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Old 03-06-2005, 01:49 AM   #1
SignOfZeta
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Electrical problems

Recently, my car has been difficult to start. It starts fine, but every so often it requires the key to be held to start for the engine to start cranking (though the instrument panel lights up as if it were started and running), but once started, everything's fine. I just blamed the cold New England weather (below freezing in the mornings and at night). Most of these failed starts were done in the morning.

One time, my voltage hovered at about 10.6 V, but climbed back up to normal (13.8-14 V) and stayed there after driving in low gears for a while (to keep the engine above charging speed, 2.5 kRPM). I decided to keep an eye on the battery and replace it if this was a recurring thing (since I'm a poor out-of-work college student).

So, I went out to my car today. I was cleaning it out, but it reeked of my new fuzzy dice (which apparently are also air fresheners). I turned the key to accessory and put the windows down without a problem.

With my car cleaned out, I went to start it. The engine didn't crank, and I didn't hear the starter motor kick in. No lights came on at all. I tried holding the key to start for about ten seconds, but all that happened was my fuel gauge dropped from 3/4 to empty (though it doesn't drop when you shut the car off).

I figured my battery was dead, so my dad jumped it (though stupidly connected the batteries together without grounding it, claiming the manual "was full of s--t"). My car still wouldn't start while the cables were connected to his battery with his engine running, nor after they were disconnected.

The lights inside my car, when I open a door, start off dim and just die out quickly. Turning the key to accessory does nothing, but power used to come on for a second before dying. My power locks and windows don't work, the motor starts but just dies (and now my windows are stuck down).

Things I've tried:
- Holding key to start--did nothing.
- Jump starting--did nothing.
- Checking some fuses--did nothing.
- Looking at battery terminals--they look fine, no rust or corrosion..
- Switching batteries with my mom's car--she stopped me.

Any ideas? Assume I'm an idiot with cars, better to be too specific than omit details.
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Old 03-06-2005, 07:05 AM   #2
srober32
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Sometimes a battery is too low to accept a jump immediately and needs a few minutes to build up a charge. Or it could just be bad. I suggest pulling the battery out and take it to the nearest autozone/checker/pepboys (or whatever you have in your neighborhood) have it chaged and tested, unless the battery is 4 or more years old in which case just replace it with a new, fully charged one.
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Old 03-06-2005, 07:23 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srober32
Sometimes a battery is too low to accept a jump immediately and needs a few minutes to build up a charge.

It was hooked up for about two minutes or so. When I tried to start it connected, nothing happened. After the cables were disconnected, still nothing happened.

Quote:
Originally Posted by srober32
Or it could just be bad. I suggest pulling the battery out and take it to the nearest autozone/checker/pepboys (or whatever you have in your neighborhood) have it chaged and tested, unless the battery is 4 or more years old in which case just replace it with a new, fully charged one.

Is this free? There's a Napa down the street, and AutoZone within driving distance. The battery came with the car when I got it a few months ago, and I imagine that's the original battery from 1997, so it might have to be replaced.
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Old 03-06-2005, 07:38 AM   #4
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Autozone I know for sure is free (I think they all should be if they are not, especially if they want my business). Sounds like it is a bad battery though, looks like it will run you between 60 ro 70 bucks though, ouch!
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Old 03-06-2005, 08:04 AM   #5
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I'd suggest buying a battery charger, every household should have one. Just get a small 10 amp one for like 30 bucks and leave it on over-night to let it charge.

Did your battery freeze? If it's frozen it won't accept a charge. Also, if it's frozen, it usually ruins the battery and needs replacement. That could be why boosting it didn't work.
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Old 03-06-2005, 05:33 PM   #6
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30 bucks you don't have. A battery charger is nice but not necessary. Take it out, have it charged and tested.
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Old 03-06-2005, 07:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srober32
30 bucks you don't have. A battery charger is nice but not necessary. Take it out, have it charged and tested.

But still, every house should have one, they can be quite useful. I still say your battery is frozen.
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Old 03-06-2005, 08:49 PM   #8
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Batteries only freeze from two things EXTREMELY low temps or from being discarged in freezing weather. If the battery is older that four years and looks original, you should replace it.
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Old 03-06-2005, 11:16 PM   #9
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Unhappy The lights are on but no one's cranking

Quote:
Originally Posted by srober32
Autozone I know for sure is free (I think they all should be if they are not, especially if they want my business). Sounds like it is a bad battery though, looks like it will run you between 60 ro 70 bucks though, ouch!

