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Car battery not holding charge?

UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
edited May 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Ok so I'm driving a pretty old car right now, my dad's actually, and after about 2 weeks of not starting it (exams + a weird situation with the parking garage), it wouldn't start anymore. I'd turn the key and the lights in the car would grow dimmer and there'd be this clicking sound from the engine. So my dad brings his car around to jump start mine and he's convinced that it's just the long period of not being used that caused the battery to lose its charge. So once it's started, he takes it and drives onto a nearby highway for about half an hour, to help get its charge back. Then he returns it to me and I figure things are cool.

2 days later I go to the car, looking to do some practice time on highways. Well it won't start again. But my dad gave me this portable battery used to jump start cars so I hook it up properly and give the key another go. This time it goes about halfway through the ignition sequence (some rumbling and turning) but ultimately can't make it over the hump. I let my dad know again and he tells me he'll take it to the mechanic.

So yesterday what he does is he drives again on the highway for about half an hour and then takes it to the mechanic to get the battery measured(?). Mechanic says the readings are fine and my dad drops the car back off in the visitor parking area of the condo and takes off. About 20 minutes after he drops it off, I go down to move the car back to the residential parking garage and it starts strongly, giving no indications of weakness. I figure, again, me and the car have an understanding and again, I'm wrong. I just went down to the car and it won't start again.

What's up the battery? It seems like it won't hold a charge. Does that mean it's time to get a new battery or what? I ask because I'm concerned my dad will be convinced that all it needs is another drive on the highway and if it is the battery's time to die, that he'll just be wasting time which is problematic because I really need the car on Tuesday.

tl;dr: car won't start, battery "charged" numerous times, if left for more than a few hours after "charging", goes back to being dead. Time for new battery or is it something else?

Underdog on

Posts

  • rfaliasrfalias Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Just get a new battery. It's the most likely problem. If it's not storing a charge for long then definitely. It turns over when there is juice, so starter is out of the question.

    It could be a shorted wire, but that seems unlikely. Also, the mechanic checked the battery right after he got done driving it, thus proper readings due to it being charged.
    My 2c anyways...

    2nd thought...
    If you get a new battery and it dies shortly after then something is stuck on or shorted.

    Speed Edit: What Year/make vehicle?

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  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Get the battery checked again, just because it's fun.

    Also get your alternator checked under load. Autozone and the like will do this for free.

    If both of those are fine, then make sure that the charge is getting to the battery. Check the battery voltage with the car off (should be ~12.0v), then with the car on (should be 13-14v). Don't die.

    Also check your battery terminals for corrosion, but if someone already checked the battery, chances are they would have picked up on that.

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • proXimityproXimity Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Yeah, it sounds like a simple dead battery, especially since it's an old car. That clicking is exactly what happens when the battery is dead. Replace it, and you should be good to go.

    camo_sig2.png
  • EskimoDaveEskimoDave Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    You can get used batteries for cheap. I got one from a local company called "Battery Doctors" for $30 and it came with a year warranty. They refurbish them or something.

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    a penguin wrote: »
    Get the battery checked again, just because it's fun.

    Also get your alternator checked under load. Autozone and the like will do this for free.
    Cause its good to know this.

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    rfalias wrote: »
    Just get a new battery. It's the most likely problem. If it's not storing a charge for long then definitely. It turns over when there is juice, so starter is out of the question.

    It could be a shorted wire, but that seems unlikely. Also, the mechanic checked the battery right after he got done driving it, thus proper readings due to it being charged.
    My 2c anyways...

    2nd thought...
    If you get a new battery and it dies shortly after then something is stuck on or shorted.

    Speed Edit: What Year/make vehicle?

    It's a Honda Accord and the exact year escapes me but the look is the same as the fourth generation ones and wiki tells me those came out around '90 to '93.

    And yeah, I was kinda confused when my dad told me he drove it around before getting the battery checked. Didn't realy make sense to do it in that order, not if he wanted a proper reading.

    Good to know about Autozone but regrettable, it looks like they only operate in the US.

    As a side note, how difficult is it to learn how to drive standard? My brother's new Mazda 3 has been sitting behind the accord I've been driving as he has been in Japan since January and looks to stay there at least until the new year. I never really gave it much thought as the accord worked and I really had no expectations for cars but I get this feeling I might have less to worry about if I was driving the new car, which is just collecting dust anyway. I'd just have to figure out how to drive a stick shift to do it.

  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    It's not, however your bro might not be happy about the abuse to his clutch. Then again, it's not good for a car to sit for long periods of time, so it should be driven anyways.

