1996 Chevy Silverado

Tiny
AQUASTELL
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 CHEVROLET SILVERADO
  • V8
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 250,000 MILES
My truck suddenly wouldn't start, so I am first trying to charge the battery. It's one of those Super Start batteries from O'Reilly's "DO NOT ADD WATER" but I don't know how old it is. In the process of charging the battery, the battery itself started chirping. The engine work light was very dim, and getting dimmer and brighter. Ditto with the internal lights. When the battery chirping starts, the lights blink. Finally got "full bright" on all of the lights, turned the key, and instant dead. No lights, no nothing, but the chirping in the battery, and something under the dash also seems to be clicking along with the battery chirping. Someone suggested to me that there might be a relay inside the battery making that noise. I am currently charging it up again, since it is too dark to work on it right now, thought I would ask here. I have thought that the battery is just shot and to replace it tomorrow, but am very concerned at the instant discharge that happened when I turned the ignition key. Now am afraid it might be something else, and not sure what to look for.

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Follow up. Additional information.

I had the battery fully charged and lights were bright, and all I did was open the car door and it died again. (Lights went very dim so I didn't even bother to try to start it.) Since I didn't even get the key in the ignition before the battery died again, I am not thinking it is a short in the ignition anymore.

The chirping noise that I thought was coming from the battery turned out to be the horn. I discovered this when the battery became fully charged and so did the horn! That didn't last long, fortunately, and the battery died again because the (presumed) alarm switch is already in the off position.

So how would the alarm system be activated? Which I really did not even know it had. But what else makes the horn honk repeatedly when no one is in the truck? And could this be draining the battery and keeping it drained? There is a switch under the dash that is unidentified, and looks like an aftermarket thing. When I flipped it once a couple of weeks ago, nothing happened, so I am guessing that must be the alarm switch. But it is switched to the off position, so I am baffled.

If it is an alarm system, could it be designed to cut off the battery so that the truck doesn't start? And a malfunction in it is causing this problem?

Can I remove this stupid alarm thing? If that is what it even is? How can I be sure that is what it is? How can I safely remove it without causing a short?

At this point I don't even know where to begin troubleshooting. I am thoroughly baffled.
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Sunday, June 27th, 2010 AT 10:19 PM

4 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi aquastell. Welcome to the forum. I think you're getting "wrapped around the axle" and way over-thinking this. Your dandy description of the symptoms is exactly what happens when you have a dirty or loose battery cable connection. Due to the high resistance causing the low voltage, computers on the truck will do weird things such as that horn chirp you heard. Common sense says a computer is not needed to honk a horn, after all, we had horns for decades without computers, but common sense doesn't prevail anymore on newer vehicles.

Since this problem is acting up regularly for you, that will make it easier to find. A cheap digital voltmeter can be used but in this case, a test light would be faster. The only thing that can't be checked on GM vehicles is the battery connections because of their side post terminals. Start with the test light connected to the two battery cables. If the test light is dim there, the cable connections must be cleaned and tightened, or the battery has a bad connection internally and must be replaced.

If the test light is nice and bright, move the probe or clip lead from the negative post to the engine block. Also move it to the body sheet metal. There will be a smaller wire attached to the fender that comes from the battery negative post. The light must be bright at both of those places. The wire to the fender is the return for all of the lights, the horn, the starter relay, etc. It is a common source of a bad connection, especially if the inner fender is getting rusty. Next move the probe or clip lead from the positive post to whatever the cable goes to. On older vehicles, that was the starter. Its terminal was used as a convenient tie point for other wires to branch off from. On newer vehicles, look for an underhood fuse box with a smaller cable going to it from the positive battery post. Move your probe to the connection on that box. You're looking for the point at which the test light becomes as dim as the other lights on the truck. When you find that point, that's where to look for the loose or corroded connection.

Caradiodoc
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Monday, June 28th, 2010 AT 1:23 AM
Tiny
AQUASTELL
  • MEMBER
Ok I will check for a corroded or loose battery cable, and try to follow the rest of what you said. I don't have a test light, but I do have a digital voltmeter.

Last night after all that happened, I went to bed, got up this morning and went out to see if it would magickally start. Opened the truck door and the horn honk-honk-honked. Put the key in the ignition and all of the lights lit up. HARD CRANKING, but started. It is running now. I am afraid to shut it off lol.

This is not something that happens "regularly". I only had one other time when the truck wouldn't start, and I think it was not all the way in Park that time. There seems to be a lot of anomalies about what is going on with it right now, but this is not a "regular problem".

Also, my truck does not have side post connections on the battery.
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Monday, June 28th, 2010 AT 9:29 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Dandy. Your truck had side post terminals originally, but the top post design makes it easier to test. Look at every mechanical connection to be sure they're clean and tight. You can use your voltmeter to measure across each connection. Start with the negative side. Turn the headlights on. When the problem acts up, put one meter probe on the battery post and the other probe on the cable clamp. You should read 0 volts. There will always be a very tiny voltage drop, but the closer to 0 volts, the better. Measure across each connection that way on the negative and positive circuits. One of them is going to have a very high voltage reading. That's the source of your problem.

Caradiodoc
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Monday, June 28th, 2010 AT 2:27 PM
Tiny
AQUASTELL
  • MEMBER
Well I am thinking to just take a day, whether it is acting up or not, and test and clean every connection I can find. It will help me learn my truck better. It's an old truck, but I haven't had it very long. I like tinkering with it. Just wish I had a garage. I had 12.74 on the static battery test, and then when I tested the voltage on that connection to the sidewall fender from the negative, it was fluctuating. So I tightened it as best I could, until I had a solid 12.74 there too. But had to go get the right wrench to do it properly. No more problems so far. But now that I have the right wrench, I'm going to take it off and clean it up and put it back on. Also not too happy with the looks of the positive lead that runs to the fuse box under the hood.
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Monday, June 28th, 2010 AT 3:57 PM

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