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Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: clay
Date: October 24, 2016 01:05PM
So, replaced the battery after this incident:
[forums.macresource.com]

All was apparently working fine until about 2 weeks ago, when I started noticing the car was taking a bit more effort to start. But it would still start. Went to use it on Saturday evening, and the dash lights barely lit up and wouldn't even partially turn over to start.

Usage habits haven't really changed--still drive it 1-2x per week, most weeks. What are the likely culprits for this sort of thing? See the previous post and my answers there still apply.

I'd like to keep this car going, but given its age and value (18 years/maybe $1000) I don't want to pay a shop to look at/fix it if it isn't a long term fix. So, if I can troubleshoot on my own, possibly fix on my own, I'd be open to that. Should I just get a $50 battery tender and keep it charged that way? That wouldn't fix the underlying issue, but it would keep the car operational.

Where would you start?
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: October 24, 2016 01:24PM
Charge that sucker up, drive it to the auto parts shop and have them plug in their battery / alternator tester (which is really a volt meter.... should show higher voltage when running than when sitting... if not, alternator is toast).

Then make your decision.

FWIW.. we kept a big 'ol Mercury running for a good 3 months with a cheap Harbor Freight solar panel battery tender. Finally replaced the alternator.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Gareth
Date: October 24, 2016 01:51PM
A product like this will show you the voltage as you drive (indicating whether or not the alternator is charging): [www.amazon.com] (I have this one and like it)

I think my van has a electrical short somewhere. It will drain the battery if left sitting, so I just disconnect the battery if I'm not going to drive it for a few days. They make disconnects for this purpose that are as simple as turning a knob, or as complicated as a remote switch (neither of which I've gotten around to installing yet).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/24/2016 01:51PM by Gareth.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: October 24, 2016 01:59PM
If a fairly new battery goes weak, the two most likely causes are a bad alternator or a corroded connection. This is assuming the batter leads were cleaned when the new battery was installed. Depending on the state, some large parts chains will test your alternator for free.



In tha 360. MRF User Map
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: clay
Date: October 24, 2016 02:02PM
battery leads look just fine...I cleaned them when the battery was replaced.

Displaying my ignorance here...any idea for alternator pricing (parts + labor) for a 1998 nissan altima? Ballpark is fine. We talking $100 from a local shop? Or if I do a DIY replacement (advised?) is the part typically $25? Just trying to get a sense...I'll need to do some testing.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: msglee
Date: October 24, 2016 02:05PM
Harbor Freight has them.

[www.harborfreight.com]
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: btfc
Date: October 24, 2016 02:15PM
"Same car as the sticking hood"

Remind me what the car is?

Possible vectors:

Bad ground(s)
Bad voltage regulator
Bad alternator
Poorly wired trailer plug in
Bad or loose belts or something else failing that shares the alternator belt
(i.e. AC or power steering pump or idler pulley
Random intermittent shorts; check where wiring goes through firewalls, into doors, etc. for worn wires
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: October 24, 2016 02:18PM
Checking Autozone, Napa, O'Rilley shows a rebuilt alternator is $120-$140. My guess is labor should be a half hour, $30 to $50 depending on where you live.

Edit: btfc is correct, a worn belt is another typical possibility that I forgot, especially if it hasn't been changed in the last 3 or 4 years.



In tha 360. MRF User Map



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/24/2016 02:21PM by Filliam H. Muffman.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: C(-)ris
Date: October 24, 2016 02:31PM
Quote
Filliam H. Muffman
Checking Autozone, Napa, O'Rilley shows a rebuilt alternator is $120-$140. My guess is labor should be a half hour, $30 to $50 depending on where you live.

Edit: btfc is correct, a worn belt is another typical possibility that I forgot, especially if it hasn't been changed in the last 3 or 4 years.

Good luck finding a shop that doesn't have a 1 hour minimum. So figure $140+ 15% shop markup and 1 Hr labor at $75. I'd guess at just under $300 out the door.



C(-)ris
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Speedy
Date: October 24, 2016 02:57PM
Drive it more often. If that doesn't work for you, go with the battery tender.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: October 24, 2016 03:20PM
FWIW... replacing the alternator in that beast all by yourself will use up at least half of your available cuss words. Like most modern vehicles with a single serpentine belt, you'll have to pull the belt, remove other bits and pieces, and remove the alternator, worm it out from UNDER the car (skinning your knuckles repeatedly). Then reverse the process. At least you don't have to remove wheels or drop the engine (I'm not kidding.... some cars require all kinds of nonsense).

