when is a car battery really dead

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  #1  
Old 03-14-08, 12:07 PM
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when is a car battery really dead

Chevy Lumaina Van 1994 (yes it's old) second battery installed 5 years ago.
Until the day before yesterday it would start in a split second. Yesterday morning it was dead.
It didn't even give enough juice to turn on a single dashboard light or to make that crazy sound on the starter.

I removed it and checked the voltage 3.88V

Shall I try to recharge it or get a new battery?
 
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  #2  
Old 03-14-08, 12:14 PM
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have it carged/checked for free at autozone.
smells a tad fishy. is it being drained by the car ?
a 5 year old batt is old, but funky to die overnight like that.
 
  #3  
Old 03-14-08, 12:39 PM
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I don't know why it went the way it did. I was surprised.
I don't think any thing was left on; if there was there would have been a buzz or something. It wasn't colder then the nights before...
So you think it's worth charging?
I will do that. And will see.

BTW why these car makers put so much effort to place the battery where you have to spent hours to pull it out. I mean you have to remove the air intake (the stuff that goes from the back of the radiator to the air filter) and the windshield washer tank and still have hard time to pull the heavy batty out?
 
  #4  
Old 03-14-08, 12:52 PM
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when is a car battery really dead

They put it where they have to if they want to get it into the car people like the looks of. - When is the last time a person bought a car because of the battery location?

Also batteries never get looked at or replced very 5 to 10 years.
 
  #5  
Old 03-14-08, 01:04 PM
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I would have the old one charged and tested then used in the car. Then see if it goes dead again.
The reason I would not get a new battery right off the bat is because if there is a problem with the car that is killing the battery, I would not want my brand new battery killed.
Batteries dont like being killed. I can't say that I blame them. Yes they can be resurrected by recharging, most of the time, but they still get damage.
 
  #6  
Old 03-14-08, 01:18 PM
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I would replace it

at 60 months the battery is getting near the end of its life ,

why risk getting stranded with a dead battery to try to get a couple of months more use out of what you have

I'm a big believer in preventive maintenance
 
  #7  
Old 03-14-08, 01:27 PM
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I would charge the battery and put it back and take a look around for something left on. The battery shouldn't have dropped to 3.88 volts overnite unless something in the car was pulling juice. Usually a tired battery will act tired before going dead.
 
  #8  
Old 03-14-08, 01:27 PM
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Thanks guys

I think I am going to follow your advice and find a way to first charge this dead one then buy a new one "if" necessary.


Concretemasonry
Next time I buy a new car I will ask the dealer about the location of the battery... Just for the fun of it
 
  #9  
Old 03-14-08, 01:28 PM
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A battery can develop an open with no warning. Sounds like that's what yours did. Replace it.
 
  #10  
Old 03-14-08, 04:59 PM
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New development

I asked a friend, with an almost new golf, to give me a boost.
As soon as I connected the cables lights came up full.
But when after 3-4 minutes of connection I tried to start, it sounded like very very tired battery. just a short "wren"
I could not get the starter turn enough to get the engine started.
Usually when you get a boost it restarts almost immediately.

Now I can't sleep tonight! Shall I just get a new battery (and risk seeing it die too) or take the battery to be recharged by a professional.
The lights were full, bright and white; no weakness in that.

What can it be?


.
 
  #11  
Old 03-14-08, 05:19 PM
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With your battery reading 3.88 volts it will take a long time to boost. The booster battery not only has to have electrons flowing into the dead, empty battery, it also has to feed the starter and ignition system.
With a battery voltage that low and considering how old it is, I would get another battery for piece of mind.
BUT
At this stage we still don't know if the old battery went belly up or a vehicle malfunction sucked all the life out of it.
I would still take the battery out and charge it and test it.
Have you got a charger? I got a new one for $15 on sale that comes in handy. Anyways, back to the problem
If you are going to boost start it know that it can be murder to the booster vehicles electronic system with such a high potential difference. Personally I would refuse to boost you with a battery that far down.
If you do boost, then do it properly making the final connection on the vehicle frame away from the battery for the negative. That way if there are sparks you wont be near the battery if it explodes.
Use the booster car as a battery charger and run it for a good 15 or 20 minutes. Disconnect the cables and then try to start your car.
If at that point it still wont start then I would disconnect your battery and hook the booster cables direct to the booster vehicle and see if it starts.
 
