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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 2015 Kia Soul base model with the 6 speed manual. Car has 114k on it. The battery icon on the dash will come on from time to time. If I'm driving for 30 minutes, I might see it appear a couple times. It might come on for ten seconds when it appears. I also notice the lights flicker.

I took the car to a shop. After reading about it online I suspected it was the alternator. I didn't mention it to the mechanic as I wanted to hear what he thought. He thought either the alternator or another electrical problem. We did replace the alternator today. I drove the car again and noticed the same behavior. The battery icon came on a couple times and the lights were flickering/dim at times (not the same time).

I spoke to the mechanic after the problem persisted. He said he didn't think it was a ground, he checked that. He also mentioned checking the tension on the alternator belt. He said the only thing left was the computer controlled stuff. This wasn't a dealer mechanic.

The battery and starter were both replaced at 103k. Any thoughts?
 

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I have a 2015 Kia Soul base model with the 6 speed manual. Car has 114k on it. The battery icon on the dash will come on from time to time. If I'm driving for 30 minutes, I might see it appear a couple times. It might come on for ten seconds when it appears. I also notice the lights flicker.

I took the car to a shop. After reading about it online I suspected it was the alternator. I didn't mention it to the mechanic as I wanted to hear what he thought. He thought either the alternator or another electrical problem. We did replace the alternator today. I drove the car again and noticed the same behavior. The battery icon came on a couple times and the lights were flickering/dim at times (not the same time).

I spoke to the mechanic after the problem persisted. He said he didn't think it was a ground, he checked that. He also mentioned checking the tension on the alternator belt. He said the only thing left was the computer controlled stuff. This wasn't a dealer mechanic.

The battery and starter were both replaced at 103k. Any thoughts?
How tight are your battery connections? Kia positive battery cable is large compared to aftermarket battery terminals. Chassis ground is another area worth cleaning up.
 

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This is why mechanics are just parts replacers mostly and you need technicians who understand these systems and can actually diagnose. So I attached a picture of the description of how the "smart" alternator works and how it is controlled by the ECM. Read the strategy and see if maybe you can determine if this starts happening while accelerating, decelerating or ??? The alternator has the main wire from your positive battery post and then a plug with 3 wires on it. The most important is the green wire on pin 1. This is how the ECM controls the alternator output. It is a duty cycle input and can easily be seen by a mechanic on his oscilloscope. Literally last week I had a Sedona come into the shop with a brand new alternator and battery and it was still not charging and the shop that did it was clueless and told him to take it to the dealer as they had no idea how to diagnose anything just charge money and slap parts on (very costly in the long run and they were even inept enough to install his battery hold down backwards and not even secure the battery that way) It took 5 minutes of testing to determine that the new auto parts store alternator they had installed at some shop was not able to communicate with the ECM. I performed a few quick tests. First hook up a volt meter to battery to verify voltage, it was not charging. Check alternator fuse on the positive battery cable, perform a quick voltage drop test on the alternator cable back to battery. Determined no issues there. Back probe pin 1 hooked to oscilloscope to see if ECM is commanding alternator and see a great pulse width for about 10 seconds followed by a flat line because the ECM determined it can't control it and sets a code and shuts off the system. Installed a genuine Kia alternator and it was fixed.
Your problem sounds different from that one. You are charging followed by not charging. Does your car have a battery sensor on it ? It's a little square box with 2 wires on it on the negative cable. Do you have a code scanner and can read the codes that may be set?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have a ELM 327 OBDII tool. I hooked that up. I was able to pair it with my phone using Torque Lite. I didn't find any codes. I believe I do have a battery sensor, in the second pic. Often when I'm exiting the highway on an off ramp I will shift into neutral and coast. I have noticed the battery icon when doing this but it is not reproduceable. I have also noticed it when driving in gear. I suspect it isn't happening when I am accelerating noticeably. The headlights flicker/surge too though, not when the battery icon appears.

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Your mechanic should also verify if the new alternator is actually good. Was it an aftermarket alternator or a genuine Kia part? It happens more than it should where brand new parts are bad right out of the box or fail soon after. “Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s good”
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I replaced the battery to rule that out. The problem persists. It sounded like the mechanic tested the alternator. My next thought is to take it to a dealership. That is a little further away so I was hoping to avoid it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update, I did take the car to a dealer. They said that the alternator was bad. I called the mechanic who did the alternator. He said he would replace it under warranty. It turns out the mechanic put an aftermarket alternator in it. It sounded like the dealer recommended an OEM part but didn't imply that an aftermarket one wouldn't work. Just that they have seen more of those in the shop.
 

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Did the new alternator fix the problem? Like I said before, sometimes those aftermarket part store alternators are junk right out of the box. It’s unfortunate but seems to be happening more often lately. Hopefully the new one will be ok.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have had the new alternator a little over a week. I don't drive daily because both my wife and I work from home. The mechanic locally replaced the part under warranty. I remember having dim headlights when driving with the other alternators. After replacing the alternator, the mechanic insisted this one was good. He said he tested it for an hour. I have noticed the battery icon again. I am hesitant to take the car back to the dealer. I don't know that I want to pay the dealer another 200 for a diagnostic test if they'll tell me the same thing. Or have them replace the alternator and have the same problem again.

I think I am going to have my wife follow me in the car at night. If the headlights don't seem dim I may just drive it as is. I noticed the lights being dim while driving previously. I also noticed it when my wife followed me home from the dealer.
 

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I don’t know if this will help you, but i found it interesting. This Hyundai kept having problems with the alternator. It was a bad ground.

In this part 2, he starts the repair (cleaning the ground) around the 15:00 mark

 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks, I will check that side. I know the mechanic checked the ground in a number of places. I recall he was talking about the ground strap to the engine. I did see that he scraped the paint where the strap was attached to the frame. I will check the ground under the battery too though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The car in the video is a bit different than mine. I checked another video on how to test a ground and they were using Ohms on the multimeter. I checked the ground strap and it's reading 4.8. I thought it should be reading 0. Does that lead me to believe my ground is bad at this location? I can see the mechanic did take it apart and scrape the connection there.

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4.8 ohms isn't great, but some of that could be in your leads. What does the meter read on the same scale with the two leads shorted together?

A more meaningful test would be setting the meter to 20 volts dc and testing those same two points with the engine running and accessories on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I actually watched another video and went out to check that way after I posted. I checked the battery terminals, negative and positive. Then I checked from positive to the ground points. The one in my picture wasn't always consistent. I could get it to match the battery but not all the time. I found a few threads where they discuss adding an additional ground strap from the negative terminal to the engine. I am leaning towards doing that.


video for reference:
 

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I found a few threads where they discuss adding an additional ground strap from the negative terminal to the engine. I am leaning towards doing that.
Just be aware when moving your grounding points, your "smart" computer controlled alternator doesn't know what you did. My preference would be to repair/upgrade your existing ground points, but it is your car.
 

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Just be aware when moving your grounding points, your "smart" computer controlled alternator doesn't know what you did. My preference would be to repair/upgrade your existing ground points, but it is your car.
No worries, in his picture his does not have the sensor on the ground cable.
Now that you did a voltage drop test on the ground side do the same on the alternator wire. Start the car and let it idle, measure voltage from the positive battery post to the alternator right on the nut at the cable on it, you should see nearly no voltage.
 
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