[nissanhelp.com]

I'd estimate a shop would bill out at 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and you'd get a replacement alternator AND belt.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: davester
Date: October 24, 2016 03:26PM
You don't say how far you drive the car each time. If you only drive it 1-2 x week for 5 miles then you're probably in a permanent charge deficit (i.e. the charging system doesn't replace the energy used to start the car). In that case a battery tender is what you need. If you don't park near an accessible electrical outlet get a solar version... [www.batterytender.com]



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Speedy
Date: October 24, 2016 05:02PM
Quote
davester
You don't say how far you drive the car each time. If you only drive it 1-2 x week for 5 miles then you're probably in a permanent charge deficit (i.e. the charging system doesn't replace the energy used to start the car). In that case a battery tender is what you need. If you don't park near an accessible electrical outlet get a solar version... [www.batterytender.com]

This^ This^ This^



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Rick-o
Date: October 24, 2016 05:29PM
Quote
Gareth
I think my van has a electrical short somewhere. It will drain the battery if left sitting, so I just disconnect the battery if I'm not going to drive it for a few days. They make disconnects for this purpose that are as simple as turning a knob, or as complicated as a remote switch (neither of which I've gotten around to installing yet).

I had that problem a few years ago with my '85 Trans Am. After many baffling attempts to diagnose, I found that the stock radio/cassette player was the culprit. An intermittent simple short that was affected by hitting a pothole every once in awhile. I replaced the deck with an after market unit and the problem was solved.



"After a time, you may find, that having is not so pleasing a thing after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."

- Mr. Spock



“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

- Walter Reuther
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: C(-)ris
Date: October 24, 2016 05:41PM
Quote
Rick-o
Quote
Gareth
I think my van has a electrical short somewhere. It will drain the battery if left sitting, so I just disconnect the battery if I'm not going to drive it for a few days. They make disconnects for this purpose that are as simple as turning a knob, or as complicated as a remote switch (neither of which I've gotten around to installing yet).

I had that problem a few years ago with my '85 Trans Am. After many baffling attempts to diagnose, I found that the stock radio/cassette player was the culprit. An intermittent simple short that was affected by hitting a pothole every once in awhile. I replaced the deck with an after market unit and the problem was solved.

I just replaced the alternator in my '91 Firebird on Saturday. Was $78 for a brand new AC Delco unit from Amazon and it took me 15 minutes. One 1/2 breaker bar to release tension on the serp belt. 2 Torx bolts, 2 electrical connectors and it was out. Just pull up to get it out.



C(-)ris
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: clay
Date: October 24, 2016 07:28PM
Quote
Speedy
Quote
davester
You don't say how far you drive the car each time. If you only drive it 1-2 x week for 5 miles then you're probably in a permanent charge deficit (i.e. the charging system doesn't replace the energy used to start the car). In that case a battery tender is what you need. If you don't park near an accessible electrical outlet get a solar version... [www.batterytender.com]

This^ This^ This^

Great idea. This does ring true for this car. Most of the driving is in-town, maybe 2-10 miles total per week, on average. Some a little more, some less or none at all. Other than keeping the battery charged, we have no real reason to use the car more often--our main car gets the bulk of the use and is more fun to drive. I won't convince the wife to take the second car as the other car is setup to haul both kiddos full time. It's just easier for her. And I work from home, so I don't drive much, except for meetings, errands, etc.

I guess the first step is to see if the alternator is still good. If it is, I'm guessing the battery is likely not getting enough use to stay charged.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Speedy
Date: October 24, 2016 08:05PM
Your alternator is fine if the light is not coming on.

[www.amazon.com]

Read the first review. Fully charge first, then use the maintainer.

This is the type, although no doubt, not the same brand, we used in a big truck where I worked before retiring. The truck was used only occasionally and this kept the charge up even in the winter. Just place it on your dash (has to be in the sun) and plug it into your car's 12v. outlet. We did not use a controller but then the batteries were plenty big so there was no worry about overcharging.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/24/2016 08:07PM by Speedy.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: space-time
Date: October 24, 2016 08:11PM
I'm guessing the battery is likely not getting enough use to stay charged.

I know what you mean, but the words came out wrong. Try again.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: fauch
Date: October 24, 2016 09:27PM
Quote
Speedy
Your alternator is fine if the light is not coming on.
Say what? I've been through MANY alternators on MANY cars and I don't recall the light EVER coming on (at least not before imminent failure)...
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: davester
Date: October 24, 2016 09:52PM
Quote
Speedy
Your alternator is fine if the light is not coming on.

[www.amazon.com]

Read the first review. Fully charge first, then use the maintainer.

This is the type, although no doubt, not the same brand, we used in a big truck where I worked before retiring. The truck was used only occasionally and this kept the charge up even in the winter. Just place it on your dash (has to be in the sun) and plug it into your car's 12v. outlet. We did not use a controller but then the batteries were plenty big so there was no worry about overcharging.

Note that the one you linked to is simply a charger, not a battery maintainer, and requires a separate optional charge controller. If you don't get the charge controller it will fry the battery if you leave it on for any length of time without driving, just like the trickle chargers of old.

