Battery voltage fluctuates between 14.2V and 12.8V while driving
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Thread: Battery voltage fluctuates between 14.2V and 12.8V while driving

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    Senior Member Sauraus's Avatar
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    Battery voltage fluctuates between 14.2V and 12.8V while driving

    This past weekend the wife and I did a 600 mile road trip through Southern California and for a change I put the info system on Perf.

    And the voltage indicator drew my attention almost immediately because it would be all over the place, the highest I saw it was 14.2V which AFAIK is too high, but then I also saw it read 12.8V which is too low for charging.

    The car has no problems starting not even this morning after a night outside in 25F degrees.

    I am going to guess that itís just a cheap/bad voltmeter on the car and no really worth the hassle of having the dealer look into it.

    PS. At home the car is always plugged into a battery tender.


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    Senior Member TNSQUIRE's Avatar
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    My 2014 fluctuates between 12.8 and 15. Has always done that.


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    Senior Member rdslon01's Avatar
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    You said you have a tender. Disconnect your plug from the tender and connect it to a voltmeter instead. That way you can see what your hand-held voltmeter says that the car is doing. That will tell you if your car's internal gauge is reporting accurately or not.

    By the way, 14.2 V is not too high when charging. That is normal.
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    Senior Member Sauraus's Avatar
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    Battery voltage fluctuates between 14.2V and 12.8V while driving

    Quote Originally Posted by rdslon01 View Post
    You said you have a tender. Disconnect your plug from the tender and connect it to a voltmeter instead. That way you can see what your hand-held voltmeter says that the car is doing. That will tell you if your car's internal gauge is reporting accurately or not.

    By the way, 14.2 V is not too high when charging. That is normal.
    Isnít 13.8V the Ďnormalí charging voltage for a 12V battery?

    Iíll get my Fluke hooked up next time if I remember... although I am already thinking of what the wife is going to ask me.. when she see my multi-meter hooked to the car while drive...

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    Last edited by Sauraus; 02-20-2018 at 11:14 PM.
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    Senior Member rdslon01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sauraus View Post
    Isnít 13.8V the Ďnormalí charging voltage for a 12V battery?

    Iíll get my Fluke hooked up next time if I remember... although I am already thinking of what the wife is going to ask me.. when she see my multi-meter hooked to the car while drive...

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    Well, "normal" depends on various factors. For example, the CTEK MUS 4.3 charges at 14.4 V normally. However, if the "cold weather" charging mode is chosen, then it increases the charging voltage to 14.7 V. Furthermore, if you choose the "recondition" option for a battery that is in bad shape, it charges at 15.8 V.

    The CTEK MUS 4.3 "Test and Charge" tender reports a battery is okay if the voltage is at least 12.6 V; it reports that the alternator is okay if it outputs at least 14.0 V.

    Oh, I don't know about the other part... Maybe your wife will think you are the cool beans if you drive around with a multi-meter plugged into your car.
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    Senior Member meyerweb's Avatar
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    This is completely normal with modern charging systems from GM and other manufacturers. Output voltage is computer controlled to provide only what is necessary at the time, lowering parasitic drag from the alternator and (marginally) improving fuel economy. But add in enough marginal improvements, and it starts to make a difference. So after a cold start, voltage will be higher for a while to recharge the battery. When you're running lots of accessories that draw power, at low rpm, voltage will go up. But cruising on the highway, with lights and A/C and heated seats, etc. off, voltage will drop.
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    Senior Member Sauraus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meyerweb View Post
    When you're running lots of accessories that draw power, at low rpm, voltage will go up. But cruising on the highway, with lights and A/C and heated seats, etc. off, voltage will drop.
    Thatís what I suspected as well but after starting the car in 35F weather and heading out on to a highway and cruising at 55mph, I saw 12.8V with seat heating on and switching off the heated seats did not change that.


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    Senior Member meyerweb's Avatar
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    As long as the computer says the battery is adequately charged, it'll keep the voltage as low as possible. It might crank up voltage after a while if you leave the heaters on. But the heaters probably don't really draw much power compared to things like the headlights.

    Mine varies from a low of 12.8 to a high of 15.1 (but that high is rare).
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    Completely agree that this is perfectly normal behavior. The indicated voltage is a function of the battery's state of charge and loading at the time, and what the car's electronics are doing to charge the battery. As others have posted, it can go up to 15V or even a bit more. In fact I would worry if the reading did NOT fluctuate over this sort of range!
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    Senior Member Milliwatt Rob's Avatar
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    Modern charge systems display voltages that alarm we old timers. And they jump around a lot. Start worrying when it displays 11.9 or less.
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    I think the voltage varies not just with electrical load, but also just to vary the charging rate on the battery to keep it from building up internal deposits.
    I have had mine be charging at normal rates driving on the highway, and then drop to 12.8 volts with no apparent change in the electrical loads.
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    Senior Member Milliwatt Rob's Avatar
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    Modern charging systems will also respond to ambient temperatures, and will cut back the voltage as ambient temperatures rise into what is considered "hot" weather.
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    Normal in my experience with several of my vehicles. Lots of variables at play but that range is perfectly normal in my experience..
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    Man you people freak out over battery voltage, what do you do when you look at oil pressure after start up? lol

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