    Sorry, didn't see you were in Canadia. Don't you guys have some sort of equivelent though?

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    As for standard, some people get it and some don't.
    I'll bet most autopart chains will provide free testing. Either way, I'm very very certain its the battery. How old is the battery it has right now?

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Yeah, probably the battery. If it is, your dad needs a new mechanic. The dudes at Wal-Mart can tell you if a battery is good or not.

    Oh yeah, the battery age is important. Sometimes they have guarantee, and if it fails before then, you get a free battery. I got a free battery once on a car I bought used that way. Store bought batteries have a little plastic pouch to stick the receipt in for just that purpose. I felt pretty good about that free battery. I felt less good about the next $2300 I sunk into that car.

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    a penguin wrote: »
    It's not, however your bro might not be happy about the abuse to his clutch. Then again, it's not good for a car to sit for long periods of time, so it should be driven anyways.

    Sorry, didn't see you were in Canadia. Don't you guys have some sort of equivelent though?

    That's true. However, he knew he was going to be leaving for Japan as he was picking out his new car and as such I even mentioned to him that if he went automatic, then I'd be able to use the car while he was gone. He assured me he would teach me before he left but after getting the car, he never did. I guess that just me trying to justify it. Anyway, my dad would probably let me practice on the car he drives since that was the one my brother learned on as well. Either way, this is a more long-term concern as I doubt it helps with making sure I have working transportation on Tuesday.

    There probably is an equivalent. Maybe Canadian Tire? It's out of my hands but I think my dad and the mechanic are friends anyway so I'm sure it'll be taken care of. As for the age of the battery I... uh, have no idea. I really should know a little more about the car but up to now, I've mostly just been concerned about enough gas.

  • lifeincognitolifeincognito Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Are there signs of corrosion on the battery terminals? Generally looks like a white build up which often indicates your battery would be on its way out. Just get a brand new battery if you want to change batteries, don't bother getting an used one. While used ones can be as good as new ones you seem a bit forgetful like myself and I always appreciate that I can be forgetful and my car will still start.

    Additionally, I would highly advise against measuring the voltage of your battery unless you feel EXTREMELY comfortable with the risk of getting a serious jolt or are a trained professional. If you are wary of the circuit breaker found in a house, don't get all pumped to check out your car battery.

    losers weepers. jawas keepers.
  • FatsFats Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Additionally, I would highly advise against measuring the voltage of your battery unless you feel EXTREMELY comfortable with the risk of getting a serious jolt or are a trained professional. If you are wary of the circuit breaker found in a house, don't get all pumped to check out your car battery.

    I guess you could get burned, if you somehow got your tongue on both terminals. No real electrocution danger there, though.

  • FletcherFletcher Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    if the battery charges up then runs out after driving it for a couple of days/weeks, then its usually a problem with the alternator

    but yeah if the battery is charged, then loses charge regardless of whether the car is running or not, then your battery is most likely straight-up buggered

  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Fletcher wrote: »
    if the battery charges up then runs out after driving it for a couple of days/weeks, then its usually a problem with the alternator

    but yeah if the battery is charged, then loses charge regardless of whether the car is running or not, then your battery is most likely straight-up buggered
    Once the car is running, the battery is out of the equation because the alternator is charging it, right? Hell, your first sentence alone describes what happend to be a year ago and as it turns out, it was the battery.

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • W2W2 Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Had a similar issue with a 92 Maxima and it turned out that the alternator was the problem.

  • FletcherFletcher Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Fletcher wrote: »
    if the battery charges up then runs out after driving it for a couple of days/weeks, then its usually a problem with the alternator

    but yeah if the battery is charged, then loses charge regardless of whether the car is running or not, then your battery is most likely straight-up buggered
    Once the car is running, the battery is out of the equation because the alternator is charging it, right? Hell, your first sentence alone describes what happend to be a year ago and as it turns out, it was the battery.

    sorry i didn't quite word that right, in both of those cases i was meaning after getting the battery recharged from "flat" at a repair place

    this is just in my experience anyway, it came out sounding like i thought i was the be all and end all of battery-maintenence

    (p.s. i am not)

  • eternalbleternalbl Registered User
    edited May 2009
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Mini update: My dad seems intent on proving nothing is wrong with the battery. As such, he took the battery with him to get it recharged. He says he'll put it back in Monday and if it doesn't work, he'll just take the battery from my brother's idle car and put it in the car I'm driving now. I hope that works or my plans will be shot.

