1993 Saturn SL1 - Severe battery issues


Old 06-17-05, 07:40 AM
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1993 Saturn SL1 - Severe battery issues

Hi, just found out about forum. A great resource and a lot of helpful people - hoping someone can help me here. I read and searched through forum but couldn't find the specific scenario I'm in...

Recent history:
Jun 2004- Car was stolen. They really screwed up the ignition, but car still ran. Had it checked out by mechanic and they said I needed to have ignition cylinder assembly replaced, and a rekey.

Sept 2004- I forget what happened exactly, probably left my lights on a few times or something and ended up buying a new battery, after successive jumps it wouldn't keep a charge. Bought a "Diehard Silver" from Sears, and installed it myself (first time doing that). Immediately after installing it I had issues, it wouldn't start right away. I took it out, reseated it, then just left it for a few hours. Came back and it started right up. Within the next week I left my lights on, and car wouldn't start in the morning. I got a jump to get it going. (I ignored advice to put a charger on it to make sure it had a full charge - but it kept running fine so I didn't worry about it)

Dec 2004- Ignition cynlinder assembly replaced. Engine and transmission mounts replaced.

Feb 2005- Drive belt replaced.

May 2005- Car starting making squealing noise when I accelerated with the A/C on. Brought it in, mechanic said the belt tensioner was bad.

6/10/05 - Got the belt tensioner replaced.
6/11/05 - Go to grocery store, come out, battery dead (did not leave anything on this time, no clue why it was dead). Got a jump and drove home.
Over the next 2-3 days I had it jumped 3 times to get where I needed to go.

6/15/05 - Put a 2amp charger on at night. It had a reading of 2amp, so the manual said that meant it basically had no charge. Left it on for 3 hours, and took it off when it read very close to 1amp - so it probably had approx 90-100% charge (per the battery charger manual).

6/16- drove around all day, everything fine.

Today - go out and car won't start. Get the clicking noise as if battery is dead.

So now 20 different possibilities are running through my head. Battery dead (how if it was just charged 2 days ago?) Alternator dead (very possible I guess... my sister's saturn had a bad alternator around 70k miles). I'm also just very suspicious why this happened the day after my mechanic replaced the belt tensioner? One guy at work asked "did your mechanic forget to hook up the alternator"? I have no clue if that would even be a possibility when replacing a belt tensioner.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
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Old 06-17-05, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 64
(first step). put a voltmeter on you battery terminals with engine running (AC off), it should read ca. 15 volts. if not , take alternator out and have it (load) tested
at your local auto parts store.
Old 06-17-05, 09:36 AM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,538
check for corrosion at battery cables clean if any, have the battery tested a shop can test the starting and charging system and tell you what the problem is. many auto parts stores can test batterys in the vehicle also.
voltage at battery with engine off should be around 12 volts with engine runing should be around 14 volts with accesories off, if voltage increases once engine is started the alternater is atleast charging some and is probably ok.
Old 06-17-05, 10:26 AM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: nc
Posts: 616
If the voltage is good with no accessories on, proceed to test the voltage with the A/C and lights on. The voltage should be about the same or slightly lower by about 0 - .5 volts. Also check the belt tension to make sure there isn't too much slack. You owner's manual should have instructions on this. Make sure cable connections are tight around the battery posts and at the alternator.
Old 06-18-05, 09:19 AM
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Ok thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Yesterday I got a jump and drove to Sears where I had originally bought the battery (sept 2004).

I had them test it out and everything passed, here are the results:

--Visual Inspection--
Battery case = pass
Battery post/term = pass
Battery not frozen
Battery cable ends = pass
Battery cables = pass
Battery tray = pass
Battery hold down = pass
Alternator belt = pass

--Battery Results--
Spec. CCA = 500
Good Battery

--Starter Test--
Cranking Volts = 10.57 (good)

--Charging Test--
Load volts = 13.69
No-load volts = 13.92
Diodes good
Charging system good

I told the guy what was happening and he guessed that either I'm leaving something on, or there is something draining the power.

