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Another battery problem???

3280 Views 25 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Coasty
The weather here in Alabama has been colder than usual. My element has been acting like it doesnt like the cold very much. A month or so ago I noticed the car didnt turn over as fast as it had been when cranking. It still turned over fine but just not as strong. I had a Duralast Gold battery in there that was exactly 1 1/2 years old. I put it in myself. I kept driving the car the next month or so and it cranked every time, but it always seemed weaker. One night while driving, my battery light on my dash flashed for just a sec then went away. The next day, I took it to Autozone to have it tested. First, the guy complimented on how clean my engine bay is. I told him I constantly wipe it down due to my OCD. Lol He then tested the battery which checked out fine and then he tested my alternator. He said it was working perfectly. With no answers and the guy saying he couldnt swap the battery...I left. The next day, the car would not crank in the morning and I jumped it off. I immediately went to the store and bought an Optima Gold because I have one in my del sol and I know they are quality and very strong. The first day, the car cranked SO fast. After a day or two, the Element seemed to be a lil sluggish when 1st cranking the car in the morning. The rest of the day was fine. I keep the car in my garage so its not out in the 20 degree weather. Yesterday, it barely turned over when I was leaving for work at 7am. I tried again and it cranked. I drove straight to Advance Auto and asked the guy to check the battery and alternator. I got a printout of the battery test and it checked out perfect. He said the alternator was putting out like it should. I think the numbers on the alternator were 14 something. So, I left and it cranked fine the rest of the day. This morning, it almost did not crank. I am going to check today for any loose connections and what not. Any ideas what I should do or check. I DO NOT want to have to leave the car at an auto place if its something I can check myself. I used the SEARCH feature and read up on others battery problems but from what I read...most problems were fixed with a new battery. Well, I just bought a new top of the line battery and my car is struggling to crank in the morning with this 20-30 degree weather. I have checked to make sure interior lights are in the OFF position and I have no extras like big stereos etc. Sorry for the story book but I wanted to give all the info I had before anyone advises me. I would appreciate any ideas...thanks
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Two batteries did the same thing, and the alternator checks fine? Two things high on the list: first, a parasitic load, but you've considered that. Custom alarm system could also be a culprit.

Second and maybe more likely, bad grounds. Remove the end of the (-) battery cable where it bolts into the fender and clean it up. Also check the ground strap between the frame and transmission, and do the same. (If you don't find one I may be thinking of another car, but I'm not going out into the 0° to look!) Since you mentioned that you clean the engine compartment a lot I suspect these mechanical ground connections get hit with water a little more than they're designed to, and the contact surfaces have oxidized into bad contact.
hey Mike...thanks for the quick reply. I will check my grounds and look for anything loose. No, I do not wash my engine. A good 'ol mildly damp rag and elbow grease once a week, that's all it takes because no buildup has a chance to sit too long. No custom alarm either. Its all stock and has 102,000. This problem only started when the really colder weather set in a while back. I just went to my car and tried to crank it a few minutes ago. The car has been outside for a few hours now since I returned from Starbucks. It is probably around 35 degrees or so right now. Upon turning the key, it was very very weak and did not crank. I gave it a second, and then tried again. It cranked right up and seemed fairly strong. What gives? I just read a thread where someone was having similar symptoms and it turned out to be his starter. Would it be a good idea for me to take my starter to Autozone and Advance and have them test it? Damn I hate working on my cars when it is freezing. My portable heater in my garage is only so large and it is only so effective
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I have to go with Mike on this one. Take a look at the ground under the battery box. It's shown in this thread. As you can see it gets cruddy fast!

That's my wifes 05. Cleaning that ground may be all you need to do. Also look at the one that the clip for the 9v bat. is on. That may also need to be cleaned up a bit.

Will do...thank you for the reply. Going to tinker now.......will be back after a while with findings
I agree that the ground connections are the most likely culprits. The fast way to check the engine block ground is to turn on the headlamps and see if they dim when you try to crank.

The headlamps use the side ground strap to the fender, which is less likely to get exposed to road salt/water corrosion. If the headlamps don't dim, either the engine ground strap has a high resistance connection, is corroded internally, or the starter wiring has a high resistance connection. You can verify a bad engine ground strap by running a jumper cable direct from the negative/black post of the battery to a bolt on the block or transmission housing.

I clean my grounds each spring along with the battery post connections, and keep a jar of Vaseline in the garage just for lubricating them. Between spring cleanings I spray the bolts with WD4-40. This washes away most of the crud that accumulates on the surface of the cable end where it's not well insulated, without washing away all the Vaseline.
well, I am cleaned up the connection to the fender and to the tranny both were fairly clean and had little to no corrosion. I want to clean my starter connections but Jesus...I am having a hell of a time getting to it. I took off the plastic guard/protector under the engine and also the airbox and hose and I still cant get my hand in there hardly. Guess I will now have to thread search on how to remove the starter. I knew this would turn into an all day thing...
I would use a current meter to see what current draw there is while the engine and lights are off......
IIRC you have to remove the (exhaust?) manifold to get the starter off. Hardly worth the work if you're only trying to clean cable connections.
IIRC you have to remove the (exhaust?) manifold to get the starter off. Hardly worth the work if you're only trying to clean cable connections.