  #12  
Old 03-14-08, 05:47 PM
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Thanks frankiee

I suppose all I can do at this point, since I don't have a charger myself, is to take the battery to be charged at a shop.

If things go well, it will work and I would be happy, otherwise I would have spent 15-20$ to recharge the battery.
It is a good idea to have a battery charger, I should have done the same when they were on sales, I should keep my eyes open for that too!
Anyhow it's it 9 PM here I will see what will happen in 12 hours from now
Thanks for the help and suggestions.
 
  #13  
Old 03-14-08, 06:25 PM
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A good rule of thumb is 4 years for most batteries and any longer than that is a gamble.
You're on borrowed time.
Dont waste your time or money charging an old battery just go to Wall Mart and pick up a new one for $ 40.00 bucks and do it yourself.
Don't wait till you discover your battery is dead on that cold and rainy night or icy morning or when you're on a hot date. ( that might be good)
 
  #14  
Old 03-14-08, 06:59 PM
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A co-worker of mine had a dead battery one morning.had new battery installed. A couple of days later batt. dead again. The shop he took it to found a coin in the rear cigarette lighter draining the batt. gotta love them grand kids.
 
  #15  
Old 03-14-08, 09:16 PM
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don't waste time on a 5 year old battery, even if it does come up it won't supply anywhere near the original cold crank amperage it was deigned to. when you install your new battery, connect a test light in series with the negative battery cable. if the light lights and stays on, you have something on somewhere in the van that will drain your new battery. if the lights lights and then goes off, it's unlikely (read: not impossible) that you have a drain. measured with a digital ammeter < than 50 milliamps of draw is desired. any electronics (clock, station memory, etc) with a live memory will consume some amperage, so a tiny bit of draw is ok.
 
  #16  
Old 03-15-08, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by carguyinva View Post
don't waste time on a 5 year old battery, even if it does come up it won't supply anywhere near the original cold crank amperage it was deigned to. when you install your new battery, connect a test light in series with the negative battery cable. if the light lights and stays on, you have something on somewhere in the van that will drain your new battery. if the lights lights and then goes off, it's unlikely (read: not impossible) that you have a drain. measured with a digital ammeter < than 50 milliamps of draw is desired. any electronics (clock, station memory, etc) with a live memory will consume some amperage, so a tiny bit of draw is ok.
i like the test light in series for checking current loss. THANKS!
 
  #17  
Old 03-15-08, 07:45 AM
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Your CRAZY not to go to an autoparts store and have the thing TESTED!! Come on its FREE. They will charge it and test it for you. Dont pay a mechanic and dont keep trying other things. The first poster told you to bring it to AZ and have them charge and test it for you why havent you listened?
 
  #18  
Old 03-15-08, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by carguyinva View Post
don't waste time on a 5 year old battery, even if it does come up it won't supply anywhere near the original cold crank amperage it was deigned to. when you install your new battery, connect a test light in series with the negative battery cable. if the light lights and stays on, you have something on somewhere in the van that will drain your new battery. if the lights lights and then goes off, it's unlikely (read: not impossible) that you have a drain. measured with a digital ammeter < than 50 milliamps of draw is desired. any electronics (clock, station memory, etc) with a live memory will consume some amperage, so a tiny bit of draw is ok.
Thanks carguyinva for the most logical answer, you made me change my mind and go for a new battery!

But what on earth can suddenly drain a battery like this?
I am sure there wasn't anything left on the night before the battery died. No addition whatsoever to the van neither.

If there is a drainage, then I better find what it is before installing a new battery, otherwise I would be buying batteries on daily basis!!

PS
When I had my friend boost me, the head lamps came on very bright, the radio came on loud when switched but it did not crank. Just the faint sound of a very very sick battery.
Is there any possibility that something else is gone wrong as well?


.
 
