Car starts only with a boost


Old 10-16-03, 01:33 PM
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Question Car starts only with a boost

i have a 94 ford escort (many people have told me thats my problem right there!)

i tried to start it and i just got a clicking noise. i tried again and received the same noise. each time i tried the clicks became fewer and fewer, then my instrument panel came on some items were brighter then others, there was also a beeping noise i never heard before. ( battery was almost not lit).

so I had someone boost me and the car came on. i drove it to work (about 30 miles) and as soon as i turned into my parking spot the car shut off. after work i boosted it again and began to drive home. 3-4 miles from home the car died again slowing down for a red light.

AAA came to tow the car but before that the guy gave the car another boost. it ran for about 2 min. then shut off again. as it was running the guy tested the alternator and battery with his portable charger. he said they were fine. i took the battery to a auto parts place to get tested and it tested ok. i asked around and was told it could be anything from my starter to an electrical problem. i decided to buy a new battery and when i tried to start it with the new battery i heard a sizzling sound and saw smoke from my Negative battery cable. so i stopped!!
i heard so many different things that im not sure what course to take. i know i can fix it...if i know what it is.
please help
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Old 10-16-03, 01:38 PM
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 516
If you have a multimeter put it on the alternator, you should be getting 13 plus volts, if not pull it and have it tested, if it checks out ok the battery cables should be checked out next. The sizzling sound could be a loose battery terminal.
Old 10-17-03, 06:50 AM
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Make sure you are hooking the battery terminals to the right place!

Check all connections---Fords are bad for having poor battery cable connections. This will cause a no start condition.

When you have this problem, do the lights, horn, radio, etc work OK?

Charge the battery, verify the terminals and connections are good and test the alternator with a DVOM as Easywind suggested and let's see what we have.
Old 10-17-03, 08:55 AM
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i bought home a voltage tester and tried it on the battery. when i cranked it up the needle on the tester went from 13 volts down to about 3-4 volts. (not sure if using the right terminology, but it went way down.)

i was told by the person lending me the tester that if it went way down then it would be my starter.. are they correct??

i checked the cables as best as i can but could not find anything significant ( no tear's, exposed wires or corrosion visable). i did notice the cables are original to the car and the housing was caked in gunk but not the wire under the housing.

should i invest in a starter or continue looking at the battery cables???

thanks to easywind & joe f for your quick response.
Old 10-17-03, 09:09 AM
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Get a voltage meter and measure the drop across the cables. That will tell you if they are bad or not.
Old 10-17-03, 09:28 AM
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im not sure what you mean by "Across the cables" do i connect the meter directly to the cables. or do you mean something else.

sorry for my ignorance, but thanks for responding so fast. look forward to your suggestions.
Old 10-17-03, 10:12 AM
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I took this from Jeff's appliance forum here, but it might help you:
Old 10-17-03, 02:31 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Pittsburgh,Pa
Posts: 2,417
To do a voltage drop test on the battery cables turn the headlights on.Take the red voltmeter lead and put it on the positive battery post(not the terminal on the cable).Take the black lead and put it on the positive post at the starter.Meter set to volts what is the reading?If it is more than .3 volts the cable is bad.Now go from the negative battery post to point where the cable is bolted to the block,read the meter if it reads more than .3 volts the cable is bad.You could have corrosion at any end of a cable and get the same result.Do this test and repost with voltage readings.What bothers me is it will start with a boost but wouldn't with a brand new battery.Doesn't sound right to me.
Old 10-18-03, 09:21 AM
mike from nj
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what also doesn't make sense is that the battery tester dropped to 3 volts when the load was placed on the battery, yet it tested good at the store? and it is a new battery?

like stated, you need to do a voltage drop test to find where your voltage is being lost(my bet---it's right where the smoke came from) if the headlights don't give you enough of a reading, YOU hold the voltmeter terminals on those described wires as someone else attempts to start the engine---you'll definitely get a reading then.

note: don't listen to a word of what the AAA guy says, if he tested it with his battery box(which it sounds like he did)that is the most inaccurate test you can get, aaa drivers range from a guy with 40+ years of experience to an 18 year old with no knowledge of even how to drive the wrecker, and usually it's the latter.

post the voltage drop test results here.
Old 10-20-03, 06:49 AM
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First of all i'd like to thank everybody who responded to my cry for help. i did not think i'd get much response, let alone the answer to my problem.

it was the negative battery cable that was shot! over the weekend i took the voltage tester and did what one of you guys suggested and checked the battery terminals. the terminal connectors were cracked in half and rusted on the negative terminal and in pretty bad shape on the positive terminal. the negative battery cable also had corrosion where it connected to the terminal connector and to the frame of the car. so i replaced the cable and the connectors and sure enough it started right up. while it was running i put the voltage tester on the battery to see if it might be working alone but it read fine. i also tested the alternator which tested where it should have according to the tester. hopefully i covered all the bases for this problem. if you all think something does not sound right please let me know so i dont end up somewhere stranded on I95.

once again thanks for all your help!!!!!!!

once again
Old 10-20-03, 09:50 AM
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There you have it. As everyone suggested Good job!

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