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Hi all - I have an issue with my 2004 T6 that really bugs me - and I've scoured the web and youtube but unable to find a similar issue that has been documented.

Really hope the good people on this forum can help shed lights to diagnose.

History - I've had this car for 3 years or so, and this problem only occurred 3 times - once per year but not around the same time. Once in Sep 2018, once in Nov 2019 and again today on 15 Dec 2020

What went wrong - on all three occasions, exactly the same thing happened in same sequence:
  • When I started the car, the 'low battery' message appeared on dash (car hadn't been driven for at least a week)
  • The journey had excessive traffic jam - sitting in very slow on/off moving traffic for at least 2hrs - sometimes almost 3hrs
  • The car had sat nav on, dashcam on, air con or heating on, and headlights always on (factory setting for black car)
  • I then notice the dashcam switched off itself (most likely due to low battery)
  • Some time later, the dreadful 'brake failure / park safely' message would appear, along with ABS and check engine and SRS Airbags servicing lights on.
  • The car then immediately lost all electronics - could still drive, but unable to use any signaling lights for turning or brakelights
  • At this point, it became a real struggle to drive the car to somewhere safe to stop. Even after stopping and switching off ignition and switching ignition backon - the same issue recurred after about 2 mins. Luckily I wasn't too far away from home, so eventually I managed to drive the car home without being able to signal when turning...
  • Once home, plugged in a trickle charger to battery - and plug in VIDA to erase all error codes - and the car would then start just fine - all error lights gone

My thoughts/suspicions
  • Battery is 1yr old, and it is a large size one (as on XC90 you can fit a larger than stock battery, by moving the battery bracket to the position further out) - plugged in to trickle charger usually once per week, never run down to flat state
  • This is our family weekend car, so only driven lightly - usually once per week. I endeavour to plug in a trickle charger overnight prior to a trip - and when I did that the above problem never happened. It was raining 7 days in a row this week so I didn't have a chance to charge it (as this involves leaving a tiny gap in the car window for the electricity cable).
  • the ABS lights never went on other than the 3 occasions mentioned above - so really don't think this has anything to do with ABS rings. If the ABS rings were indeed bad, I don't think I could erase all codes permanently with VIDA as the ABS error should recur (which did not happen)
  • With ignition on and engine idling, the battery terminals read 14.2v - I'm able to charge a 'low battery' by driving on motor way at 70mph ish for 1hr. But in slow moving city traffic, the 'low battery' recurs a lot each time I start the car, unless of course I plug in trickle charger overnight
  • my biggest suspicion would be the alternator being too old, or the regulator too old/faulty (don't know how to test the regulator though) - both are factory ones so 16 years old!

Solutions?
  • my first thought would be to replace the alternator / regulator parts - given their old age. Question - my VIDA shows 2 part numbers for the alternator - 140A (36050264) or 160A (36050267) - which one should I get? I assume 160A is better given the higher output? I don't know which one is my current old alternator as I can't see its part number clearly.
  • Or could I be missing something else that is the real culprit??

Any suggestions would be whole-heartedly appreciated!

Cheers
Namo Amituofo
 

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So this happened both before and after replacing the battery? And the low battery message appears regularly, not just once a year? Seems odd for that to happen after only a week of not driving the car.

Since you have DICE/VIDA, what are the detailed error codes that you are erasing?
 

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Steps, in order:
1. Don’t panic
2. Charge the battery at least overnight, but better for 24 hrs
3. Clear all codes
4. Drive and reassess


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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2004 T6
  • When I started the car, the 'low battery' message appeared on dash (car hadn't been driven for at least a week)

  • my first thought would be to replace the alternator / regulator parts - given their old age. Question - my VIDA shows 2 part numbers for the alternator - 140A (36050264) or 160A (36050267) - which one should I get? I assume 160A is better given the higher output? I don't know which one is my current old alternator as I can't see its part number clearly.

  • Or could I be missing something else that is the real culprit??
The alternator amperage/part number is on the back of the alternator - and we always ordered from that number, so i don't know if either will fit and work properly.

How old is the serpentine belt? They wear and can slip when old, but still look OK.

Obviously the alternator is not charging enough with a weak battery in stop and go traffic. The accessories being used are using everything the alternator is putting out plus a little more - and as the battery gets weaker the CEM will cut power to non-essential systems to keep the fuel system going. (my son had a car that did that once his daily commute changed from 5 miles to 1 mile in traffic)

So possible solutions are to use fewer accessories (ac compressor and heater fan use a lot of current), slip the trans into neutral and rev the engine up when stuck in traffic to perhaps charge more, make sure the belt is good and not slipping, try a new alternator, or always charge the battery after the car sits for a week before sitting in stop and go traffic with everything on for 2-3 hours.
 