  #19  
Old 03-15-08, 08:27 AM
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you're welcome. what hurts lead acid batteries is age and charge/discharge cycling. there's a reason that they only have a 18-24 month full replacement warranty and then a prorated scale from there til 60, 72 or 84 months. batteries lose it with age.

it's hard to say with limited info whether something drained the battery or it failed from age...altho in my experience i've never seen a battery fail internally and leave you with 3.88 volts. each cell produces about 2.11 volts X 6 cells = 12.66 volts fully charged open circuit voltage. the battery needs to be replaced, so do that. but when you hook it up, do the test that I described...even if you do nothing for awhile and the new battery gets drained, it can be recharged and you won't have to buy batteries every day. My hunch is that something drained your old one...look around carefully when you connect that new battery for a light on...not just the obvious dome light that you can see from the house across the street, but in the glove box, console, storage compartment, underhood. lights are big drains. the test i gave you will tell you that there definately is or isn't a battery drain. if you don't find something obvious, then it may be time for a pro to take a look at the electronics and see if the drain is being caused by a controller not shutting down. 9 times out of 10, it's a light that got accidently turned on and forgotten about. as for the penny in the cig lighter...i've also found those, but the symptom has been a blown fuse as the coin bypasses the load and causes a short to ground.
 
  #20  
Old 03-15-08, 10:08 AM
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my 2 cents

Get that old battery replaced it is on borrowed time anyway. Not only that if it is bad (short). you could wipe out your alternator as it has a tough time charging it. Alternators do not like to be charging at the full rated amps for too long. They are made to charge a good battery that needs a little bit of power not dead battries that require more.
 
  #21  
Old 03-15-08, 10:15 AM
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carguyinva, thanks again and again for your patience.

Here's another new development;
I just went out and got a new battery.
The same thing happened. A short sound of starter beginning to crank, then nothing!
I immediately pulled the cables from the battery.

Then I read, with a digital meter, the resistance on the two screws that fix to the battery.
It reads 00.7 ohms (00.7 on the 0-to-20 ohm scale) ohms. The same as when I touch the two needles of the meter together. When the two needles don't touch, there is a 1 on the left side of the meter's display.

So it seems to me that, as you said, there must be a short. But what short that drain so much that the starter won't work?

Since I can't see what is on without a battery, I wonder if there can part of the mechanical (like water pump or I don't know.. something like that)

I thought of pulling the fuses one by one and seeing the result, but then again, if it drain that much, then fuse should give, right?

Any suggestion?



PS
It all happened overnight. I parked the van on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning it did not start!



.
 
  #22  
Old 03-15-08, 01:28 PM
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The internal plates constantly shed and if the buildup becomes great enough over the years, will contact several plates causing a short. Or the plates may warp due to electrical stress and contact one another. Either way the battery will die quickly and without advance notice and recharging etc. will not restore it.
 
  #23  
Old 03-15-08, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by goldstar View Post
The internal plates constantly shed and if the buildup becomes great enough over the years, will contact several plates causing a short. Or the plates may warp due to electrical stress and contact one another. Either way the battery will die quickly and without advance notice and recharging etc. will not restore it.
We are talking about aged batteries, right?
My problem is that this happened with a new battery as well !!
 
  #24  
Old 03-15-08, 03:16 PM
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ok...break it down step by step for me. you installed the battery and made the connections and then tried to crank it?? you got a beginning of a crank but then nothing? is this correct?? tell me in painful detail.

as for doing a continuity test across the battery cables with the battery removed...you should read low resistance...in fact it doesn't really test anything. a large drain on the battery won't cause a starting problem....have you ever started the engine in a car with the headlamps on? the new battery would handle that just fine...if my assumption about what happened is correct, i'm more concerned about the cable connections at the battery or the cables themselves. clean and tight...clean em with a wire brush...even if they look ok to you...clean them nice and shiny where they touch the battery lugs...ditto for the lugs on the battery. even a new battery can have oxidized terminals which have alot of lead in them. also make sure they are good and tight...with a short wrench, i doubt you could over tighten them. 15-20 lb-ft of torque if that helps...
 
