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Car died, not sure why.

ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
edited December 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So, my 02 Saturn SL1 decided to die last night at a restaurant.

I went to meet my wife after work at a local diner. After our meal I went outside and my car would not turn over, it wouldn't even attempt to crank or show any signs of having power, except for my stereo clock working. This seemed odd to me, but having my wife's car there we decided to try to boost mine, which worked. I let the car run a couple of minutes and then got her to follow me on the way home.

About 5km later, I noticed my headlights were flickering on the road ahead, which was quickly followed by my car completely losing power (again, radio clock was on), luckily I was able to pull over without any difficulty. Same problem as before, turning the ignition won't cause the car to crank and no signs of power. So now my car is sitting on the side of the highway until later, when I can get it towed.

What I need to know is what can be causing this?

My worry is that the electrical system is fried, as it doesn't seem likely that it is a battery issue, as there was not the usual ticking noise a dead/dying battery gives off, nor did the car give any warning of being low on power/any other issues (no light/check engine).

Comahawk on


  • AurinAurin Registered User regular
    I'd pull the alternator and take it in to get it checked. Also, check all connections to your battery, ground and hot on both ends. Then, also check the battery. But I just recently had an alternator go out, and short of the clock for the radio being on still, I had the same thing happen. Fortunately a battery got me home and I didn't need to use headlights to get there. >.>

  • Donovan PuppyfuckerDonovan Puppyfucker A dagger in the dark is worth a thousand swords in the morningRegistered User regular
    ^ That.

  • ChanusChanus I've seen things... Registered User regular
    Definitely sounds like the alternator went out.

    Its job is to basically keep the electricity flowing and keep your battery charged once your car is started, so you aren't continually running down the battery while you drive. That's why, if it's bad, you can jump-start the car but it will soon die again.

    Allegedly a voice of reason.
  • ChanusChanus I've seen things... Registered User regular
    Also, if you want to save money on a tow, you can have your wife follow you and keep jumping it until you reach a shop.

    Allegedly a voice of reason.
  • Count FunkulaCount Funkula Registered User
    In addition to getting your alternator fixed/rebuilt/replaced, I would replace the battery as well. Nine years is a LONG time for a battery to last and yours is probably ready to go.

  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    Yeah, basically textbook alternator problem.

  • PelPel Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    It's true that if your alternator is not putting out enough power you should get a warning light on the dash. Despite this, however, it's still the most likely suspect. Far less likely is a dead short somewhere in the electrical system (possibly the battery itself) that is draining the battery faster than your alternator can replenish it. Either way, you can possibly purchase a new battery to get you home: you probably need one anyways, and the factory charge should get you a decent ways, or as said above, just jump the car a few times. Driving home in the daylight, with no headlights, will be much much easier than at night if your alternator is in fact faulty, or better yet driving to your friendly local parts store: Autozone/Advance/ Pepboys will test both your alternator and battery for free, and even in the car if i remember right.

    Edit: you should realize that your car doesn't need a lot of power to run. The current draw comes from incidentals: headlights, heater fan, etc. If you have to drive with limited juice, turn every peripheral you can off. A car with a fully charged battery and a junk alternator can run hundreds of miles before the battery is drained. Keep this in mind if you try to limp home, or to someplace that can help you out.

    Pel on
  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    I had an alternator die in a car of mine, and never got a warning light or anything. All the lights slowly got more and more dim, with whole systems slowly dying one-by-one until I couldn't move the car any more.

  • PelPel Registered User regular
    Probably just luck of the draw, since it probably varies from car to car, but every time I've ever had an alternator fail I've had a :volt: light come on indicating low charging voltage. I only mentioned it because it's the only possible discrepancy that keeps it from being an open- and shut case of a bad alternator.

  • TheKoolEagleTheKoolEagle Registered User regular
    I have the same model and year as you, have you ever replaced the battery? In about 06/07 I pulled it into a gas station, filled up the tank, and couldn't get it to turn over again, battery was entirely shot and had to get it towed to get a new battery.

    As other people have said get the alternator looked at as well, but from personal experience the battery was not so great.

    uNMAGLm.png Mon-Fri 8:30 PM CST - 11:30 PM CST
  • ComahawkComahawk Registered User regular
    Thanks for all the replies. I ended up getting it towed due to where the car was, having someone constantly jumping me to get it home would have been impractical.

    The battery is relatively new, less than two years old, so I don't think it is that. After having a look my brother, father and I are thinking it is the alternator and I will be removing it on monday (earliest I can get around to it) to have it bench tested.

  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    If there's a place nearby that'll test the battery for free, it can't hurt to have that done. This is coming from someone with notoriously bad luck for car batteries though.

    mts wrote: »
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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    Not sure what the temperature is like where you live, but the heat can kill a battery. I bought a new battery when my alternator died in 2010 and had to buy a new battery again this past summer that was the hottest on record. My mechanic said the heat was just killing batteries like crazy.

  • CaraVanCaraVan Registered User
    Until you get it checked, we can only speculate that it was either the alternator or the battery, and in either case, it is advisable to get the problem fixed unless you want your wife to follow behind you every time you use the car.

  • jungleroomxjungleroomx Never pre-order anything. Registered User regular
    edited May 2012
    Comahawk wrote: »
    Thanks for all the replies. I ended up getting it towed due to where the car was, having someone constantly jumping me to get it home would have been impractical.

    The battery is relatively new, less than two years old, so I don't think it is that. After having a look my brother, father and I are thinking it is the alternator and I will be removing it on monday (earliest I can get around to it) to have it bench tested.

    Never assume that just because it's new that it works. When you pull the alternator, pull the battery. Have em both tested.

    I went out and bought a brand new Everstart battery about two years ago (Yes, they're no Duralast, but for the money they can't be beat), and started having troubles with my power a year after that. Turns out one of the cells was damaged and got replaced free. However, the catch here is that I though because it was new it was good, and checked every single other aspect of my electrical system before just getting the battery tested.

    jungleroomx on
    "Oh god, you're so tough, with your fucking open nose and throat" - Bill Burr to Joe Rogan, after Joe said masks were for "pussies."
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