Intake manifold .

The other thing to look at is the alternator brushes or a blown diode. This alternator has 12 diodes in it instead of 6 as most have. If you saw the light come on and go back off that means the alternator is having a issue. Possible an ELD problem? I had to replace that as I was having voltage falloffs and there is a TSB about it. Its an easy replacement and costs about 30 dollars.
I will check on that TSB..thanks. Well, I only got as far as cleaning my connections. I did not have time today to take my starter off and take it to an auto store for testing. However, after putting everything back where it belongs, the car is cranking much better. That Optima Battery super strong crank is back. The starter is turning very quickly and strong and the car is starting right up. Tonight is suppose to go in the teens so tomorrow morning will be the test. I hope this was just a bad/loose connection. Nothing was really corroded or anything. IMO, the connection to the tranny was looser than I expected. It did not take much force at all to break it. I made sure to torque it down much better. Anyhow, as always...I learned alot today and appreciate the replies.

PS- I noticed today that my drivers side auto window feature quit working. The window goes up and down fine if you press down on the button or hold it up. But no more pressing and it and the window moving by itself. At this point...who cares LOL I'm just glad my car cranks again! Thanks EOC!
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You have to re program the window . It looses the program when the battery gets disconnected.

thanks guys! the window is back to normal. However, my starter problem is still there. The car struggled on the first crank this morning. My gut tells me that its not a loose connection but maybe a failing starter. Im trying to decide what to do. A new OEM starter is priced off the charts. There are several OEM starters on ebay that I could pick up for 50.00 bucks or so. I know..I know...a used part would be taking a chance but I dont plan on having the car more than another 3-4 years. If a used one lasts 1 year and I replace it every year for 4 years, that comes to aound 200.00 which is still cheaper than a new one. And realistically, even with used, the starters would probably last more than a year. Tomorrow, I will call around town and price what it would cost to rebuild mine. The Element is killing me financially at the moment. Monday, my buddy that works for Honda is ordering me new springs and struts...the whole assembled combo. After I put those on, I will be going to get brand new tires and an alignment. But all that wont be of any use if the car wont start lol
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What weight oil is in the car ??

I think its 20-50 hell, I cant remember. Whatever is written on the oil cap is what I use. The car has been cranking strong all day. The only trouble is the very first crank in the morning.
Got voltage drop...?

A good way to test connections and wiring in general is to do a voltage drop test. Using a volt meter (borrow or buy one as this test is invaluble). Put the red lead on the battery positive post and the black lead on the starter terminal post at the other end of positive battery cable. You are probably thinking, it's the same wire so it's going to read 0 volts, your right. But now have someone crank the engine while you watch the meter, making sure that your meter leads are contacting well. If you read anything more than about .08volts, there is a poor connection (.08 volts is just a rough estimate based on 150 amps needed for cranking with a 12 volt battery) . If there is a poor connection, move your meter lead to a point closer to the battery, like the crimped on end of the battery cable and recheck while cranking to figure exactly where the poor connection(s) is. Keep trying other points along the battery cable and terminal to isolate the poor connection. This test can be repeated with the meter leads on the battery negative post and the starter housing respectively to check the ground, just remember that the circuit you are testing must be under load for you to read the actual voltage dropped by unexpected resistance in the wiring/connections. .000volts would be ideal. If everything checks out good, you can rule out the battery cables, connections and terminals.

Starters draw alot of current and even tiny amounts of resistance in the circuit can limit cranking power. One may be tempted to check resistance with an ohm meter but in general they are not sensitive enough to read accurately at such low resistance levels. For example, if you have .1 ohms of resistance in your starter circuit in a normal 12 volt system, your cranking amps would be limited to 120 amps. You may need 150 amps+ on a cold morning.
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Thats a goos test to do. How slow is it cranking in the morning? These things don't have a very strong starter and when its cold it will crank over about half speed. If you can get hold of a battery load tester you can also do that check above without cranking the starter just by hooking the load tester to the starter terminal and the casing and then do a load test and see if you have a voltage drop. Anything below 10 is not good.
The combination of cold temperatures and heavy accessory load in the winter can prevent your charging system from fully recharging the battery in a reasonable amount of time. Combine that with an overnight temperature drop and a marginally-charged battery can become inadequate.

Before I'd replace the starter, I'd try using an auto-sensing trickle charger to fully charge the battery, and allow it to continue work through the night. When I replaced my battery at the end of the summer, my 6A charger took most of a day to get the battery up to a full charged state.

If you don't have a charger, Walmart has a decent Schumberger unit for under $30.
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