2003 Chevrolet Silverado

Electrical problem
2003 Chevy Silverado V8 Four Wheel Drive Automatic 78500 miles

My 2003 Chevy Silverado LT for some reason is not starting after about 3 days of not running. So far we have taken it to 3 different mechanics and they say they don't know why the battery is dying. We have changed the battery. Something is clearly pulling power from the battery while the truck is off. Does anyone have any ideas as to what it could be. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
November 20, 2009.

Hello -

To better assist you is your model the 1500, 1500HD, 2500 etc and what is the engine size in liter?

Nov 20, 2009.
The truck is a 1500, 5.3 liter Z71. Thank you for your help!

Nov 21, 2009.
Hello -

Okay a couple of things here.I searched through about 300 or more TSB and came up with a couple of things.

The first one below states the when diagnosing battery draws on trucks equipped with the automatic dual zone HVAC controls (RPO CJ2), technicians should keep in mind that the control head does not completely go to sleep and may drain the battery. Before I go any further on this do you have manual or automatic HVAC controls.

Automatic Dual Zone HVAC Battery Draw
Reference Number(s): 02-01-39-007B, Date of Issue: November 05, 2007
Affected Model(s): 2004-2007 Buick Rainier; 2003-2008 Cadillac Escalade Models; 2002-2008 Chevrolet TrailBlazer; 2003-2008 Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; 2002-2008 GMC Envoy Models; 2003-2008 GMC Sierra, Yukon Models; 2002-2004 Oldsmobile Bravada; 2003-2008 HUMMER H2, H3; 2005-2008 Saab 9-7X
Supercedes: This bulletin is being revised to add models and model years. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 02-01-39-007A (Section 01 - HVAC).
Related Ref Number(s): 02-01-39-007, 02-01-39-007A, 02-01-39-007B
When diagnosing battery draws on trucks equipped with the automatic dual zone HVAC controls (RPO CJ2), technicians should keep in mind that the control head does not completely "go to sleep" until after 150-250 minutes, or up to 4-1/4 hours, from when the ignition key is turned OFF. This is a normal condition. In these cases, DO NOT replace the control head.

Now they also had a TSB on Parasitic drain - I put that here so I wouldn't lose it and for your info. But before we do that load test let's look at a couple of other things.

