New battery, no power?
January 24, 2013 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Please help me think through this car battery problem. I have a new battery, but no car power. Details inside.

We just moved to Indiana from Florida and are experiencing single digit temperatures for the first time. Our 2003 Buick Rendezvous was having trouble starting, so I replaced the battery today.

After replacing the battery, I turned the key, it clicked twice and then started. I turned off the car and went about my business.

A couple of hours later, I went to start the car and nothing happened. No clicking noise, no internal lights, nothing. Absolutely no battery power as far as I could tell.

I hooked up the battery to a battery charger/jump starter. As soon as I did this, the interior lights came on. The battery charger said that the battery was fully charged, but when I turned the key, nothing happened. No starting, no clicking sound, nothing. As soon as I disconnected the battery charger, the internal lights went off.

So I'm at a loss. It seems like if the battery weren't making a good connection, then hooking the charger up wouldn't power the internal lights. If the battery were totally dead, then the charger wouldn't indicate that it's fully charged. What am I missing?
posted by griseus to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
 
It seems like if the battery weren't making a good connection, then hooking the charger up wouldn't power the internal lights.

Are you attaching the charger to the battery posts or the cable clamps? Are you attaching the negative side of the charger at the battery, or some other ground like the car's bodywork or the engine?
posted by jon1270 at 2:42 PM on January 24, 2013


Are you attaching the charger to the battery posts or the cable clamps? Are you attaching the negative side of the charger at the battery, or some other ground like the car's bodywork or the engine?

I'm attaching the positive part of the charger to a "jump start point" that's connected to the battery. I'm attaching the negative to unpainted bodywork.
posted by griseus at 2:48 PM on January 24, 2013


Caveat: I KNOW PRETTY MUCH NOTHING ABOUT CARS.

I had a car-won't-start problem last month (it was a very cold night) and jump starting helped only while the cars were attached. Because I have AAA I had a guy come out and assess it.

When the guy came, he said it could be one of three things, and listed them in order of how big of a PITA (and $$) it would be to fix: 1) dead battery, 2) alternator, 3) something else I forget. Thankfully, mine was just a dead battery, and my alternator and forgotten thing were just fine.

My guess is that you've got a problem with your alternator and/or forgotten thing.

Apparently you can drive it to any AutoZone-type place and they'll hook it up to their diagnostics machine, be able to tell you right away.

Good luck!

My car grew up in the south, too, before moving to Chicago, so we're very sympathetic over here.
posted by phunniemee at 2:49 PM on January 24, 2013


That suggests you need to clean your battery terminals and the fittings on the loom with a wire brush and start again. You took the plastic cover off the new battery posts, right?

(we have had that issue here.....)
posted by Brockles at 2:50 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm attaching the positive part of the charger to a "jump start point" that's connected to the battery. I'm attaching the negative to unpainted bodywork.

In case it isn't obvious, you didn't attach the charger to the battery with either of those options. So you supplied power and earth independent of the battery so the battery to wiring loom connection is the most likely culprit.

Caveat: I KNOW PRETTY MUCH NOTHING ABOUT CARS.

Anecdotal wild guesses do not diagnose car issues, no matter how well the meaning is.
posted by Brockles at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


In case it isn't obvious, you didn't attach the charger to the battery with either of those options. So you supplied power and earth independent of the battery so the battery to wiring loom connection is the most likely culprit.

It probably is obvious, but not to me! I'm not sure what the battery to wiring loom connection is, but I'll yank the battery, double-check the fittings and connections, and go from there. I didn't see any corrosion, FWIW.

Does the battery-to-loom explain why it might have started once but not again?
posted by griseus at 2:57 PM on January 24, 2013


I think it is a loose battery connection. Had similar problems caused by the new battery posts being ever so slightly smaller than the original battery. Got these, and fixed it right up.
posted by Diddly at 2:59 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what the battery to wiring loom connection is, but I'll yank the battery, double-check the fittings and connections, and go from there.

That's it - the bits of metal that physically touch the posts of the battery must be clean. If they are corroded you may get enough contact to make the solenoid click, but not enough to allow the current required to crank the engine. I'm betting that is what it is based on what we see from here.

Logic so far:
- Battery is new, therefore charge is good (verified by voltmeter/charger)

- If we supply power by a route other than directly from the battery, the car behaves differently, therefore power from the battery is not reaching the car.

The most likely cause of that is some kind of contact problem between the battery and the car. Battery terminals often corrode. A wire brush or scratching the contact area that touches the battery post with scotchbrite (that green pot scouring stuff) or even a screwdriver (be careful not to short out the battery) could do it. Take each connection off one at a time, inspect and clean it and refit it and make sure it is tight - wiggle it after you have done it up to check it is seated. You say you didn't see corrosion, but it is often hard to see - as long as they are shiny you are ok, if they are not it is a potential issue. Corrosion can look white rather than traditional rust colour.

It seems like if the battery weren't making a good connection, then hooking the charger up wouldn't power the internal lights.

Unless you connect the charger to the battery in between the connections to the car (so identically to how the batter provides power), this logic doesn't hold. You applied power slightly further down the chain of connections than the battery does. Something between where you connect the charger to the car and the battery is not connecting properly. If the battery ground was disconnected you could get the same effect as you just saw (no lights with battery but lights with charger).

I turned the key, it clicked twice and then started.

The double clicking and the start and now fail to start says that the connection between battery and car is not sound, to me. I suspect the connections to the batter are faulty/corroded/loose or otherwise compromised.
posted by Brockles at 3:23 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you have a volt meter? A fully charged battery should show around 12.6V at rest. If not, most parts stores will put the battery on a meter.

Start with making good clean connections and if that's not it pull the battery for testing.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2013


"Do you have a volt meter? A fully charged battery should show around 12.6V at rest. If not, most parts stores will put the battery on a meter."
And, on top of this: watch the voltage while attempting to start. If it stays the same or doesn't drop too much, that suggests a connection/wiring/starter issue. If it drops significantly (e.g. <11v or so), that suggests a battery issue.
posted by Pinback at 4:26 PM on January 24, 2013


How old are your spark plugs? We had a no-start car a while ago, the battery was dead and failed the mechanic's test for rechargability, but it still wouldn't start even after we replaced the battery with a brand new one. We replaced all the sparkplugs, and the car started first try. Haven't had a problem since.
posted by lollusc at 5:15 PM on January 24, 2013


If the engine isn't turning over the spark plugs are immaterial.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:21 PM on January 24, 2013


Thanks for the help, everyone. It turns out it was a faulty connection in the negative battery terminal. The connector was screwed in tightly, but misaligned (it's a side-terminal battery). Brockles' logic wins out.

I pulled the battery, re-attached it, and we're good to go. At least for now!
posted by griseus at 6:48 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might want to look into replacing those cables. My car died in the parking lot at work, and the part that hooks around the battery terminal was a foamy blue, and the entire cable was corroded.

Just an FYI...
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2013


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