Edit: One more thing. It is critical that the battery be maintained at full charge, but not overcharged. If you overcharge it you will boil away the electrolyte and kill the battery. If it is kept frequently at a medium or low state of charge then it loses its ability to charge above that level due to sulfating of the battery plates. Over time, you lose more and more capacity that way, thus drastically reducing battery life. Hence the need to either: 1) drive regularly over long enough distances to keep the battery topped up; or, 2) Buy a battery maintainer to deal with this problem; or, 3) buy frequent new batteries.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/24/2016 11:11PM by davester.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Speedy
Date: October 25, 2016 04:34AM
I linked to that one because it has a 12v outlet cable as well as clamps. davester, I really didn't read much of the description so thanks for the correction. The outlet is very convenient to use. I'm sure there are others, actual maintainers, that have the same outlet compatibility.

Quote
davester
Quote
Speedy
Your alternator is fine if the light is not coming on.

[www.amazon.com]

Read the first review. Fully charge first, then use the maintainer.

This is the type, although no doubt, not the same brand, we used in a big truck where I worked before retiring. The truck was used only occasionally and this kept the charge up even in the winter. Just place it on your dash (has to be in the sun) and plug it into your car's 12v. outlet. We did not use a controller but then the batteries were plenty big so there was no worry about overcharging.

Note that the one you linked to is simply a charger, not a battery maintainer, and requires a separate optional charge controller. If you don't get the charge controller it will fry the battery if you leave it on for any length of time without driving, just like the trickle chargers of old.

Edit: One more thing. It is critical that the battery be maintained at full charge, but not overcharged. If you overcharge it you will boil away the electrolyte and kill the battery. If it is kept frequently at a medium or low state of charge then it loses its ability to charge above that level due to sulfating of the battery plates. Over time, you lose more and more capacity that way, thus drastically reducing battery life. Hence the need to either: 1) drive regularly over long enough distances to keep the battery topped up; or, 2) Buy a battery maintainer to deal with this problem; or, 3) buy frequent new batteries.



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: davester
Date: October 25, 2016 09:42AM
Note that the "frequently bought together" section of the amazon page lists a solar charge controller that goes with the solar panel, for just a bit over $20. The combo is cheaper than the solar battery maintainer page that I linked to.

Quote
Speedy
I linked to that one because it has a 12v outlet cable as well as clamps. davester, I really didn't read much of the description so thanks for the correction. The outlet is very convenient to use. I'm sure there are others, actual maintainers, that have the same outlet compatibility.

Quote
davester
Quote
Speedy
Your alternator is fine if the light is not coming on.

[www.amazon.com]

Read the first review. Fully charge first, then use the maintainer.

This is the type, although no doubt, not the same brand, we used in a big truck where I worked before retiring. The truck was used only occasionally and this kept the charge up even in the winter. Just place it on your dash (has to be in the sun) and plug it into your car's 12v. outlet. We did not use a controller but then the batteries were plenty big so there was no worry about overcharging.

Note that the one you linked to is simply a charger, not a battery maintainer, and requires a separate optional charge controller. If you don't get the charge controller it will fry the battery if you leave it on for any length of time without driving, just like the trickle chargers of old.

Edit: One more thing. It is critical that the battery be maintained at full charge, but not overcharged. If you overcharge it you will boil away the electrolyte and kill the battery. If it is kept frequently at a medium or low state of charge then it loses its ability to charge above that level due to sulfating of the battery plates. Over time, you lose more and more capacity that way, thus drastically reducing battery life. Hence the need to either: 1) drive regularly over long enough distances to keep the battery topped up; or, 2) Buy a battery maintainer to deal with this problem; or, 3) buy frequent new batteries.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: numbered
Date: October 25, 2016 12:38PM
Lot's of good advice and Davester's concern about keeping batteries undercharged is important. But on the charger issue
Quote

Just place it on your dash (has to be in the sun) and plug it into your car's 12v. outlet

lots of cars switch off the 12v when the ignition is off. No charging will happen in this case. You will need to wire directly. (I have had to do this with a number of boats as well.)
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: Racer X
Date: October 25, 2016 01:38PM
You can do that with a quick disconnect plug and a pigtail in the harness. Easy. Just unplug and stow when you drive it.
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: fauch
Date: October 26, 2016 05:53PM
Quote
numbered
Lots of cars switch off the 12v when the ignition is off. No charging will happen in this case. You will need to wire directly. (I have had to do this with a number of boats as well.)
This REALLY annoys me. I get why they do it, but still it is super annoying...
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Re: Dead car battery redux, 6 months later
Posted by: clay
Date: December 20, 2016 01:32PM
I ended up buying a battery tender (this one: [www.amazon.com] ). Been in use for the past 2 months, and haven't had a single failed startup since.

I need to get a quick disconnect harness, or get an adapter to plug it into the 12v/cigarette lighter port in the car. But, for now, we don't use it enough to warrant the additional expense, and I don't mind disconnecting when I need to use it.

Thanks, folks!
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