My dad poured tap water into the battery to try to fix it (idiot, it wasn't distilled). I pointed a space heater at the battery for five minutes. Now my interior lights are on at full brightness when the doors are closed, power locks and windows work (slowly), and I hear chimes when I leave my key in with the door open. However, there's this interesting buzzing sound coming from the right side of the engine (where the battery is); I assume that's undistilled water at work inside the battery.

My dad assumes it's more than the battery, so my mom is going along with him and it's going to be towed in a few days for repair. If I can get a new battery in there in time, I'd love to upstage them and say "I told you so."

Why is it every car I own has something bad happen to it right before its first oil change? My old Sable got totalled in my driveway (damn those (other) crazy drivers!), and now my Bonneville's battery is dead. Sigh.
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Old 03-08-2005, 12:48 AM   #10
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Sounds like you have a short in your alternator. These other guys telling you about batt chargers and freezing don't listen, it would have to get bellow -60f or -51.1c for the batt to freeze. The diode inside the alt may still test good but the alt will still have a short, other possibiltys could be a draw. Try getting a small jumper wire with alagator clips on each side and disconnect your neg, hook the clip to the batt then to the neg cable. Then put an amp meter on it and read amps of draw should not be more than .05 with key off. If it is than start unpluging stuff untill that number drops down. Than you found your short.
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Old 03-08-2005, 01:55 AM   #11
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[quote=apastarelli]Sounds like you have a short in your alternator. These other guys telling you about batt chargers and freezing don't listen, it would have to get bellow -60f or -51.1c for the batt to freeze. QUOTE]

uh huh...... good luck in the real world buddy
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Old 03-08-2005, 05:07 AM   #12
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[quote=BanffAutoSpa_ap]
Quote:
Originally Posted by apastarelli
Sounds like you have a short in your alternator. These other guys telling you about batt chargers and freezing don't listen, it would have to get bellow -60f or -51.1c for the batt to freeze. QUOTE]

uh huh...... good luck in the real world buddy
Yeah Realy, I just fell off the turnip truck...25 freaking years ago, apastarelli! Hummm, dischaged battery, specific gravity of electrolyte...8.5 ish(lets just say for giggles) outside temp...25 ish(f). Sounds like electrolyte will freeze since it is essentially water now, since the sulfur that keeps it from freezing at that temp is now attatched to the plates of the battery...shall I continue, Mr Wizard?
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Last edited by srober32 : 03-08-2005 at 06:00 AM.
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Old 03-08-2005, 03:27 PM   #13
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Talking ***problem Fixed***

Quote:
Originally Posted by SignOfZeta
My dad poured tap water into the battery to try to fix it (idiot, it wasn't distilled). I pointed a space heater at the battery for five minutes. Now my interior lights are on at full brightness when the doors are closed, power locks and windows work (slowly), and I hear chimes when I leave my key in with the door open. However, there's this interesting buzzing sound coming from the right side of the engine (where the battery is); I assume that's undistilled water at work inside the battery.

My dad assumes it's more than the battery, so my mom is going along with him and it's going to be towed in a few days for repair. If I can get a new battery in there in time, I'd love to upstage them and say "I told you so."

Why is it every car I own has something bad happen to it right before its first oil change? My old Sable got totalled in my driveway (damn those (other) crazy drivers!), and now my Bonneville's battery is dead. Sigh.

Well, the car got towed and fixed in one day. Very nice. Turns out the starter was bad. Two-hundred-something dollars later, my car now works.

But the new starter is crap. My old one would quietly start the engine at 2000 RPM (it sounded like power), and then it would slowly drop to 500-1500 RPM. This new one loudly cranks the engine and then the tach climbs up to 500 RPM while the lights steadily grow to full brightness. Now my Bonnie sounds like some old 1980's piece of junk (no offense).

It starts, so I really shouldn't be complaining. Plus it's raining, which should wash off all that dirt to some degree.
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Old 03-09-2005, 01:47 AM   #14
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Take it back and ask the "mechanic" if he installed the shims under the starter properly because it should be cranking fairly quickly.
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Old 03-09-2005, 02:00 AM   #15
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shims are important, did he mention anything about the flywheel teeth or anything along those lines, i always put notes on work order(mainly to cover my ass and just so the customer knows how much of his ring gear is gone)
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