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Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: December 15, 2009 10:09PM
I'm thinking my current battery is having problems. We've had several days of soaking rains down here, and after the first couple of days of it, the car wouldn't start. Got a jump and was on my way, but the charge seemingly wouldn't hold. The current battery is less than a year old, and was actually a replacement for another battery that was less than two years old, which itself was a replacement for the battery that was originally in the car when I drove it down here. (If that doesn't quite make sense-- I had battery #1 in the car when I drove it down here, replaced it within the first two years here because it had died, then battery #2 was giving corrosion on the terminals and seemed to have died, replaced it with battery #3 which is now seemingly having problems following a drenching rain [but no corrosion present].)

Have I just been unlucky with batteries, or could something else be going on here? TiA

P.S. ... additional information: whenever we get a drenching rain here, I end up losing power steering (dashboard battery light comes on). The car is a Ford Contour, and from reading forums on this model, it seems the most likely cause of this is the serpentine belt, which I didn't realize is also connected to the alternator? [knol.google.com] So maybe the problems are connected? Bad alternator, or the serpentine belt being loose?




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2009 10:22PM by PeterB.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: H1N1
Date: December 15, 2009 10:13PM
either one, or both, take it to Sears battery express for a free checkup
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: testcase
Date: December 15, 2009 10:17PM
Wow, that's way too many batteries for coincidence. Are you doing anything like running power equipment off the 12v outlet when the engine is NOT running? I'd first check the grounding. I understand that many vehicles have grounding problems. Did the installer check the charging system? Overcharging can cause premature battery failure. Are you buying batteries that have replacement guarentees?
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: December 15, 2009 10:21PM
Thanks guys. testcase, actually, yes, I do leave some stuff plugged in... asked my mechanic about that (back when battery #2 had to be replaced), he said that couldn't possibly be it, that the stuff that I had plugged in there would be pulling much less than an amp. I will probably bring back into the mechanic either tomorrow or the day after, because yes, these batteries have all been under warranty... so at least the replacements haven't been costing me anything (other than time, energy, and my patience!)




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: C(-)ris
Date: December 15, 2009 10:28PM
Quote
PeterB


P.S. ... additional information: whenever we get a drenching rain here, I end up losing power steering (dashboard battery light comes on). The car is a Ford Contour, and from reading forums on this model, it seems the most likely cause of this is the serpentine belt, which I didn't realize is also connected to the alternator? [knol.google.com] So maybe the problems are connected? Bad alternator, or the serpentine belt being loose?

Based on that I would guess that your belt is loose, either because it is worn or one of the tentioners is shot. This is causing the belt to slip on the PS and the alternator to not spin and thus your PS goes out and your battery does not get charged.



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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: AAA
Date: December 15, 2009 10:34PM
A mechanic told me a couple years ago the battery producers have been bought up and consolidated to a point where they see a ton of dead batteries coming from the factory compared to a decade ago. Not uncommon to have problems, and LOT of problems.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: December 15, 2009 10:48PM
when the average cost of a battery is only 50% more than it was almost 2 decades ago when I managed an auto parts store, I would have to agree.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: JoeH
Date: December 15, 2009 10:57PM
Which year Contour do you have? My son's Mystique, Mercury version of the model, has been having problems related to ground connections going bad. Especially in rainy weather, it looks like Ford did a poor job with the wiring in these cars. As for corrosion at the battery, you can have it without it being visible around the connections. With rainy weather that can turn conductive and help drain a battery.

Also agree on the possibility of problems with the serpentine belt or its tensioners. The layout on some model years is also susceptible to getting drenched from water splashed up and then having the belt slip. They added a splash guard for the later years, but it sometimes disappears during oil changes and the like.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: December 15, 2009 11:13PM
Thanks again guys for info.

C(-)ris, I did have the mechanic look at the belt, but that was awhile ago... when I told him of the problems that I'd have with the power steering going out (but ONLY when we have a rain here), he told me to bring it in when it's actually causing the problem so that he could see it himself... easier said than done, because with my schedule, it's very hard to get the car in to him unless I'm on a break time. I agree that (from what I've read), it could need tension adjustment-- he said that it didn't seem to be worn. Is there a separate belt for the PS, or is it all dependent on the serpentine belt? (And do I need to replace the belt, the tensioner, or something else?)

The fact that one of the previous batteries was putting off corrosion (current one isn't having that problem, nor did the one before it) suggests that, yes, batteries can very easily turn out to be defective...

JoeH, it's a 1995 or 1996, can't remember, and it's an SE, I think. I may have to look into the splash guard thing, because the power steering getting lost during or after a rain is VERY consistent... if it doesn't get wet, the steering is fine. I can also hear it squealing...