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It could be as simple as a slipping alternator belt. That was the cause of untold numbers of batteries replaced in new late 70's Volvos in hot markets where cars wouldn't get up to a reasonable RPM during slow stop-and-go commutes with AC on. Batteries would slowly lose charge over time, as alternators rely on a reference voltage to charge. Little by little, the battery voltage would decline. Interesting that it takes a little over a year for it to happen, so maybe look for environmental factors, like different driving patterns. My wife's 2013 S70 gave a "Low Battery" warning several times in the first 2 years she had it. The manual said that in the case of frequent short trips that the battery may require periodic additional charging. The "low battery" message never re-occurred after I installed a new battery AND reset the battery monitor with VIDA. Dunno if the '04 has that capability.
The fix back in the day was to tension the alternator V-belt like the Flying Wallenda's tightrope. The thing about high capacity alternators isn't so you'll be able to cook your battery with 150 plus amps, but that high output alternators will provide higher charging rates at lower RPM's to combat voltage attrition. Modern charging systems balance charging rates against battery temperature. A car battery won't survive a full charging rate of 150+ amps.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Steps, in order:
1. Don’t panic
2. Charge the battery at least overnight, but better for 24 hrs
3. Clear all codes
4. Drive and reassess


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
My wife first started panicking - she went 'oh not that problem again'!

Then I couldn't help but also start panicking!

The only person not panicking in the car is our 2 yr old child who couldn't give a damn ;)

I plugged in the trickle charger right after we got home. Usually I do 6hrs till the charger indicates fully charged - perhaps I should leave longer as advised? Will charge overnight at least. I need to replace the alarm siren tomorrow (as tomorrow happens to be another day that doesn't rain here in the UK - and I haven't a garage so need to work on the drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The alternator amperage/part number is on the back of the alternator - and we always ordered from that number, so i don't know if either will fit and work properly.

How old is the serpentine belt? They wear and can slip when old, but still look OK.

Obviously the alternator is not charging enough with a weak battery in stop and go traffic. The accessories being used are using everything the alternator is putting out plus a little more - and as the battery gets weaker the CEM will cut power to non-essential systems to keep the fuel system going. (my son had a car that did that once his daily commute changed from 5 miles to 1 mile in traffic)

So possible solutions are to use fewer accessories (ac compressor and heater fan use a lot of current), slip the trans into neutral and rev the engine up when stuck in traffic to perhaps charge more, make sure the belt is good and not slipping, try a new alternator, or always charge the battery after the car sits for a week before sitting in stop and go traffic with everything on for 2-3 hours.
I actually changed the serp belt and the tensioner 2 years ago - so technically the belt is almost new and only had 1000 ish miles on it.

I surely will now charge the battery overnight before setting out for another trip next time! Even if it rains! Going to find a way to close that gap in the window through which I feed in the charging cable - to protect it from rain - maybe some rag...

I also just used VIDA to disable DLR - maybe that will help as well.

Driving in hot summer or cold winter without AC or heating would be torturous ;)

I'll put 'replace alternator' on my #1 service list for 2021 - I just looked but couldn't see the p/n without taking out the old alt. Strange VIDA gives me 2 versions - going to ask my local dealer what he'd recommend. Don't think I'm going to go cheap and buy after market /refurbished alt here - think OEM cost a good few hundred quid!

I actually planned to do the timing belt / water pump / thermostat job early next year - we'll be moving house in Jan so really depend on a reliable SUV - the timing belt was last done 7 years ago (and 5K ish miles since) - technically not due till 2~3 years later. But now will prioritise alternator job.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
It could be as simple as a slipping alternator belt. That was the cause of untold numbers of batteries replaced in new late 70's Volvos in hot markets where cars wouldn't get up to a reasonable RPM during slow stop-and-go commutes with AC on. Batteries would slowly lose charge over time, as alternators rely on a reference voltage to charge. Little by little, the battery voltage would decline. Interesting that it takes a little over a year for it to happen, so maybe look for environmental factors, like different driving patterns. My wife's 2013 S70 gave a "Low Battery" warning several times in the first 2 years she had it. The manual said that in the case of frequent short trips that the battery may require periodic additional charging. The "low battery" message never re-occurred after I installed a new battery AND reset the battery monitor with VIDA. Dunno if the '04 has that capability.
The fix back in the day was to tension the alternator V-belt like the Flying Wallenda's tightrope. The thing about high capacity alternators isn't so you'll be able to cook your battery with 150 plus amps, but that high output alternators will provide higher charging rates at lower RPM's to combat voltage attrition. Modern charging systems balance charging rates against battery temperature. A car battery won't survive a full charging rate of 150+ amps.
Wonder how you set the battery monitor with VIDA? Don't think I've seem something like that on my 2004 XC90 on VIDA - or perhaps I'm missing this feature?
 