  #25  
Old 03-15-08, 04:38 PM
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continuity

You will always get continuity on the cables even with no battery. Reason is because there are things in your car that draw power all the time. Things like your radio for the clock and its presets.
These items alone will complete the circuit for your meter to read continitity. It will not show you the amp draw that would be very small and will not drain a good battery unless left for a few months without charging.
I would take a close look at cables (both ends of each cable). clean and look for green cables under the plastic that would indicate corrosion.
 
  #26  
Old 03-15-08, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by carguyinva View Post
ok...break it down step by step for me. you installed the battery and made the connections and then tried to crank it?? you got a beginning of a crank but then nothing? is this correct?? tell me in painful detail.

as for doing a continuity test across the battery cables with the battery removed...you should read low resistance...in fact it doesn't really test anything. a large drain on the battery won't cause a starting problem....have you ever started the engine in a car with the headlamps on? the new battery would handle that just fine...if my assumption about what happened is correct, i'm more concerned about the cable connections at the battery or the cables themselves. clean and tight...clean em with a wire brush...even if they look ok to you...clean them nice and shiny where they touch the battery lugs...ditto for the lugs on the battery. even a new battery can have oxidized terminals which have alot of lead in them. also make sure they are good and tight...with a short wrench, i doubt you could over tighten them. 15-20 lb-ft of torque if that helps...


3 nights ago I drove the home, left the car outdoor, went to bed, came back in the morning put the key in, turned it; there was no sign that there was a battery in car (as if someone stole the battery) (even the dashboard lights did not came on) It used to start in a split second.

I played around with the battery (checked the cables, banged on it etc) Nothing.
Then I removed the battery, checked the voltage and read 3.88 V !
Asked a friend to give me a boost. When the cables were connected the lights would come on (all signs of having juice in the car) but the starter would not go more then a short "dghrr" (split second of the starter's beginning sound). Much shorter then the sound of a normally dead battery.
After 3 tries I let my friend go!

Today, I bought a new battery, installed it.
The same thing happened again. All lights came on, as I turned the key, headlights lights went out, then half a "dghrr" and then nothing.
The second time same happened again, and the lights went out! I stopped trying.
I removed the new battery, checked it again 11.8 V or so
With the battery disconnected, I measured the resistance between the lugs of the cables on the car. There is a no resistance (the reading was the same as if I shorted my multimeter's wires; 00.7 on the 0-20 Ohm, the lowest)

I have the impression that if I leave the battery installed and connected, it will drain. More so if I try to start.

The car was working fine the night before. I have not added anything to the car. I don't see anything on.
If something causes a short, this must have happened between the time I started the car at work and the time I arrived home. I keep searching what may have happened, I don't see anything. I didn't open the hood that night. I didn't hit anything!


Someone told me to try starting with the gear shaft in N instead of P. I haven't tried this.
 
  #27  
Old 03-15-08, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by michael van View Post
You will always get continuity on the cables even with no battery. Reason is because there are things in your car that draw power all the time. Things like your radio for the clock and its presets.
These items alone will complete the circuit for your meter to read continitity. It will not show you the amp draw that would be very small and will not drain a good battery unless left for a few months without charging.
I would take a close look at cables (both ends of each cable). clean and look for green cables under the plastic that would indicate corrosion.
I was expecting that, but a digital clock should not, IMHO, allow so much continuity.
To my knowledge, there is nothing else "on" on the car.

.
 
  #28  
Old 03-15-08, 05:35 PM
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If its not an accessory it could be a bad diode in the alt.. It will still charge when running but discharge when not running.
 
  #29  
Old 03-15-08, 05:48 PM
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This problem is clearly either bad connection, or huge current draw almost like a short.

Let me ask you this:

After you connect the first cable to the battery, then you connect the second cable to the battery, IS THERE A SPARK. And I mean a big spark (not a little tick)?

If so, you need to:
1st: Remove key from ignition,
2nd: Turn off anything else that might be on, including closing the doors,
3rd: Put an ammeter in series between a battery terminal and the cable normally connecting to that terminal.
4th: Confirm how much current is actually being drawn.
 
  #30  
Old 03-16-08, 07:18 AM
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I'm really a nagger ain't I?

This morning I got up thinking what if it was not a battery problem but that of my starter?

Anyhow, I cleaned the lugs with wire brush. I put two screws in the new battery to hold the jumping cable solidly. Placed this battery on a table next to the van and went exploring.

