Q: Battery & airbag lights come on and SUV won't start

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For a minute after starting my SUV yesterday, the battery and airbag lights stayed on and were flickering (didn’t blink steadily). After driving for a few minutes, the lights were off. Eight hours later my SUV started with no problems, so I drove 10 minutes to a store. After that, it wouldn’t start - nothing. It had a click and bit of engine noise, but nothing else. Tried again - just a click. (I’m thinking the solenoid trying to work.) I got it jump-started and it started. Then, I let it run for 10 full minutes and then drove 5 minutes home. The Check Engine Light came solidly on and the AirBag light too. I shut off the vehicle and tried starting again - nothing. I’m now thinking it’s the battery, but what if it’s the alternator, or a short… Is there a clear way to know if it’s the alternator?

If you said the Check Engine Light came on, I would recommend starting there. Have a qualified mechanic pull the codes from your Chevrolet Tracker using an OBD2 scanner. Any codes found will lead the mechanic in the right direction towards resolving the problem. A couple ways to determine if the alternator is faulty would be to either use a digital multimeter connected to the battery to test alternator output or disconnect the negative battery cable while the engine is running.

For the first test, the multimeter should read 14 volts while connected to the battery and the engine is running. If it does not, the alternator may have an issue. The old style method of checking the alternator is to simply remove the negative battery cable while the engine is running. If the engine stays running, the alternator is good. IF the engine dies, the alternator has failed. For best results, have a qualified mechanic inspect the starting problem for you, since this issue deals with the vehicle’s electrical system.

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