Battery Parasitic Drain
Reference Number(s): 02-06-03-010A, Date of Issue: July 02, 2004
Affected Model(s): 2005 and Prior Passenger Cars and Trucks; 2003-2005 HUMMER H2; 2003-2005 Isuzu Light Duty Trucks
Supercedes: This bulletin is being revised to add the 2004 and 2005 model years. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 02-06-03-010 (Section 06 - Engine).
Related Ref Number(s): 02-06-03-010, 02-06-03-010A
In automotive terms, a parasitic drain is an electrical load that draws current from the battery when the ignition is turned off. Some devices, such as the PCM and the radio memory are intended to draw a very small amount continuously. These draws are measured in milliamps (mA).
In normal use, parasitic drains aren't usually cause for concern, because the battery is replenished each time the vehicle is driven. But, in long-term parking situations, parasitic drains may discharge the battery enough to cause a no-start condition. New vehicles in dealer stock and airport long-term parking are two such situations.
An abnormal parasitic drain could be a glovebox or luggage compartment light that remains on but undetected. Or an electronic component may malfunction and cause a parasitic drain that is larger than normal specification.
IMPORTANT: In most cases of discharged batteries in low-age, low-mileage vehicles, proper charging procedures with approved charging equipment is the only repair necessary.
Here are some rules of thumb that might help relate parasitic drains to how long a battery would last on a parked vehicle.
The Reserve Capacity (RC) rating multiplied by 0.6 gives the approximate available ampere-hours (AH) from full charge to complete rundown. Somewhere between full charge and complete rundown, the battery will reach a point at which it can no longer start the engine, although it may still operate some of the electrical accessories.
Using up about 40% of the total available AH will usually take a fully-charged battery to a no-start condition at moderate temperatures of 25 C (77 F). Put another way, for a typical battery in a storage situation, depleting the available AH by 20 to 30 AH will result in a no-start condition.
IMPORTANT: If the battery begins storage at 90% of full charge, reduce the available AH accordingly.
The recommendation for maximum parasitic drain is around 30 mA (0.030 amp). A typical drain today actually falls into the 7-12 mA range, even though some vehicles do approach the maximum. Multiply the drain (in amps) by the time (in hours) the battery sits without being recharged. The result is the amount of AH consumed by the parasitic drain. The actual drain may be small, but over time the battery grows steadily weaker.
Here's an example: a vehicle with a 30 mA drain and a fully-charged 70 RC battery will last 23 days. But if that battery is at only 65% of full charge (green dot barely visible), it is going to last only 15 days before causing a no-start.
The parasitic drain will be fairly constant over a range of temperatures. The important temperature is that of the vehicle at the time a start is attempted. Colder temperature raises the threshold of a no-start by increasing the residual power needed. When the temperature falls to 0 C (32 F), the battery will be able to put out only about 85% of its normally available starting power, and the engine may need as much as 165% of the usual power to start.
The combined effect of these two factors is to reduce the number of days the battery can stand with a parasitic drain. At 0 C (32 F), the battery can stand only half as long as it could at 25 C (77 F). And at -19 C (0 F), the standing days are reduced to one-fourth.
Temperatures above the moderate climate of 25 C (77 F) increase the battery's internal self discharge. If the battery is in a locale where the temperature is averaging 32 C (90 F), an additional 5% to 10% of the available ampere-hours will be lost in a month due to self-discharge within the battery. At temperatures below the moderate range, self-discharge will be low enough to be negligible compared to the parasitic loss.
Because determining how long a battery may last in a storage situation is not precise, the P & P manual provides a clear-cut policy, excerpted here.
"Discharged batteries can freeze at temperatures as high as 0 C (32 F), causing permanent damage. Other permanent damage may result from allowing batteries to stand discharged for extended periods."
"To alleviate this condition, the negative battery cable should be disconnected on vehicles which are not going to be in service within a 20 day period, beginning from the time the vehicle is shipped. If this is not possible, batteries should be recharged periodically, every 20-45 days, until the green eye is visible."
"Disconnected batteries will slowly discharge, especially with higher temperatures; therefore, even disconnected batteries should be checked every four months and recharged if necessary."
"Vehicles on display are subject to battery discharge due to drains from courtesy lights and other accessories. Provision to maintain battery state of charge for these vehicles will be necessary."
Consult your P & P manual for full details.
If the battery in a vehicle becomes discharged in a shorter time than described earlier, the vehicle may have an out-of-specification parasitic load. Refer to Service Information (SI) for procedures for locating parasitic drains. Follow these steps: 1. Build the vehicle.
2. Select the Engine section.
3. Select the Engine Electrical sub-section.
4. Select Diagnostic Information and Procedures.
5. Select Battery Electrical Drain/Parasitic Load Test.
You will need the J 38758 Parasitic Draw Test Switch and a digital multimeter set to the 10A scale.
IMPORTANT: Read the procedure and follow the steps exactly as described in SI. The following is a summary, not the complete procedure.
The test switch permits you to place an ammeter in series with the battery negative cable. Before performing the test, the engine must be run and all accessories must be operated as instructed. After shutting the ignition off, turn the test switch off. Now, all the current being used by the vehicle is shunted through the ammeter where it is measured. If the reading is out of specification, the procedure explains how to pinpoint the cause.
Your dealership has an essential tool, the Midtronics Micro 410 Battery Tester, J 42000. Use it to quickly identify batteries that are serviceable and can be charged. Refer to Corporate Bulletin Number 02-06-03-006A for more information about this tool.

This one was interesting as the ignition switch doesn't always turn off.

