Hello, Please I need your help I am a poor college student that bought a pt 03 cruiser limted two weeks ago. Everything was running fine and then yesterday I was driving to school and it died while I was driving just shut off the radio everything went off. It didnt make noise or smell or smoke it was hard to steer if off the road. So I hoped it was the car battery. So I bought jumper cables and had someone with a new car jump my car mulitple times. The first time nothing at all the second the door being ajar would ding and power returned. The third time the car actually started and was on so we ran it for a bit and would press on the gas pedal to reve it. Thought it was all fine but then the moment I took the cales off the other cars battery my car died again no power at all back to square one. Is is the battery or something else? I dont want to waste money I dont have on a battery if I dont have to. Especially b/c theres paper work saying it should have a 84 month battery in it replaced 4/28/10. I need to move my car asap I fear it might have already been towed. I also need to know should I tow it to a shop or is it something I could fix? Thank you for your expertise I just I dont have anyone to talk to or help me with this.
First of all, was it hard to steer because the engine stalled or was the engine still running? If it was still running when it was hard to steer, check if the drive belt popped off. That would also cause the battery to run down.
If the hard steering only occurred after the engine stalled, you likely have an alternator problem. The first thing to do is recharge the battery. That can be done with a small battery charger or with another car and jumper cables, but it's going to take a good hour to charge the battery completely. Expect it to have to charge at least 15 to 20 minutes to last long enough to start the engine and drive any distance. With a fully charged battery the car should be drivable for up to an hour if you don't have to turn the head lights on.
Find an inexpensive digital voltmeter to measure the battery voltage while the engine is running, then holler back with that number. I can walk you through the steps if necessary. You can find voltmeters at Sears, Walmart, Radio Shack, or better yet, a Harbor Freight Tools store if you have one nearby. They often have little ones on sale for $2.99 that will work just fine.
With the engine running, the battery voltage must be between 13.75 and 14.75 volts. If it is lower, around 12.0 to 12.6 volts, the alternator is not working. A real common problem with an inexpensive fix is worn brushes inside it. I can post pictures of how to replace the brush assembly but I'll have you do further tests first to confirm that's the problem. That involves measuring the voltages on the two small wires that bolt to or plug into the back of the alternator, but those readings must be taken with the engine running.
I'll be out of town tomorrow so don't think I'm ignoring you if I don't reply right away. I'll be back in the late evening.