem is, you may want to think about having the repair done at an independent shop rather than at the Ford dealership. Independent mechanics are more willing to use aftermarket parts instead of the pricey OEM parts exclusively used by the dealership. It’s possible to find quality aftermarket parts at a much cheaper cost than those made by the original manufacturer.

Can I drive with a charging system warning light?

It’s not safe to drive for long with the “Check “charging System” alert on. This is your truck’s way of saying that it’s going to lose power soon, and if you’re driving when it happens your vehicle will suddenly stop. If this happens, you could cause an accident or wind up stranded on the side of the road. 
Once you see this alert, make it your top priority to get your truck to the mechanic shop. If you’re worried about being able to make it there before your truck loses power, consider bringing along a portable battery charger or jumper cables so that you can arrive at the shop safely. 
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