Car Battery Drain Problems

Reader Question

I don’t want to sound like a repeat, but I have a few conditions different from the other cases I found on your site. For the past few weeks, my car has been taking a little longer to start than usual, it takes a while for the engine to turn over.

Often, I would have to try turning the key a couple of times before it would turn over. It died last week, my neighbor jumped it, and all was well until the other day when I was stranded at Food Lion. At first my friend thought it was the starter, so he tried tapping it while I turned the key, but no luck.

Here’s the weird part-

The car went from cranking, to a click or two, to nothing- and when it got down to nothing (no sound at all), my car alarm would start going off every single time I tried to turn the key. Needless to say, this is a little frustrating.

We then tried jumping the car, and it worked, but only long enough to get it to Advance (then it died exactly where I parked it). Advance checked it, said my battery was at about 11, and told me they couldn’t check the alternator (their machine was broken), but that it was most definitely the battery.

So I replaced it, and drove 15 minutes to another Advance store, and when they checked it, my alternator was putting off 12.36, and they told me this was borderline, but definitely not the source of my problem.

Everything should be okay now that the battery was changed. WRONG… I noticed it was taking just a few seconds longer to crank again, and sure enough, last night I was stranded at a friends on the other side of town!

Same symptoms: at first car was cranking (but weak), then it just clicked a few times, then it just stopped. And on comes the alarm!! Oh, and my dash lights and radio are all coming on just fine.

PLEASE HELP- I am a student with limited expenses and I just wasted 50 dollars on a new battery when that’s probably not the problem…. but I need my car to get to work!!!

Thank you,

Hello Catherine

You really need to spend a little bit more money and have a real mechanic perform an electrical test. The Advanced auto people are not really what I would call…..mechanics.

While reading your email I would suspect you had a bad battery OR dirty or loose battery cables which I see all the time in my shop.

You most definitely have a lack of battery power problem, either the battery is not holding the electricity the alternator is providing OR the alternator is NOT providing enough electricity to the battery OR the battery cables are loose or dirty and not providing a good connection for the electricity to enter the battery OR you have a “drain” something could be draining the power from the battery.

A “drain” can be something as simple as a trunk or glove box light that is left on and is sucking power from the battery when the engine is off, or it could be from a sensor or relay that is stuck on, when it is supposed to be off.

You really need to have a qualified mechanic check your entire electrical system and do a “voltage drain” test to see what is going on….otherwise you are liable to replace parts that are not needed…..which usually ends up costing MORE time and money than if you had a professional diagnose the problem from the beginning.

The 12.36 alternator voltage reading is too low…..but I am not sure I trust their testing ability enough to condemn an expensive alternator without further testing.

Keep me posted will ya?

Please share this with your friends,
Austin C. Davis

Reader Follow Up

First of all, thank you so much for such a fast response today about my car! As I’m sure you could tell, I was very stressed out about it.

Your advice is incredibly helpful to me, because I know very little about this sort of thing, and now at least I know what I should be focusing on. You are doing a great and very appreciated thing through your site, and I really just want to commend you for it.

As far as my car goes, after an hour of trying to get it to jump, it finally started and I was able to get it to a mechanic. I explained what was going on, and even told him the advice you offered me, and he is going to check it out on Monday.

He already tested the alternator for me, and said that he isn’t getting any output whatsoever from it (he was a little surprised that I even made it to his shop from across town).

I will definitely let you know what he finds- but for now, once again, thank you!!!

2 Comments on "Car Battery Drain Problems"

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  1. robert says:

    I recently bought a car and to my surprize its a nightmare electronically.The battery dies very quickly it has hi 6000k lights only one illuminates.If im lucky it charges if not i have to use my brights.It has a kill switch as a cheap theft system.I recently installed a subwoofer to an almost complete system that came with the car.While installing i noticed all the wires for the stock stereo were cut and the electrical was a huge mess.I also seen a couple wires that had been melted by major heat.Well anyway a bit later went to start my car it bogged out.Thought it was the usual battery.I thought it might have enough juice still to push start so i rolled it down the hill we live on and nothing happened.I tested the battery and it was good.Cranking it over it went from making noise but not sounding like its getting fuel to not making a sound.We jump started and still nothing.Then to my surprise cranking it over it started making alarm noises.didnt even know it had an alarm.Electrically never seen some of the weird things this car does.Help would be highly appreciated ive spent 2400 on this car and i just want to know if its worth anymore to do anything with.Thanks

    • Austin says:

      I have yet to see a subwoofer stereo system that was installed properly and did not produce a battery drain like you are having. Cars are just not made to handle all that extra stereo electrical supply without some major modifications made by someone who knows what they are doing….most after market radio installers dont.

      I would see if you can find a professional stereo installation place in your area and see if there is someone where that actually knows what they are doing and have them either remove all your aftermarket stereo stuff or see if they can properly install it for you.

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