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: davester
Date: December 15, 2009 11:18PM
Something is wrong for sure. One of the things that will kill a battery quickly is maintaining it in a low state of charge. Both a problematic charging system (including a loose belt) and leaving current draining devices plugged in will do that. It can also happen purely because your driving habits don't allow the battery to get charged fully (i.e. a very short commute). One thing you can do to figure this out is to go by a mechanic's shop and have him/her test the state of charge of the battery. Some mechanics or most big box stores may not be able to do this but for sure a battery-only place or automotive-electrical place will. This will tell you for sure whether insufficient charging is the problem.

Also, it sounds to me like you might need to find another mechanic. Good mechanics don't leave their customers out to dry with unsolvable problems. He could have simulated the rain issue by simply spraying water on the belt...why didn't he do that?



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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2009 11:20PM by davester.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: December 15, 2009 11:27PM
davester, I think you presume two things...

1) Good mechanics are easy to find

2) Good mechanics are easy to find in post-K NOLA

grinning smiley

But yes, when I bring it in to him, I can have him check the battery for sure. He's been pretty good about changing it out, and is (very unusual for here) seemingly both knowledgeable and cheap. He's also seemingly just very "minimalist" in his approach to fixing things...




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2009 11:28PM by PeterB.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: JoeH
Date: December 16, 2009 12:26AM
Yeah, those years are both older than my son's '98 car. I think they added the shield later. I will have to take a look at the belt setup again to remind me exactly how it goes. But I think the serpentine drives most of the auxiliary equipment and an idler pulley that drives a second belt to either the power steering or something else. There were a few changes through the model years though, and it also depends a bit on which engine is in the car.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: space-time
Date: December 16, 2009 06:27AM
Quote
davester
Something is wrong for sure. ... It can also happen purely because your driving habits don't allow the battery to get charged fully (i.e. a very short commute). ...

It would have to be a very short commute. Seems like 4 miles or more and good car should have no problems. Here is an example:

I drive about 4 miles to work and 4 miles back home for lunch, then to back to work and back home in the evening. Each trip takes me 6-7 minutes. I have been doing this for 3 1/2 years, and my battery is still OK (and it was 3-4 years old already when I got this car). I drive with headlight ON. I also use this car for running errands, I rarely drive more that 10 miles at once with this car.

I do have some problems starting the car sometimes, usually in the summer when it is very hot and humid, the battery is strong and cranks the engine, but somehow the engine hesitates to start, which was suggested to be a problems with spark plugs and ignitions wires and distributor and rotor, all which have been replaced by a recall and the problems still occurs. But again, than has nothing to do with the battery, I never have this issues in dry cold winters.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: andypie48
Date: December 16, 2009 07:28AM
1) check the water level in the battery if its not sealed or semi-sealed. Disconnect and clean the terminals with a wire brush made for that purpose.
2) take care of the belt tightening thing.
3) find your main ground connection and make sure its not all rusty. If it is clean the rust off and reconnect it.
3) disconnect the positive cable and put a meter between it and the positive battery terminal with the car not running to see if anything is draining current. (one example might be water inside a taillight shorting it out.)
4) have your alternator tested for low voltage or a blown diode.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: billb
Date: December 16, 2009 08:17AM
Quote
PeterB

I can also hear it squealing...
Red flag.

Worse when wet

Belt squeel is slipping
slipping also can glaze/harden a belt from heat and now it can be slipping and not squeeling, causing or complicating your steering pump and charging problems. Serpentine belts are not immune.
Once it has squeeled ( why they add water and wind deflectors , also can improve aerodynamics and mileage), it may not be obvious on a nice day (tension and sight condition) that the belt is in poor condition.
Not using a car for weeks can cause problems, too.
We had a 2004 Caravan that couldn't sit for more than three weeks or all the electronics sitting in standby would drain the battery.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: btfc
Date: December 16, 2009 10:43AM
I suspect the belt/ground as well, but a bad voltage regulator can lead to short battery life. It is easy to test.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/2009 10:44AM by btfc.
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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: December 16, 2009 11:25AM
Lots of things can be the cause of the problem.

But I agree with billb. If the battery is not defective, a loose belt seems like the probable suspect.

If the PS makes noise when you turn the wheel, or a bit of sudden acceleration from start (or if the car is in Neutral) gives some squeal, especially only when it rains, I'd say a loose belt is definitely a problem.

A girlfriend had a problem with her car's headlights-- turn on the switch and the fan belt chirped. Her battery would be extremely low and the car would barely start. I could turn the alternator pulley by hand. That should not happen. A minute with a wrench, and the problem was solved.

A belt can slip *without* making any noise, so charging can be impaired. And the tension can be checked whether it's raining or not. Somebody could spray water on the exposed belts and possibly recreate the problem.

Any shop worth it's salt will test the charging system when a battery is replaced.





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Re: Car experts: bad battery luck, or something else?
Posted by: Anthony
Date: December 16, 2009 11:55AM
What Andypie48 said.
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