Well, I was on the way to work and had to go to the bank. Went up under the covered part, and just got under the roof, when the car completely shut off. Like I turned off the key. Lucky it happened where it did, it is pouring rain.
Here's the symptoms (2001 Saturn SL1)...
1. Quick shutoff this morning, no warning.
2. I've been having problems with long term battery drain. I have been unable to find it.
3. When I turn the key to RUN, the relay for the fuel pump clicks regularly, sounds like a turn signal. Dashboard lights blink along with it.
4. When I turn it to START, all electricity goes off.
5. Power windows are too weak to put down.
6. Lights/signals don't work.
7. Radio doesn't work, but clock on radio does.
Anyone have any ideas where I could start troubleshooting this? It's my commute vehicle.
If I had to guess you have a dead battery and probably a bad alternator, when the car died on you you were running off battery power instead of alternator power. Could be the alternator hasn't been keeping the battery charged which will cause the symptoms you describe, even the battery drain since you've been running off of the battery and not the alternator.
This is just a plausible explanation, it could be something else however.
I've had dead batteries before... this is way more squirrely. The fuel pump relay clicking regularly and the complete shutoff of power is what concerns me.
Once I had the engine totally die on me, but I had good electrical power, my toyota has an igniter which replaces the old coil/condensor stuff. The igniter just died, shutting off all power to the spark plugs, bam! Good thing was it happened in my driveway, put the truck in reverse, went about 10 feet and bam! Dead in water.
How old is your battery? if it's factory original, it's on it's last legs, I'm lucky to get 4 years out of one. If newer, does it have water in all the cells? Pop the filler caps and look. If you can remove the alternator places like Pep Boys and Auto zone will test it for free.
Find as many ground connections to/from your battery and shine them up with steel wool as well as the battery clamps.
Losing juice everywhere means your battery or alternator isn't working.
Go to advance auto and pick up a new starter.
DId the same thing on my sidekick.
One of the fields on your starter or alternator is stuck open and needs to be replaced. This is causing power to drain constantly.
Any way to tell which one is bad?
Is this the problem that can be temporarily fixed by smacking the starter or alternator with a hammer to free it?
Unless you tear it apart, there is no way to tell. Starters and Alternators are pretty much throw away items in that they are such a pain in the ass to rebuild and new ones are fairly cheap. It isn't really worth repairing.
As far as hitting with a hammer, you are referring to a stuck solenoid. I don't think it will work in this case. You are better off replacing or disconnecting the battery terminals whenever you shut off the car overnight or longer periods. The fact that your car died as you pulled into the bank leads me to believe that it is the alternator and has nothing to do with the starter.
100% for-sure you have either a dead battery, a dead alternator, or both...
The symptioms you describe (no radio, no nothing if you turn the key) point to really low voltage from the battery.
If your car will run for a while after a jumpstart, it's just the battery. If you try and jump, but it only runs while connected to 'the other car', it could be either/bolth. A note: when jump-starting, if you 'start' to get functions back, but it won't start (eg radio starts working again) give it time - 15mins 'on the juice' may be needed...
Assumiing we die when the jump cables are pulled:
Take the battery to a car-parts shop (AutoZone, Checker, etc) or battery store (i.e. Batteries Plus, NOT RadioCrackl) and have them test it. If it is bad (eg not just dead, but unchargable) buy a new one and install it in the car.
If the car will start and run w/o trouble, it was just the battery.
If the car starts, but dies on you again, your alternator is dead.
Alternators are an easy fix, get one from a SCRAP YARD though (www.car-part.com to find one in your area) as new ones are very expensive, esp on jap cars....
The car had plenty of juice to start this morning; hopefully that will lead me directly to the alternator so I don't end up replacing parts I don't need to.
ETA: Ok, I was able to go out during my lunch break and I gave the car a jump. It started right up so I pulled it into the garage and put the charger on it. That means it's not the alternator, maybe it just stalled and the battery had enough juice for one last good start, and I didn't drive far enough to charge it back up again.
Would a simple dead battery cause the clicking and the on/off dash lights, odometer LEDs, etc.?
I still have to find the cause of the battery drain for sure...
If you take you alternator off. Take in inside of advance and they test it for free. They put it on a machine that hooks in like on your engine and has a fanbelt that spins it at regualr speed and checks the voltage coming out of it.
It sounds like it could be a bad battery, or a bad ignition switch. But you must go through some quick tests. Bear with me, I don't know your experience level so I may be more detailed than needed.
The first thing you need to do is check your charging system, to eliminate -or include- the alternator, battery, battery terminals, etc. as part -or all- of your problem. I'm assuming the starter is good because once you apply sufficient power (jump start/boost) it always cranks.
In place of expensive shop equipment you could use a basic home multimeter and 12V automotive test light to perform many tests.
