1997 Saturn SL1 Car dead: Battery and Altenator tested fine

Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 SATURN SL1
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 130,000 MILES
This is going to be long. Sorry!

A few weeks ago my husbands car was dying so we jump started it and had the battery and altenator tested. Both tested at a high voltage! His car worked fine for a while after this then he went out to leave for work and the car was dead again. Another jump start and was fine for a week or so.

Today he went out and it was doing something strange. When he would put the windows up it was drawing power from the lights and making his radio shut off and on. Now it wont even start with a jump!

Any ideas what this could be since no where we take it seems to have any answers. Thanks.
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 7:42 AM

10 Replies

Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Hi
Maybe the battery cables. Make sure battery terms are clean and tight and the positive cable to starter is tight. And negative at the rear of engine and smaller wire to keft front fender all clean and tight.
Let me know
Thanks for donate
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 9:46 AM
Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
Everything seems to be tight. My neighbor brought over an electric charger. I had it on there for a few hours. It started for a second, then shut off, and I could hear a clicking. Now it's dead again. There is no clicking, but when I open the car I hear the beeping telling me the keys are still in the ignition.

Wendy
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 10:15 AM
Tiny
DOCFIXIT
  • EXPERT
Need a volt meter check voltage at battery, starter, fuses. Take jumper cables go from negative battery term to block try and start.
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 10:23 AM
Tiny
DANAUTHIER
  • EXPERT
Never appologise for alot of information, it is amazing how may times something that was though to be trivial was symtom that pushed the diagnosis in the right direction.
Docfixit is correct, check the connections first.
How was your battery tested? If it was checked for voltage only it could have had what is refered to as a surface charge. It could have had proper voltage but may not have had much amperage. A battery with an internal short can hold voltage for a time but will "leak" off over time. Depending on the grade of battery in the vehicle ifit is 3 to 5 years old, it may be "worn out". An older load or carbon pile tester is ok for this but a digital tester would be better. It test the batteries voltage, amperge, how well it operates with and without your accessories on and for internal shorts. Most major auto parts stores (ie: AutoZone, Advanced, Pepboys, etc) will test your battery with a digital tester free of charge.
Both poor connections and a depleted battery will give you the symptoms you describe, including not starting with a jump.
Any questions let me know & please let me know what you find.
Thanks again for the donation,
Dan
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 10:35 AM
Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
We took it to Advanced Auto and they hooked it up to something. It printed something out that said everything was fine with the battery. I am not sure if it was only a voltage test or something else, but I so remember them mentioning that the voltage was fine, but nothing else. The battery is atleast 3 years old, so it could be that it's just worn out as you said.

There is no corrosion on the terminals and all the connections are really tight. Atleast the ones I could see.

Thank you so much for everyones help. Hopefully we can get it started and bring it some where for more tests! If you have any more thoughts and suggestions they would still be appreciated.
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 10:46 AM
Tiny
DANAUTHIER
  • EXPERT
Not knowing anything about the battery charger you used, this is speculation. If you had the charger on for 2 - 3 hours eiither your connection with the charger was not as good as needed or the battery is not holding a charge. It can take 6 hours or more to charge a depleted battery, but if it was charged for 2 it should have retained enough energy to power the vehicle for more than a few seconds, especially if the alternator is working properly.
As Docfixit stated, be sure to check your fuses, there (if I remember correctly) is a fuse in the underhood power distribution module for the alternator (may be listed as BAT) If this fuse is blown, the alternator may test as working but will not charge the battery.
If I had your vehicle in my shop I would (after testing battery and alternator) do the connection checks (you have done) Check fuses and test for shorts.
My next step would be to install a known good battery and repeat the test. I realize you more than likely do not have a stock of batteries in your garage, shed, closet etc.
You stated the battery is most likely over three years old, any idea for sure. When you get a chance take a look at your battery, there should be numbers on the top lable. Some thing like 75-60 or 75-5yr. The first to digets are the bci (size or application) number and the numbers after the - indicate the year rating (expected life). Most origiional equipment batteries ar 5 year (60 month) batteies.
60 month batteries are usually the lowest priced so therefor the most often used as a replacement battery.
If you can't remember or find a reciept to find out how old it is let me know who made the battery and I may be able to help you find the date on the battery. Manufaturers put a date, usually in some type of simple code, on the battery so they can rotate their stock.
That was long, lots of info, hope it is helpful
let me know,
Dan
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 11:36 AM
Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
I'm not exactly sure how old the battery is. We bought the car from someone 3 years ago and the battery was in it. So, it could be older.

The numbers on it are 75-5N for the model number and 630 charging amps. That is it that I can see! It is a Walmart battery if that makes a difference? There is something across the top of the battery holding it in so I can't see what is under that.

When my husband gets home from work we will be heading to town to get a new battery so we can hopefully get it to a shop.

I really have no idea where the alternator is or where to look for the fuse so I will leave that up to a professional:) I see the fuse box, but I don't think that is what you are talking about.
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 11:50 AM
Tiny
DANAUTHIER
  • EXPERT
The 5n means that it is a 5 year battery. Walmart batteries were made by champion last I knew. There should be a circular sticker about 1/2 inch in diameter on the side of the battery that will have numbers on it. If you take the battery to walmart they should be able (hopefully) to tell you the age of your battery.
The fuse I was talking about is in the fuse box (if it does have one like I am thinking)
Keep in touch & let me know what you and he find out.
Dan
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 12:26 PM
Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
Thank you sooo much Dan! You've been super helpful and kind! I'll definitely keep you posted.

Wendy
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 12:38 PM
Tiny
WESNLANI
  • MEMBER
Well, we replaced the battery tonight and it started right up. Hoping that this was the problem, but we shall see after a few days. Just hate spending money on such an old car. Almost time to trade in we believe. Thanks again everyone!
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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 AT 8:37 PM

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