Question about 1996 Mercury Sable

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Car battery dead, but isn't

After sitting for a while (2-3hrs) my car battery will act like it is low. While cranking, the lights go out and the clock resets, but as I hold the key on start, it starts cranking facter and faster and starts. With a multimeter on the battery and key off the meter reads ~12.45V, with the key on, lights on and blower on full speed the voltage goes down to ~8.5 volts, but slowly climbs up to 10V. Is this a sign of a dead cell?

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  • alpiniste Mar 12, 2009

    Note: the charging voltage is ~14V

  • alpiniste Mar 12, 2009

    just cleanned the terminals lastnight (they were getting rather bad), left on tricklecharge overnight (2A). started up fine in the morning, drove to work, shut off the car, 1 hr later started fine drove 30 miles on HWY, 2 hrs later the same thing...

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This really sounds like bad battery terminals but I have a feeling you are going to say they're fine, if so, check the other ends, tight connection to grounds, etc. If all good, lose the battery for a new one.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009

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Interesting problem. There are a number of things that can contribute to these symptoms: Battery not holding charge, charging system not working, bad/corroded battery and/or starter cable connections, and of course something draining the battery when the ignition is off.

Before doing these tests, make sure the battery is fully charged by disconnecting it from the car and charging it 24 hours with an external battery charger.

Is the charging system (alternator) working? Accords have an idiot light, not an ammeter/voltmeter, so it could be your car isn’t charging and the indicator light is burned out. Connect a voltmeter to a fully charged battery and observe the voltage (should be about 13.8 volts). Now start the car and observe the voltage again, should be higher than before (around 15 volts). If the voltage doesn’t increase at least slightly either the alternator belt is loose and slipping or the alternator is bad.

Are the battery terminals tight/clean? Any corrosion on the terminals or wires? How about the end that connects to the starter? How about the ground wire to chassis? Any corrosion could produce an intermittent connection problem that acts like a dead battery.

The battery may be new…but is it good? Charge it, connect it and confirm the car starts. Then DISCONNECT the battery, let sit 24 hours, re-connect and try to start. If the battery now acts dead maybe it is bad. Exchange under warranty.

And last, something is discharging the battery. First question, do you have any non-Honda add-ons like an aftermarket audio system with a power amp? Audio power amps have a direct wire to the battery for greater power, if the amp isn’t turning off then you’ll have a drain. Try disconnecting such equipment and see if your problem goes away. If that’s not it connect an ammeter in series with the battery with the ignition OFF and start pulling fuses one by one until you find what’s causing the drain.

Hope this helps!

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