Mechanics

CAR BATTERY DRAINS

2002 Lexus IS 200 • 100,800 miles

I have a peculiar problem with my car. The battery drains off within 3 - 4 days. I drive the car for 600 miles to Norwich and the battery is completely charged. It drains off in 3-4 days. I checked for the output from the alternator. In idle condition the output varies from 14.02 - 14.01 Volts, When the RPM is raised the output is greater than 14.10 Volts. The battery is brand new from Lexus. There are no lights on. The music system is working perfectly fine. I do not have a light in the hood of the car casing the engine. The lights are all on manual mode and turned off. The light in the boot is switched off. The light in the glove bocx is switched off. To check if there is a drain I parked the car in the garage and didn't even enable the security alarm. I have done all the checks on my car but unable to find the problem. Also I did remove the main fuse and found my battery tto drain. Have taken to Lexux showroom a couple of time and the technicians are unable to rectify the problem. Pls help. I am sick of jump starting the car.
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Agnelocorrea
April 14, 2012.




When the engine is running the voltage is 14. 1 to 14.3 volts. Once I stop the engine it is 12.7 volts and then starts draining. Apologies if I have mis guided. Its just cause I have so many readings to confuse me. Thanks.

Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Apr 15, 2012.
Yup. 14.3 is perfect. The 12.7 with the engine off is actually just a fuzz high and is due to "surface charge". That's the free electrons in the electrolyte that haven't found their way into the plates yet. When mechanics perform a load-test on your battery, they will draw a high current for a few seconds before doing the actual 15-second test. That gets rid of that surface charge and makes the test more accurate by only measuring the current that was able to be stored in the plates.

I think you'll find if you measure the battery voltage a few minutes after stopping the engine, it will read 12.6, (once the drain problem is solved). Regardless, 12.7 volts is fine.

Caradiodoc
Apr 15, 2012.
Thank you once again for your reply. I did go to Lexus service center in the morning and after checks it was found that the battery was bad. They have replaced the battery and when I checked the voltage across the battery after replacement it was 12.64Volts. I drove to Norwich (200 Miles) and on reaching checked the battery. The voltage across it is 13.47 Volts as I did not wait for all the electricals to stops. Will check again after 30 min and see the voltage. Am maintai9ning an excel sheet with all the readings now.

Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Apr 16, 2012.
Hello Once again. Below are my findings after fitting a new battery from Lexus. Battery - Toyota- 570AmpEN. Once the battery was fitted the voltage on the battery was 12.64Volts. I drove to Norvich and the voltage was 13.47 Volts. Left the car unstarted for 2 hrs and the the voltage measured (21: 30 Hrs) was 12.79 Volts. The car was locked overnight and the voltage measure atfer 12 Hrs @ 09: 30 Hrs morning and found the voltage had dropped to 12.49 Volts. Please let me know if this is acceptable or I should be worried.
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Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Apr 17, 2012.
Voltage isn't the key here. As the battery discharges, the voltage will remain fairly steady. This can be real hard to explain without speaking with a live person using hand gestures and gauging audience response, but the technical reason is due to an increase in "internal resistance". That's a good hour-long discussion in my Automotive Electrical class. If you really want to know more about it, visit the bottom of this page:

http://randysrepairshop.net/basics-of-batteries.html

I suspect you would find the same readings if you disconnected the battery right after stopping the engine. There will be that surface charge I mentioned earlier causing the voltage reading to be a little over 12.6 volts. As some of the free electrons settle into the plates and leave the electrolyte, the voltage from that surface charge will go down, ideally to 12.6 volts. If you find 12.49 12 hours later, that would be acceptable too.

It's the current that is the concern. That is what should be monitored after the engine is stopped, but that setup takes a little more work. I can describe that but since you have a new battery, lets wait and see if that takes care of the dead battery issue.

Caradiodoc
Apr 17, 2012.
Thank you very much for your response. Its a very detailed explaination on the internal resistance of the battery and its a good learning. Also today AM when I check the voltage across the terminals of the battery after the car was parked for almost 15 hrs without starting the voltage measured was 12.47 Volts. I have ordered for a 1000 Amp clamp on Ammeter. Will I be able to check the current of the battery by connecting one lead to the positive terminal and the other lead to the body of the car. Also since the battery is 570Amp what is the ideal current the battery should read. Since its a new battery should it read an ampere rating of above 550 Amp. What is the threshold reading below which I must be worried.

Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Apr 18, 2012.
This is easier to describe with pictures and drawings so if you give me a few days, it's worth adding to my web site, but in the meantime, to clarify how an amp meter works, what you described is how a voltmeter is connected. Voltage is electrical pressure just like pressure in a water pipe or compressed air line. Nothing goes through a pressure gauge to read the pressure, and nothing, (very little), goes through a voltmeter to read voltage, so when you connect one meter lead to the battery positive post and the other lead to the car body, which is connected directly to the battery negative post, no current flows through the meter, but it does measure the pressure, in your case 12.47 volts.

Amp meters measure electrical current flow similar to a municipal water meter inline with the water pipe coming into your house from the street. All water goes through the meter with very little resistance, or opposition, to that flow. In an amp meter, all electrical current goes through the meter. The better the meter, the less effect it has on the circuit and current flow. It should look like it's not even there. If you install an amp meter like you described, from the battery's positive post to the negative post, or car body, you'd have a direct short, smoke, melted wires, and lots of excitement.

