Something is draining my battery

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  #1  
Old 07-11-05, 11:28 AM
dfwzebra
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Something is draining my battery

I have a 1997 Mazda Protege with 97,000 miles. About 3 weeks ago, I went to start my car in my garage, and it barely started. I drove it to work, and parked it in the parking garage. Around 9 hours later, I tried to start it, and it wouldn't start. It did have enough juice to light up the dash.

I got a jump, and took it straight to Walmart and had a new battery installed. (interestingly, the "check engine" light that had been on for about 3 years, went off and stayed off for the first time). I drove it as normal for about 3 weeks until last Friday. I parked the car in the hot sun (100 degrees) and came back to it after about 30 minutes. When I turned the key, I got absolutely nothing - even no lights on the dash. I tried to jump the battery, but it still wouldn't start, but did achieve lights on the dash. The booster cables started to smoke. Another guy had better cables, and it started right up.

I headed straight for a repair shop. While driving, I noticed that it was getting dark, so I turned on the headlights, and the car immediately died (once again, not even any juice to the dash). I had another nice guy jump the car and we charged the battery for about 30 minutes. I took it to PepBoys, suspecting a bad alternator. They said the alternator was fine. I've since driven it several times with no issues.

Any ideas about why this is happening would be appreciated before I blindly pay somebody a lot of money to figure it out.

Thanks,
Scott
 
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  #2  
Old 07-11-05, 06:20 PM
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As much as I'd not want to myself, I think it's time to take it to a shop. It could be a bad alternator, or an ignition switch issue, or a parasitic draw or...
As for the check engine light being off, it's due to the battery being down voltage wise, enough to erase any codes..And as it's (battery) gone down a couple more times, it'll keep clearing the codes.. Some malfunction's require 3 "drive cycles", after the computer see's the malfunction, before turing the light on..So, if the battery goes dead on the 2nd drive cycle, and goes dead, clears the code, the computer starts all over again..
 
  #3  
Old 07-11-05, 07:18 PM
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I feel sorry for you. Since the engine died on your first trip after full drain of battery, before it got fully charged, alternator may not be the problem.

If I were you, I would pull out ammeter and measure drainage current every once in a while. If it is an intermittent problem, you may be able to catch something that way. But then, you will have to reset time, radio each time. That's no fun.
 
  #4  
Old 07-11-05, 08:34 PM
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It sounds like you have an intermittent alternator problem, which wouldn't show bad on the test if it was working good when tested. Measure the voltage at the battery with the engine running right after you have a problem. It should be 13.5- 14.5 volts. It wouldn't hurt to replace the alternator if you plan on keeping the car for while since, with 97K miles, it wouldn't last too much longer anyway. Some symptoms of a bad alternator would be dim headlights/interior lights, slow power windows, slow turn signals, and may be accompanied by lack of power, misfiring or stalling.

Also, make sure all connections are clean and tight.
 
  #5  
Old 07-12-05, 07:48 AM
dfwzebra
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Thanks for the replies. I think I will just get the alternator replaced. I have noticed that my light in the odomoter area is a bit dim. I never knew that the alternator issue could be intermittent. It sounds like it can.
 
  #6  
Old 07-12-05, 02:59 PM
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If just the light in the odometer are is dim, it might be a bad bulb. I was refering to all the dash lights being dimmer than normal. A new alternator may fix the battery problem but not a problem with just one bulb being dim.
 
  #7  
Old 07-12-05, 06:33 PM
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I have a question. When an alternator goes bad, does it trigger some kind of warning/error code?

The first symptom he had was after parking 30 minutes. If it was an alternator problem, shouldn't he have had a low current or voltage warning light while driving the car?

By the way, I am not a pro. I am only curious about the cause.
 
  #8  
Old 07-12-05, 06:53 PM
jameskane
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I hate to ask the possible obvious, but I will because I've been in your shoes:

My wife's GMC JImmy all of a sudden wouldn't start one day--the day after I had it at the shop for them to replace a turn signal flasher (don't ask--it's BURIED in the dash). The dash had power, but when you turn the key, CLICK and dead. After trying to charge the battery, and then start it, same thing.

Turned out the guys at the shop had not tightened the battery terminal bolts all the way. I tightened them up and voila. Also, you may want to check the condition of your battery cables--the most common problem is lack of good ground.


Just some ideas--alot cheaper than an alternator if it isn't needed.
 
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