Diagnostic Information for Intermittent Vehicle No Crank/Dead Battery
Reference Number(s): 04-06-03-002, Date of Issue: February 05, 2004
Affected Model(s): 2004 Buick Rainier; 2000-2004 Cadillac Escalade; 2002-2004 Cadillac Escalade EXT; 2003-2004 Cadillac Escalade ESV; 1998-2004 Chevrolet Blazer, S-10 Pickup; 1999-2004 Chevrolet Silverado; 2000-2004 Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe; 2002-2004 Chevrolet Avalanche, TrailBlazer, TrailBlazer EXT; 2003-2004 Chevrolet Express; 1998-2004 GMC Jimmy/Envoy, Sonoma; 1999-2004 GMC Sierra; 2000-2004 GMC Yukon, Yukon XL; 2002-2004 GMC Envoy, Envoy XL; 2003-2004 GMC Savana; 2004 GMC Envoy XUV; 1998-2004 Oldsmobile Bravada; 2003-2004 HUMMER H2
Related Ref Number(s): 04-06-03-002
When diagnosing a concern regarding an intermittent vehicle no crank or dead battery, technicians should remove and reinstall the ignition switch using the Ignition Switch Replacement procedure in the Steering Wheel and Column section of SI. The ignition switch may have been misindexed in the steering column during a previous replacement.
If the ignition switch is misindexed in one direction, the ignition switch circuits will not be completely open when the ignition switch is in the OFF position with the key removed. This may result in lights remaining on or instrument panel lights illuminating, which will drain the battery. If the ignition switch is misindexed in the opposite direction, the ignition circuits will open correctly but the ignition switch may not close the crank circuit properly when the ignition key is turned to the crank position. This will result in a no crank concern.

This is my suggestion.

First see if you can have your truck in total darkness and see if glove box light or any other lights are on very dim.

If not then I would pull the fuses below and see if that makes a difference.

Underhood Fuse Block left side near battery - pull IGN A Fuse 40Amp and IGN B Fuse 40A

Next. How old is your battery - this may be as you read above with the HVAC if you have that system (please let me know) then it may drain your battery quicker.

Please go to Auto Zone (AZ) or O'Reilly's (OR) and for FREE they can pull the codes to the car. Most important: Once they check your codes, if they find something and you don't get it fixed and need to get back with us, please make sure you tell us exactly what the code was, number and all. Example, if the code was E0568 O2 Sensor bad. Then make sure you give us all of that. While there for FREE also they can bring their tester out and check your battery and alternator.

The big thing I am checking here is the strength of your battery. They may say it is getting weak. Make sure it is fully charged before you have them check.

Then if needed I will send you more info on how to do a parasitic draw test. Unless you want it right now and I will be glad to provide that. Just let me know.

Just don't want to flood you with too much info. So again, just let me know

Nov 21, 2009.
Yes. I do have an automatic transmission. Thank you for the information. I will try to get the truck in like you suggested. Thanks!

Nov 21, 2009.
Hello -

I didn't mean if you had a automatic transmission.I apologize if I was unclear.

That first TSB speaks of the automatic dual zone HVAC controls (RPO CJ2). This is for your AC/Heater controls. Some models are manually controlled and some are automatically controlled. Do you have the manual control or automatic?

No problem for the info. It's a start. Let me know how it goes.

Nov 21, 2009.
Oh I am sorry, I understood what you were talking about. I don't know why I said transmission. But yes, my HVAC controls are automatic. Thank you!

Nov 22, 2009.
Hello -

Okay, then that should still be an option about the battery being a little weak and the head of the AC controller not going into sleep mode for several hours okay up to 4.5 hours.

So I would still do a check on the battery and when was the last time it was changed? Also, how long ago did this start - what changed with how your were driving etc prior to it starting to go dead? Can you think of anything?

