Those who own an Acura TL know the compact executive car is worth keeping. It ranked number two in luxury sedan sales in the U.S. in 2005. It has a host of advantages but since the car series ended production in 2014, those who own one are now seeing their Acura TL’s age.
An older vehicle will need some basic maintenance to keep it running. One of those items that will need some extra attention as a car becomes high mileage is the check charging system Acura TL. The charging system is what gives power to the battery to keep a car running.
It’s important to know what the charging system is and does and how it functions in the Acura TL. That can help you diagnose problems and find a good mechanic.
Defining a Charging System
Every car has a charging system but each model may have it configured a little differently. The purpose of the charging system is to send electrical energy to the battery, which then not only keeps the car running but also keeps things like the lights, the radio, the heater, and other accessories functioning.
The system works with the voltage regulator or the ECU telling the alternator to recharge the battery when the battery appears to drop in its charge. The battery keeps recharging itself through the alternator and regulator while you are driving the car.
That is why a car starts working better as you drive it once you have someone jump off a dead battery.
Differences in Car Models
Older cars, like the Acura TL, rely on a voltage regulator as part of the charging system. New models of other brands use an electronic control unit (ECU). The ECU is built into the computer system.
Other parts that make up a typical charging system include:
- A battery
- The voltage regulator
What Does That Light on My Dash Mean?
The Acura TL has a warning light includes in its onboard diagnostics. It senses when the battery is running low on voltage. This tells you the car could die, stall, or not start at all.
Some other signs that you may have a charging failure in your Acura TL include:
- The car won’t start or has difficulty starting.
- The interior lights or chimes don’t work.
- It may have a clicking sound in the ignition and seems to misfire.
Acuras have a couple of other indicators. If it won’t start or if the battery light stays on, you likely have electrical problems.
Charging Problems in an Acura TL
Some things will happen in an Acura that is unique when the battery isn’t getting the power it needs. These include:
- The car dies repeatedly and has trouble restarting
- The car doesn’t last long before it dies again.
- The engine cranking is slow.
- The battery light keeps coming on.
This is an important item to get repaired because it will eventually stall or not start at all. Then, you will either need to fix it yourself or tow it to a mechanic. It is so much simpler to diagnose and fix the problem before it gets that bad.
What Could the Problem Be?
Low power is usually because of a bad alternator. However, they can be expensive to fix so it’s best to rule out other easier-to-fix problems yourself before taking it to a mechanic for an alternator replacement.
A common problem in these types of situations is a bad battery. Even if a battery is new, it can still be from a bad lot. You can check the voltage to the battery with a battery tester or a charging system analyzer.
To check this yourself, open the hood and remove the battery cover to get to the terminals. Connect the positive clamp to the red terminal and the negative clamp to the black terminal and then do the battery and alternator test with the analyzer by following its instructions.
An easy way to test the battery for those who don’t have a battery tester or who aren’t mechanically inclined is to remove the battery from the car and take it to a parts dealer that performs battery testing and recharging. Some retail shops do both for free and can tell you if you have a dead battery cell.
Fixing that problem is easy because all you have to do is get a new battery. However, if your battery is good and will recharge, you will need to look further to see where the problem lies.
Possible Problems in an Acura Charging System
Several other possible reasons could exist for a charging failure in an Acura TL. Those problems could include:
- A poor ground connection for the battery
- A bad relay
- A blown fuse
- A bad alternator
How to Continue Checking for Problems
Assuming the battery is good, it’s time to check the ground connection to the battery. This is where the wiring connects to the battery terminals. Sometimes they are loose or corroded and need cleaning. A loose connection can easily be tightened with some pliers.
Cleaning the connections isn’t a problem either. Just take an old toothbrush, wet it, and dip it in baking soda. Scrub around the connections to remove corrosion. Wipe clean with a rag.
Check your car again by turning it on and see if the warning light still comes on. Gas the engine to see if it goes out. If it stays on, continue with your inspection.
Worn or broken belts can also be a problem in most cars when it comes to charging systems. This causes the alternator to not work properly, which means less power is going to the battery causing a slow-down.
There is typically one belt that drives everything in a later model car so that is easy enough to check to see if it slipped or worn. If it needs replacing, then you can take it to a mechanic.
You can also check the voltage regulator with a multimeter. Put the multimeter clamps on the terminals of the battery with positive to the red and negative to the black. Your car voltage should read around 12 volts while it’s off.
Start the car and watch the voltage increase. It should be around 13.8 to 13.9 for a safe amount of power going to the battery. As you increase the engine speed by hitting the gas to make the engine run harder, the voltage should stop increasing when you reach between 1,500 and 2,000 RPMs.
The voltage should remain between 13.8 to 14.2 but no more than that. If it goes up to 15 or higher or goes below 13.8, something is wrong with the voltage regulator and it needs replacing.
Once all that is checked out, all you are left is the alternator. You can check that with a charging system analyzer but, even without a check yourself, it is the only thing that could be wrong if everything else is normal and working.
The Alternator Fuses
One thing many mechanics forget to check is the four fuses in the alternator. A lot of mechanics just go ahead and replace the alternator without checking the fuses. However, you should insist that each is tested.
A single-blown fuse will stop the alternator from working properly and prevent power from getting to the battery.
Always ask your mechanic if they are familiar with the process of doing this check. An inexperienced mechanic can ruin other parts of the car by doing a fuse check the wrong way.
How Do I Know It isn’t the Starter?
A bad starter has a sound to it that is like a grinding noise when you turn the ignition. With charging system problems, there isn’t a strong sound to it. The car just won’t start. It’s dead. There could be a clicking sound if anything.
How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Charging Problem?
Mechanics charge different rates and sometimes their rates depend on the car model. Some car models are more challenging to work on than others with new computer systems, sensors, and all.
Fixing a voltage regulator can cost between $350 and $385. The parts cost around $213 and the rest is labor.
Replacing an alternator isn’t cheap. It can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 depending on the part cost and labor costs.
Replacing a fuse in an alternator is much cheaper. It can cost less than $100, depending on what kind of car you have.
Owning a car means you will have some responsibility in making sure all parts keep running. One of those is the charging system and failing to pay attention to it will result in a stalled car at some point.
It doesn’t cost that much to keep a charging system running and can cost even less if you can do diagnostics yourself and fix the simple things. Knowing that you will eventually have these costs helps you plan financially for them and do the necessary research to get the most out of your Acura TL.