The battery voltage reads 11.88 V

When the cable contacts the car wires there is no spark, not at all. (key not in ignition)

The lights come on, as if it was all OK.
I turn the ignition key; hear one muffled "ghrr" (the sound of contact) nothing more.
I play with the anti theft device that has not been turned on for years (I said maybe this has something to do....) nothing.
I put the gear in N, instead of P. Again the same thing.
I turn on the radio, it's loud and clear. The buzzer says take the keys out! So?

So I said to myself maybe it is the starter that has problem?
Could this be the case!




_
 
  #31  
Old 03-16-08, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by xiar68 View Post
Today, I bought a new battery, installed it.
The same thing happened again. All lights came on, as I turned the key, headlights lights went out, then half a "dghrr" and then nothing.
Did you do as was suggested and have the battery tested before buying a new one?
You can also do that with the starter.
 
  #32  
Old 03-16-08, 10:45 AM
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not sure where you purchased that new battery but 11.8 volts is VERY discharged. a draw on the battery will NOT cause the battery to die immediately after hooking it up as I stated before. that 11.8 volt battery either needs to be fully charged or returned for another one, period. the battery is the heart of the electrical system and for proper performance OR diagnostics, Must be fully charged.

As for your starter possibly being bad. yes...starters tend to begin to sound different as they wear and gradually become slower in cranking speed and kind of growly sounding. the way to tell if you have a bad starter or battery during a "no crank, no start" condition is with a the volt meter. with the battery fully charged, place the positive meter lead on the positive battery post...the place the negative meter lead on the bottom big terminal (below the one the battery cable connects to) on the starter solenoid and have someone try to crank it. the reading you get is the voltage drop of the insulated circuit and should be, ideally, very low....half a volt or less. a reading higher indicates unwanted resistance in the high amperage circuit to the starter. if your reading is high, then move the negative meter lead to the connection on the starter solenoid where the battery cable hooks on. if the reading is now low, then the resistance is in the starter solenoid and the starter will need to be rebuilt or replaced. if the reading is still high, the problem is a bad connection at the battery OR a bad cable itself.
 
  #33  
Old 03-18-08, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by xiar68 View Post
Thanks carguyinva for the most logical answer, you made me change my mind and go for a new battery!

I just went out and got a new battery.
The same thing happened. A short sound of starter beginning to crank, then nothing!
Sorry to say but this is what you get when just replacing parts without testing them! Now get your starter out and bring it to get tested and stop trying things like I said before. You may have THOUGHT I was trying to be a prick but what I am trying to do is get you to do the right thing so you can sleep at night and not worry about "could it be this could it be that"
 
  #34  
Old 03-18-08, 09:54 AM
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Systematic aproach

Let me get this straight. New battery go's dead but will start vehicle if fully charged.
Remove one battery terminal and insert a test light. If it glows at all the draw is greater than normal. Start pulling fuses and disconecting wires until the test light go's out. Now you know which circuit has the culprit. While the fuse is out note what doesn't work. It's one of those. Good luck.
 
  #35  
Old 03-18-08, 11:04 AM
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Thumbs up It works !!

Ok, the car starts normally and runs well (with all the noises of her age!)

The problem was "contacts"
All the dirt and the salt in these 13-14 years came to this big bang!
The reason I was not able to clean all the wires and contacts was simply the cold.
We have had a temperature of between 10 and 30. The van is parked outside, on the street. The snow is not totally removed. On top of all that I had left my toolbox at my in-laws (they don't have drive).
Dirty, cold and bleeding fingers aren't very cooperative in these conditions...

The car was finally taken to a warm place and a good cleaning cleared to way to do the job.

One big thank you to all who "I told you so" me about a bad contact!

The new battery that I got on Saturday was returned. The fact that it gave "only" 11.88 V was enough for the dealer.
One more thing about the old battery; once I put a newer battery in the multimeter it read 11.5 V on the old car battery.

Thank you.
I learned a lot of new tricks from you.
I learned to never try to work outside on cold days.
I learned that working on cars is dirtier that what I usually do; woodworking. And you cut yourself more!

Thanks and cheers
 
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