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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My battery gauge goes to low and check gauge light comes on when driving truck. When I turn off and then back on gauge goes to middle, Last time it happened left truck running check battery voltage 14 volts checked from alternator also 14 volts, gauge still reading low, turned truck off battery 12.6 volts. I have driven it about 15 miles after it went to low and truck runs fine. Also no error codes. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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There is a test that can be done to verify that some of the gauges (I am not sure if it includes the voltmeter) are functioning properly. Give me a little bit and I'll dig the test up & post it for you.

But from what you have described, it sounds to me as if you have an indicating problem and not a charging problem.
 

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Jeff, I am using a 2001 Dakota FSM to reply with; however, in my ongoing Dakota education, I have recently learned that from '01 to '03 the Dakotas were on the PCI Data Bus--therefore what is in my FSM should be/may be applicable to your '01.

As I lack in technology and I type slowly & poorly, I will paraphrase and condense.

Referring to "the voltage gauge"
it is controlled by the instrument cluster circuit board based upon cluster programming and electronic messages received by the cluster from the PCM over the PCI data bus.

It receives battery current through the fused ignition switch output (run-start) circuit whenever the key is in On or Start.

Each time the cluster gets a system voltage message from the PCM indicating that the system voltage is between about 11.5 v & 16 v, the needle is moved to the relative position on the gauge.

system voltage low message
When the cluster gets a message from the PCM indicating v less than about 11.5 v (charge fail condition) needle is moved to graduation at far left of gauge & check gauges is illuminated until cluster gets message from PCM that v is greater than 12.0 but less than 16.0 or until ignition switch is turned to OFF, whichever occurs first.

I think we can skip over system voltage high message.

Communication error.
if the cluster fails to receive a system voltage message, it will hold the gauge needle at the last indication for about 40 seconds or until the ignition switch switch is turned OFF, whichever happens first. After 40 seconds, the cluster will move the needle to the far left of the gauge.

(And that appears to be what is happening to you, due to a "communication error")

Okay, on to the "actuator test"!
 

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Okay, with the rules of paraphrasing & condensing that I listed above, the actator test puts the cluster into a self diagnostic mode.
Successful completion of test confirms that the cluster works, but there still may be a problem with the PCI bus, the PCM, the CTM (Central Timer Module) the transmission control module (TCM), transfer case control module ((TCCM) , Airbag control module (ACM), the CAB (basically the ABS module), or inputs to one of these modules. The FSM tells you to use a DRBIII scan tool to diagnose these components.

Okay, first off there is a large warning paragraph in bolds warning you of the dangers of screwing with your steering wheel etc related to setting your airbags off. For now, I believe this is not applicable. If it looks like it is, I will come back to it.

1)put ignition switch to OFF
2)depress odometer/trip meter switch button
3)while holding trip meter switch button depressed, turn key to ON but do not start engine
4)keep trip meter switch button depressed for about 10 seconds until CHEC appears on odometer display then release.
5)a series of 3 digit numeric failure messages may appear in the odometer depending upon failure mode.

(If you get one of these, post it & I will get back to you & let you know what it is.)

6)instrument cluster will begin the vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) walking segment test. W#e can skip that for now except to say that it involves the "segements" illuminating in a sequence. As I typed, we can come back to that if need be.
7)cluster will perform a bulb check. I thyink we can skip that for now, also, but if need be we can get back to it.
8)gauge actuator test: cluster circuitry positions each gauge needle a 3 different calibration points then returns them to their relaxed positions. If an individual gauge does not respond properly or does not respond at all, the cluster should be removed.

(This might be where the warnings in bold that I previously alluded to come into play.)

However, check that the spring clip terminal pin receptacles on the cluster electronic circuit board before considering cluster replacement. If gauge terminal connections are okay, replace the faulty instrument cluster.
9)actuator test now complete. Cluster will automatically exit self diagnostic mode & return to normal operation, at the completion of test, if the ign switch is turned to OFF during test, or if a vehicle speed message indicating that vehicle is moving is received from the PCM on the PCI data bus during the test.
10)repeat as needed.

Okay, so if it was me, I'd follow this sequence. If you do try this, come back & post your results & maybe we, or someone else, can figure out where to go from there. If ther is anything that I typed that isn't making sense, let me know--maybe it is where I over condensed or paraphrased too much. I can get back to that point & expand & expound, directly quoting the FSM.

Good luck!
 

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. . . I suffered some further thought on this, and I would think that if your problem was caused by a failure somewhere along the PCI Bus chain (which, according to the FSM is an abbreviation for 'programmable communications interface' bus) that you would get a "NO BUS" message in your odometer. But I could very well be wrong about that; I am foggy on that subject.

Here is something that you could try as related to the PCM that is free and easy:
first disconnect your battery
unplug your PCM and then plug it back in.
Do that 3 or 4 times before you hook your battery back up.
(But be sure to disconnect your battery first.)

I don't have a whole lot of hope for that, I'm just throwing a dart, but as I typed--free and easy.

Keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
. . . I suffered some further thought on this, and I would think that if your problem was caused by a failure somewhere along the PCI Bus chain (which, according to the FSM is an abbreviation for 'programmable communications interface' bus) that you would get a "NO BUS" message in your odometer. But I could very well be wrong about that; I am foggy on that subject.

Here is something that you could try as related to the PCM that is free and easy:
first disconnect your battery
unplug your PCM and then plug it back in.
Do that 3 or 4 times before you hook your battery back up.
(But be sure to disconnect your battery first.)

I don't have a whole lot of hope for that, I'm just throwing a dart, but as I typed--free and easy.

Keep us posted.
It turns out it was the alternator. I guess the problem was intermittent. once the lights were dimming and all warning lights came on I knew . Replaced alternator and battery and all is good. Thanks for all help.
 
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