Most inexpensive digital volt-ohm-amp meters have internal fuses to protect the meter on the 2 amp and lower scales but very often there is no fuse for the 10 amp scale. The amp meter has to be connected in series, or inline, with where you want to measure current flow. In this case it's the current flow through the battery we're interested in so we would remove a battery cable, then connect one meter lead to the cable clamp and the other lead to the battery post it came from. Since current stays the same in a series circuit, whatever current leaves one battery post is the exact same amount that comes back in on the other post so the amp meter can be connected to either post / cable. We typically insert it in the negative cable only because if the wrench should hit anything metal on the car while it's touching the cable clamp's bolt, no sparks will occur.

This setup would work fine on older cars without computers and on cars with computers up to about the early 1990s, but there's a clinker that showed up around the mid 1990s that makes measuring "ignition-off-draw" more complicated. Some computers take up to 20 minutes after the ignition switch is turned off to go to "sleep" mode. During that 20 minutes the electrical system can draw up to three amps. You must wait and make your measurements after that 20 minutes but anything you do to open the circuit, even for an instant, will wake those computers up again for another 20 minutes. You have to break the circuit to connect the amp meter. That means another 20 minute wait. If you start out on the 2 amp scale, 3 amps would blow the internal fuse so now you again have an open circuit. If you start out on the 10 amp scale, most meters require you to unplug one meter lead and move it to a different jack for the lower scales needed to get the necessary accuracy after the decimal point. That opens the circuit again and makes for another 20 minute wait.

To really confuse the issue, if you start out on a higher scale, then after 20 minutes you're able to switch to a lower scale for better accuracy, amp meter switches are always "break-before-make" styles meaning as you turn the knob, the circuit is broken first to the setting you're leaving, then it makes the connection to the new setting you're switching to. That very short break in the circuit from just switching ranges is enough to wake the computers up again and potentially blow the fuse in the meter.

The secret on these cars is to remove the battery cable, then connect a small jumper wire from the cable to the battery post. Current can flow freely now for the computers to go to sleep mode after 20 minutes. During that 20 minute wait you connect the amp meter to the same two points, battery post and battery cable. You can start out on the lowest scale without fear of blowing the meter's fuse because all current will be flowing through the easiest path which is through the jumper wire.

Once you've waited for the 20 time-out of the computers, remove the jumper wire. Now any current has to flow through the meter and can be measured. If you should have to switch ranges on the meter, simply reconnect the jumper wire first, switch to a different scale, then remove the jumper wire again. In that way the circuit was never broken so the computers will stay in sleep mode.

The magic number you're looking for once the computers have timed out is.035 amps. Most cheap digital meters have a 200 milliamp scale meaning they will read anything from 0 to 200 milliamps. You can also use the 2 amp scale but you'll lose one place after the decimal point. 35 ma. Is the industry standard maximum unless the manufacturer specifies differently. Some allow up to 50 ma. (.050 amps). At 35 ma, Chrysler says a good battery will still start the engine after sitting up to three weeks.

The clamp-on amp meter you mentioned won't work for this problem. Instead of measuring current flow THROUGH the meter, they work by measuring the strength of the magnetic field around a wire. The one important characteristic that makes all motors, generators, and ignition coils work is that whenever current flows through a wire, it sets up a magnetic field around that wire. More current equals a stronger magnetic field. Clamp-on meters measure that magnetic field and convert it into a current reading. They work great for large currents like the 150 amps to run the starter motor or the high current leaving the generator (alternator). They lose their accuracy on very low currents such as what you'll be looking for. Also, I was unpleasantly surprised to find my clamp-on meter only works in AC circuits so all I can do is tell if my electric hot water heater is working! The lowest scale is 20 amps, not even close to being accurate enough for automotive use even if it could read DC current. The advantage to a clamp-on meter, besides not having to break the circuit anyplace, is there's no internal fuses to blow. It will simply read over range if the current is higher than the meter can display.

For what most people need, you can find a dandy digital meter at Harbor Freight Tools for less than ten bucks. They often go on sale for $2.99. They even have the batteries installed already.

I'll try to get some drawings up on my web site to better show the connections for measuring your current drain. I've typed this description enough times that sending you to one page would be faster and more effective.

Caradiodoc
Apr 18, 2012.
I too own a 2002 Lexus ES300 and I have the same battery drain issue. Did you finally get it resolved? I currently use a portable charger to start the car. But what is unusual is that I will require the charger to start the car for a week or so, then magically it will satart up the next few times and then I will need to use the charger again. I am not a mechanic and most of what I have read here is foreign to me. I too have taken it to the dealership with no help, as well as two other independent shops. Any help?

Tiny
Rockocarlisle
Jun 29, 2012.
Yeah I think I have finally got it resolved. The solution was I disconnected the music amplifier which is a seperate unit and now do not find my battery draining as much. You can check if the music amp is warm and it means that its still drawing some power from the battery. I am not very sure of the solution as I am still testing. I have not yet got a chance to park my car for more than a week so I cannot confirm if the amp was actually the problem.

Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Jun 30, 2012.
Also below is the Analysis.
Wednesday - Drove the car to Office and Back - Battery was 12.5V before I started. When I was back the voltage across the terminal was 12.69V. Left the car in the garage on Thursday and Friday without starting and beow are the reading for the two day. 12.59 Volts on Thursday and 12.51Volts on Friday. Today AM when I checked it was 12.42Volts. Not sure if such a small drain is acceptable. Hope this helps

Tiny
Agnelocorrea
Jun 30, 2012.

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