1) Check the battery terminals:
Side Terminals normally corrode under the rubber covering on the positive side. Check this carefully and clean them. If you see any corrosion then you have to pop the rubber off to get inside, I usually cut it open on the top side to get the bolt out and clean it well. I dislike the side post battery as they cause many problems, but you have to work with what you have. Check both Pos and Neg terminals for a tight fit and good clean connection, clean/repair as needed.
2) Check the Battery:
Set multimeter to read DC volts and check battery between Pos and Neg terminals. It should be just over 12Volts(12.1-12.4). If it's lower than 11.5 volts, have it tested at a shop or auto parts store, preferably after you charge it. **If it tests too weak(even borderline OK) replace it now.
**Note on Battery replacement:
Even if the battery is bad it may not be the whole problem, but you can't go any further until you replace it. You can't properly diagnose starting/charging issues with a bad battery.
3) Check for a slow drain on your battery:
You will need a regular test light for this.
Remove the negative battery terminal and push it asid so it doesn't touch battery post. Put one end of the test light on the battery neg post, and the other end on the neg battery terminal. You are basically jumping a test light between the battery and terminal.
All doors must be closed, key off, and if there is a hood pin(factory alarm or other) it must be depressed as if the hood was closed. If test light is lit up at all (dim or bright) then you certainly have a drain. Dim is a slower drain than bright.
To determine which circuit is open/short and is causing the drain, you must first secure the test light in that position because you have to remove fuses and can't hold it while doing so. Tip:A short 3/8 inch bolt screwed snugly into the battery neg post is a good way to clip test light on the battery end. Now you only have to secure the other end of test light to the negative terminal. Just make sure you have a good connection on both ends.
Your car has two fuse blocks, on left side of engine compartment and behind center of dash, go through every fuse.
With doors closed, key off, hood pin depressed, pull one fuse at a time and watch for test light to go out. If it stays on replace fuse and go to the next one. If you can't keep one door closed while removing inside fuses, that's cool. Remove the fuse first and then close door, see if light goes out but allow a few seconds between all fuses for the interior dome lights to go out or the light will be lit from that.
When light goes out you just found the Circuit that's causing the drain. That eliminates a sh^tload of time looking through wiring and sytems that are unrelated to your problem. You may have a multiple circuit that powers a few items or a simple circuit that powers just one. Now that you know the offending circuit you must go trough it and find the short/open. At least you narrowed it down.
4) Check the Alternator: The voltage numbers posted are a guideline only, but should be very close.
Start this test with new battery or tested good battery. Set your multimeter to read DC voltage and take a reading between the Neg and Pos battery terminals with engine running at idle speed. You should read somewhere between 13.4V-14.3V. Be advised that a really bad battery could drop this number down into the 12 volt range which is why you have to be certain the battery is good or you are wasting time. I keep harping on that point for a reason. Do this test with lights, accessories, etc. OFF.
If you read roughly 13.4V-14.3V then the Alternator is good.
If you read lower than 13V with motor at idle you have to verify that the battery is good (if you haven't yet done so). Before going further, rev the engine and hold it at 2500-3000-rpm while reading voltage at battery terminals with multimeter to see if the voltage goes up to normal, if so the Alt is good and you have a bad battery. Test and replace battery. If battery was found to be defective, check charging system again (at idle) with new battery installed. It should read normal range(13.4V -14.3V) if lower then alternator is BAD. ETA: Damn, I seem to be repeating myself
5) Saturn issues:
The Saturn SL1/2 and SC1/2 in particular are very dependant on a good battery for the alternator to do it's job. Other cars may get by with a halfway decent battery, but the Saturn won't. Many mechanics will diagnose a low Voltage reading (at the battery with motor running) as a bad alternator, and they would be wrong and would have the same problem even after replacing alternator. That is until they put a new battery in the car.
6) Ignition switch:
Troubleshooting the switch is too complex to post here, if everything above is in good working order and has been replaced/repaired as needed and you still have a problem, the Ignition Switch is probably bad and should be tested using a manual or have a shop look at it. The sudden loss of power is one of the major symptoms of a faulty ignition switch, but as I said the other things must be donw first unless it's clearly a switch, and without being there I can only put you through systematic troubleshooting procedures.
Good Luck and keep us posted.
Well, yesterday I sprung for a new battery since it wouldn't hold a charge anymore.
I took the other one out, and lo and behold, it was wet underneath the battery with acid. After a lengthy cleanup using baking soda and water, I put the new one in.
Is there any way that a bad, or leaking, battery can cause a current draw? The guys at the battery shop had checked the current and said there was a current.
It can if it eats through wiring around or below the battery and creates a short. Look for any uninsulated wires there. Also if you had any electronics added recently like a stereo that would be another place to look.
In the mean time you can install a battery disconnect to stop the draw. It goes right on your battery and has a knob you turn that kills all power, you need to get one along with the side terminal adapter. It's a little bit of a PITA because everytime you park you have to pop the hood and turn the knob. But it definitely works as long as you don't forget to turn the knob.