Jake HalfDork
May 26, 2011 1:07 p.m.

My daily driver has some trouble of an electrical sort, everything has been fine (ran like a new truck) up until last night, when it wouldn't start back up after I parked it when I got home. The battery that's in it is pretty old, but does hold a charge, and my cheapy Schumacher charger/ jump box said voltage was OK on it. This is the truck I've been driving the past 10 years, give or take, before that it was my wife's, and she's had it since new- no floods, river crossings, or other opportunity for water damage that I can think of.

Symptoms:

Turning the key leads to the car acting like the battery is really low (interior lights are dim, fasten belts chime sounds a little weak), even though it tests OK at the battery.

If you proceed, the starter doesn't engage and turn the motor over, you just get the loud grinding noise that happens with a really low battery.

I can hear a clicking relay somewhere under the dash, even after the key's been taken out and everything electrical should be off- this is troublesome.

Tonight after I get home from work here's the plan: 1) remove, clean, reconnect battery terminals (I've had this magically fix electrical issues before on other vehicles...)

2) check fuse box(es?) for anything obviously blown or shorted out

3) call wife's stepdad to see if he's got any smart ideas (retired pro mechanic)

4) get the thing towed and open the wallet

Anybody have any other ideas between steps 2 and 3? Unfortunately I don't have the knowledge to track an electrical problem with a multimeter, don't even have the tool. Thanks in advance...

failboat Reader
May 26, 2011 1:17 p.m.

you say the battery is pretty old. and your symptom #1 also sounds like a battery gone bad.

why not try replacing that first before towing it somewhere?

I had an alternator go out recently and it took out the 5 year old battery with it. The battery must have been just barely clinging to life.

triumph5
triumph5 Dork
May 26, 2011 1:28 p.m.

As usual, check the connections at the battery, negative ground strap, and positive relay connection. But, sounds like a dying battery. Any auto parts place can load test the battery. I'd bet you're buying a battery.

integraguy Dork
May 26, 2011 1:39 p.m.

If it is the battery, and it sure sounds like it is, you are luckier than I was when the original equipment battery died in my '94 Ranger. One day it got me to work, no problems, but a few hours later when I went out to go to lunch...it wouldn't start. The battery could easily be jumped to get it started, but it would no longer hold a charge. That battery was just over 3 years old.

GameboyRMH SuperDork
May 26, 2011 1:40 p.m.

I had a similar problem recently. It was a bad battery that I couldn't diagnose properly because I was using a cheapo voltmeter.

Although in your case it could be the starter relay as well.

Jake HalfDork
May 26, 2011 1:42 p.m.

I may yet pull the battery and run it over to Advance or something and get them to test it, just in case my battery box was being optimistic.

When it wouldn't start the first time, I should mention that I had JUST parked the truck, and then remembered that I needed to move it so I could get something else out of the carport, when I attempted to crank it back up, no dice.

My other car has been mostly parked a few weeks since I've been waiting to try to get some $$$ built up to get the transmission serviced. A bottle of Lucas transmission fix and some fresh fluid seems to have helped it, we'll see if I can limp it through until I get the truck back on the road.

Oddly enough, last night I was talking to wife about how I needed to get the Montero's transmission fixed- I think the truck might have heard me.

ransom Reader
May 26, 2011 3:07 p.m.

Add me to the chorus saying "battery" with a smaller chance of "connectors, at either battery or other end."

A battery can tell you it's at a perfectly chipper 12V and still be completely incapable of providing enough current to do anything useful. Taking the battery to be tested will answer this one.

Your call as to whether removing the battery and taking it to be tested or going over your wiring connections is the less painful firs step... I'd probably start with just cleaning the terminals since that's so easy, and you'll be playing with them either way...

Jake HalfDork
May 26, 2011 3:18 p.m.

Thanks all- I'll post up in the morning if the battery just needs to be replaced, here's hoping that's the case.

iceracer Dork
May 26, 2011 5:07 p.m.

Clean the battery terminals. I think someone already alluded to that .

Jake HalfDork
May 27, 2011 6:49 p.m.

New battery. New terminals... ...fired right up like it's supposed to.

I really don't know what it is that makes me always just jump to "Hey, I bet I need to (do something expensive and unnecessary)" whenever the car breaks.

Thanks for the points back toward the obvious solution.

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