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[icon] My st00pid car - Patti
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Subject:My st00pid car
Time:05:51 pm
A few weeks ago, my car decided not to start one morning. It had all of the symptoms of a dead battery, so I pulled out my emergency jumpstart battery and started it. I drove it for a while before parking it for the day, and it started just fine later. And the next day. And a few days later, it wouldn't start again. I jumpstarted it a few times, then put a brand new battery in about a week and a half ago.

This morning, the car wouldn't start. Same symptoms. I put the jumpstart battery on and started it, then drove it a few blocks to my mechanic, described the symptoms, and said, "Fix it please." We agreed that the most likely culprit was the alternator.

They called me a few minutes ago. "The charging system seems just fine. Tell us again what happened?" In addition to what I was describing above, the various lights (dash, headlights) brightened and dimmed cyclically at idle today, as they did just before I replaced the battery.

So I have two guesses:

- Intermittently-bad charging system
- Something draining the battery

I'm guessing the latter, which makes me grumpy.

Ideas?
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clutch_c
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Time:2008-12-17 02:39 am (UTC)
I'm guessing that too. Could be caused by something like a light being on in the trunk or glove compartment where you wouldn't notice it, or an electric seat motor or antenna motor being stuck in the on position (those would cause noises, though).

Electrical system problems are a pain in the ass. I had an old Volvo that I really liked that had the odd habit of just shutting itself off at random intervals. After a number of unsuccessful repair attempts (the last one an expensive wiring harness replacement that was supposed to fix the problem for sure) I finally gave up and got rid of the car.
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loser_variable
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Time:2008-12-17 03:45 am (UTC)
Guesses if you are desperate for stuff to try, and they are just guesses:

A slipping serpentine belt (or aging tensioner) or loose connection can dim the lights erratically, but that doesn't explain failure to start / start on jump.

If you have a gauge, notice if it's charging when you drive.

I might check the air intake for need of cleaning. If there's a butterfly valve, hold it open with a pen or screwdriver and see if it doesn't start right up in full open.

Honestly none of the above seem to address all symptoms though. If you figure it out let us know, curious.

Battery drain makes sense, but even then that new one went mighty fast.
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greeklady
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Time:2008-12-17 07:10 pm (UTC)
Get the alternator checked. This is classic symptoms of it going/gone out.
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gunga_galunga
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Time:2008-12-17 07:39 pm (UTC)
Disconnect the car alarm for a while and see if the problem goes away (probably easiest to just figure out which fuse it is and pull it). Since that is one of the only things that actually should be getting juice when the car is off, it may have something causing it to draw more juice than it should be.
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stevecohen
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Time:2008-12-18 01:44 pm (UTC)
I've actually seen similar symptoms on a car with a slightly loose ground-strap between the alternator and rest of the car. Just check to make sure the bolts are tight at both ends.

To check for something draining the battery, just disconnect one terminal and complete the circuit through your handy-dandy DVM and measure the current when the car is off. It should be in the milli-amps, and not a terribly big number.


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