Nov 22, 2009.
Well the battery was changed this summer. I am from WI but I have been in away since June on a job. This problem happened once I left and my mom and step dad started driving it. They drive it every few days for me to go to work and running errands and stuff just to keep everything working on it. I did not have a problem before when I drove it. I asked them to make sure to check all of the lights and everything to make sure they turn everything off. They said that they aren't leaving anything on. Hopefully we can get this problem fixed. Thanks!

Nov 22, 2009.
Hello -

Thanks for the info............certainly a mystery. Unless you received a bad battery it would still seem odd if it is driven why it goes dead. Still the battery/alternator checkout may tell us something.

Hey, I am going to give you how to do the parasitic draw test.

Battery Drain
Parasitic Draw Testing
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 Chuck Kopelson 12/01/2003
Updated December 14, 2008
If this site has helped you consider a Donation. Donation Info
by Wayne O. Wenzlaff and Chuck Kopelson 4/15/2007
What is parasitic draw? All vehicles draw some power from the batteries when the car is shut off. Certain accessories such as clocks, radios remote door openers and alarms always need power. The normal power used is called parasitic draw. It is always a very low draw so it doesn't run the battery down. If you install accessories like shortwave radios or plug things like invertors and portable refrigerators into the accessory socket and operate them too long without the engine running you can drain your batteries to the point where the engine won't start. If there is an electrical short in the vehicle or a malfunctioning accessory it could be drawing much more than its normal load causing a drain on the batteries. If you leave your door open and the inside lights stay on all night you could drain the battery down till the car won't start. My 98 draws 3.5 amps with the front door open. Usually what happens is the truck is dead when you first go to start it.
The first thing to do is a test for a major short. Remove the positive and negative cables from the batteries. Put an Ohm-meter across the positive and negative cable. If your reading is close to 0 Ohms then you have a direct short. I read 150 ohms on my stock 98. You need to trace the short before you can perform the following tests.

In order to check for parasitic draw, you need to be careful so you don't ruin your meter. At the risk of sounding like an elementary teacher, here's what you need to do.
1. If you don't already have one, get a digital meter capable of reading up to 10 amps DC. Sears sells them for less than $50 - I bought one on sale for $14.99 that I leave in my truck.
2. Your battery must have a reasonable charge for this test - it won't work if your battery is dead. Quick proof - if your dome light operates normally, you're fine. My truck wouldn't start and the batteries were down to 5.5 volts so I put a charger on the batteries overnight. They are now 12.2 V. When I started the truck the voltage went to 14.3 V so the alternator is working.
3. Check to make sure ALL loads are turned off. Unplug anything you may have plugged into the cigarette lighter. Remove your keys from the ignition. Close all doors so the dome lights are off.
4. Disconnect the thick positive (Red) cable that goes down to the starter.
5. To start make sure your meter is set to the 10 amp DC range. Some meters have a special connector for the red probe when you are reading current. The meter pictured on the left has one jack for high amps and one for low amps. If yours does, make sure the meter end of the probe is in the right connector. You can either do this next step by just holding the meter probes to their respective contact points (you won't get a shock from 12 volts) or you can use probes with alligator clips to snap them in place so your hands are free to do something else.
6. Connect the positive probe to the battery - either battery is fine, electrically speaking, since they are connected together by the negative (Black) wires. Polarity on digital meters doesn't matter because they are autosensing.
7. Connect the negative probe to the red cable that is still connected to the vehicle. Make sure this cable and your probe do not touch ground.
8. If there is a severe current draw (more than 10 amps) it will either pop a fuse in your meter or destroy it outright. That's why you need to test for a short, otherwise, your meter should now be reading the current drain on your battery.
9. If your vehicle has an alarm system or remote locks, the current draw may be around 2-3 amps for a few minutes after you last close the door. This is normal. If you're not sure, wait at least 20 minutes after you last open or close a door before you take a reading.
10. If everything is normal, you will read less than 35 milliamps, or .035 amps. If the current drain is higher than that, you need to find out what is draining your batteries: You can start by pulling fuses until the load goes away. If that doesn't reduce the draw, you need to look for a wire that is corroded or frayed.

Nov 22, 2009.