Then why is the problem intermittent?? The only difference I can think of sometimes is I leave my CD player's faceplate on, which still shows the clock after the car is turned off. I usually take off the faceplate, and I'm not 100% sure if the faceplate has been left on each time the problem occurs. Either way, 2 other people I talked to said that little bit of power draw couldn't cause the problem.

Any more thoughts?
Old 06-18-05, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Michigan
Posts: 335
you probably have some type of parasytic load. try checking the voltage of the battery when you stop driving then next time you go to use the car check the voltage to see if it is lower. then try the same thing, but disconnect the battery cables when you stop driving.
Old 06-18-05, 02:47 PM
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Well now I'm stumped too. I go out to the car today and I get "click click click click click click...". I left nothing on overnight.

I'll get a jump and take it to the mechanic next week when I get back from vacation. Will let you know how it goes... I don't think there is much more I can do
Old 06-23-05, 08:40 AM
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the nightmare continues...

6/19/05 - Car wouldn't start, just got a "click click click click click". The lights and windows worked fine.

6/20-6/22 - on vacation

6/23 - car still doesn't start, get the same "click click click" sound. the lights and windows still work fine. Got a jump from another car, took it to AutoZone. The manager at Autozone came out and ran a test on the battery. I told him I had Sears test it and they had said it was fine. As his tester was running he said "nope it's no good" - I read the tester and it said "recharge battery and retest".

Then he asked me to try starting the car, and once he heard the "click click click click" sound, he said it was a starter problem.

So he put a booster charger on it, and it wouldn't start! He said, wait a bit for it to cool down, then the starter might work again. So I waited about 45mins, came back and put the booster on it, started right up!

So it now seems to be a problem with the starter. Is this true the starter can intermittently work? It's a damn expensive part for me... $250-300. The guy's reasoning at Autozone was that the battery charge keeps going down when I try to start it and the starter fails.
Old 06-23-05, 09:32 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Indiana
Posts: 312
General rule of thumb - single click when turning the key, look to the starter; multiple clicks when turning the key, look to the battery/charge level.

The test results you posted did not indicate starter amp draw - very important.
Cranking volts on the starter are borderline, but charge level will affect that. Were all tests performed with the battery fully charged? Throwing it on a boost charge for 15 min. will result in a surface charge only and greatly affect the test results.
How were the cables tested? Did they check resistance?
Parasitic draw is possible, but unlikely the cause of an intermittent issue. Faceplate clock definitely won't kill a good battery.
Old 06-23-05, 10:55 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: nc
Posts: 616
I don't think its the starter because you never mentioned having any problems getting it jump started and I assume you have had it not start when it's cold or hot then you try and jump start and it works. pmgheritage's rule of thumb makes a lot of since.

I would get the battery tested again at a different auto parts store (but not another sears store).

Also the belt tensioner is suspect. Seems like a lot of problems happened after getting it replaced. I've see a voltage meter in the walmart auto dept, for about $15, that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. You could plug it in and watch it when you're driving and see if it maintains about 14 volts with and without A/C, lights, etc. on. Also you could see if your battery has 12 volts when it doesn't start.

The cables are also suspect if sears only did a visual inspection.

Also remove the battery cables from the battery and clean the posts and terminals with a battery cleaning tool or steel wool until both are shiney. Sears may not have removed the terminals to check the actual contact areas.
Old 06-24-05, 04:05 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Cape Cod
Posts: 4,320
I've had the ongoing intermittent no start like yours and had the battery check out just fine at Western Auto and Advance Auto
Out of frustration (after a few weeks) I did by a new battery
No problem after that
I just wanted to point out that a pooched batt. can sometimes check out OK
Old 06-24-05, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,538
if you cannot find any corrosion or loose cables next time you drive the vehicle after shutting it off remove the negative cable let vehicle set overnight then reconnect cable and see if vehicle will start if it still doesnt start then suspect a bad battery and is probably shorted and draining itself when this occurs the battery may test good once the battery is charged so it can be hard to diagnose.
if vehicle starts then you may have an intermitant drain from something on the vehicle or other problem.

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