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Charge all night, and keep charging when working on the car. You may have a weak battery, If so, charging may restore it. Or not.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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Wonder how you set the battery monitor with VIDA? Don't think I've seem something like that on my 2004 XC90 on VIDA - or perhaps I'm missing this feature?
Battery monitors are generally mounted as part of a battery cable. I don't know when it started in production and where in VIDA the reset is, but I would be surprised if Hoonk doesn't know!
Otherwise, it's one of those "resets" like service reminder reset that's not intuitive enough to find easily. I think I'll have a look in my VIDA, just for fun.
 

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It turns out that my '09 has a different approach than the '13 S60. But access is the same. Here's where it is:
114207


The activity description is different, in that the S60 specifically calls on the Battery monitor system with options for new battery and new monitor. Neither network map shows a BMS, though. Good luck!
 

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The XC90 has no battery monitor as such. What it does have is 2 x counters that count how often the 2 x low battery warning voltage alerts have appeared.
These counters give an indication as to the health of the battery and should be reset when replacing the battery, so that the info they display is relevant to the fitted battery.


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Get something like this:
It sounds like your alternator isn't keeping up when you're stuck in traffic. Maybe a bad alternator, or maybe too much load, but first, before you spend a lot of money, figure out what is happening.
 

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Just mark your calendar and charge the battery fully every 11 months. Or, fire the parts cannon at it and see if you had hit the mark in 13-14 months. At the rate of failure frequency progression. you should be due for another fault on or about New Year's day, 2022 :)
 

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The things you end up replacing with the parts cannon that didn't fix it just count towards preventative maintenance!
 
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It turns out that my '09 has a different approach than the '13 S60. But access is the same. Here's where it is: View attachment 114207

The activity description is different, in that the S60 specifically calls on the Battery monitor system with options for new battery and new monitor. Neither network map shows a BMS, though. Good luck!
Thanks a lot for this - I'm going to reset the counters and also run the 'quick test of alt function' - which I've not done before
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The XC90 has no battery monitor as such. What it does have is 2 x counters that count how often the 2 x low battery warning voltage alerts have appeared.
These counters give an indication as to the health of the battery and should be reset when replacing the battery, so that the info they display is relevant to the fitted battery.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Going to reset low vol counters today - didn't know about this before!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Get something like this:
It sounds like your alternator isn't keeping up when you're stuck in traffic. Maybe a bad alternator, or maybe too much load, but first, before you spend a lot of money, figure out what is happening.
This looks like a great little gadget - I'll get one and need to figure out how to re-wire the charging leads for dashcam and sat nav - both are currently going into the cigarette lighter plug next to AC controls panel via a split connector. Don't think I can add a 3rd one to it... may need to charge dashcam or sat nav via the centre unit next to driver's seat.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Just mark your calendar and charge the battery fully every 11 months. Or, fire the parts cannon at it and see if you had hit the mark in 13-14 months. At the rate of failure frequency progression. you should be due for another fault on or about New Year's day, 2022 :)
I'm going to charge the damn battery each and every time before setting off a trip from now on - I didn't do that the night before because it was pouring down outside and the car sits on driveway - so a charging line needs to be fed through my front door letter box then through the gap in window I leave open. I usually place some towel to fill the window gap but this wouldn't have worked given the heavy rain - maybe I look for some rain protection stuff to install to top of the window (if these exist that would fit XC90).

Neighbours think I've modified my old XC90 to become a hybrid EV now - they always see a charging line plugged in!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks a lot for this - I'm going to reset the counters and also run the 'quick test of alt function' - which I've not done before
I just tried to look at VIDA - these options are not available to my car - there is no option to monitor the battery or alt. Maybe my car model is too old (2004 XC90 T6) and these are more recent features?
 
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