  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    Now would be a good time for you to figure out if that battery will fit in your car.

    Also, as according to Murphy's Law, the problem will now be your alternator. If he comes back and tells you that the battery is fine, and hasn't checked the alternator, you need to get that done before you end up stranded somewhere.

    That's a great link, eternalbl. I had to do that to chase down a charging problem once. Turned out someone did a shitty job installing...something, I think it was a kill switch, and a chunk of the cable going from the alternator to the battery had rotted out.

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • muninnmuninn Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Had the same problem, and had to replace the battery. Saw how much batteries cost for my car, and bought one of those battery starter kits, and just jump-start my car whenever necessary. Might be a cheaper alternative, especially if you dont plan on holding on to the car for much longer.

  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Yeah I'm gonna take a look at the dimensions of it tomorrow.

    I hate you for making me worry that it might be the alternator now but I will mention that to him if the battery isn't dead.

  • littwentythreelittwentythree Registered User
    edited May 2009
    I had the same problem, it was the alternator.

    Just thought I'd add to the confusion!

    (The alternator is at least worth checking out, it's what I would bet on. Batteries will usually only run for a few days without a working alternator to charge them.)

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  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Unless the battery is borked.
    Yay confusion.

    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    My dad will be bringing the battery back today but I'm just wondering about something. Hypothetically, let's say a new, working battery was installed in the car but it ends up really being the alternator that's wonked. What happens? Does it still start? Will it run once and then refuse to start again after a couple of hours? I tried reading the wiki entry to figure out what an alternator actually does but I didn't really understand what it was saying.

  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Underdog wrote: »
    My dad will be bringing the battery back today but I'm just wondering about something. Hypothetically, let's say a new, working battery was installed in the car but it ends up really being the alternator that's wonked. What happens? Does it still start? Will it run once and then refuse to start again after a couple of hours? I tried reading the wiki entry to figure out what an alternator actually does but I didn't really understand what it was saying.

    It'll start a few times, and then the battery will be dead. The alternator does two things: it provides electricity while the engine is running for everything in the car that needs electricity, and it charges the battery.

  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    The Alternator is a generator. It charges your battery. It is run by a belt, which is turend by the engine. So by running your engine, you charge the battery.

    The job of the battery is to provide a charge to start the car. This means powering the Starter, which turns the engine when you are trying to start the car.

    Edit: Beat'd.

    One thing to note is that if your alternator is dying or dead, your car can actually die while you're driving. The car's entire electrical will be being powered from the battery, and when that is gone, there's nothing left to make a spark and the engine dies. I had this happen to me once, the alternator was putting out barely enough juice to run the car. It would run if nothing but the car was on, but turning on the lights or radio or anything would push it over, and the battery would drain. Fun.

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • W2W2 Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    a penguin wrote: »
    The Alternator is a generator. It charges your battery. It is run by a belt, which is turend by the engine. So by running your engine, you charge the battery.

    The job of the battery is to provide a charge to start the car. This means powering the Starter, which turns the engine when you are trying to start the car.

    Edit: Beat'd.

    One thing to note is that if your alternator is dying or dead, your car can actually die while you're driving. The car's entire electrical will be being powered from the battery, and when that is gone, there's nothing left to make a spark and the engine dies. I had this happen to me once, the alternator was putting out barely enough juice to run the car. It would run if nothing but the car was on, but turning on the lights or radio or anything would push it over, and the battery would drain. Fun.

    Yep, I've had that happen as well. Not fun, had to push the car through an intersection, three lanes each way and a red light camera. If the light had gone red while I was pushing and I'd been booked for running a red light I'd have been livid but thankfully I timed it just right.

  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Aaaaannnd now I'm well and truly paranoid. I think I'm gonna push my dad to take the car and get the alternator checked even if a working battery is installed. Are there any physical indicators of a dying/dead alternator? I took a look at it just now and the wires that are wound around everything are still copper coloured.

  • a penguina penguin Registered User
    edited May 2009
    The first sign of a dying alternator is 'your battery dies'. Well, unless for some reason there's a guage for battery charge on your dash, and even then those are kinda worthless.

    Sorry to make you paranoid, but I'd hate to see you get stuck somewhere.

    This space eventually to be filled with excitement
  • UnderdogUnderdog Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Battery is back and charged. My dad already had the alternator checked the last time he took it so that should be fine. Also, apparently the battery's water level was low, thus explaining why it wouldn't hold its charge for very long. Fingers crossed for tomorrow night!

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