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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

The battery in our Vauxhall Zafira B is only about 8 months old, but recently if the car is not driven for a day it won't start, the lights come on, so does the radio but the car just makes a ticking sound when trying to start it.

I'm guessing we have a parastic drain somewhere in the car. Is the best way to test this with a Voltmeter? Putting the voltmeter on the negative to see what the current draw is. If so, what type of readings as am I looking for if there is not drain? What should I see if it is being drained? If something is draining it, is this where I then need to start removing the fuses (smaller first) and then keep checking the reading to see if the draining stops?

Thanks,

Chris
 

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Or your battery is not being charged.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Or your battery is not being charged.
Could that mean faulty battery, or alternator? If we jump the car and leave it running for 10-15 minutes it will start a few hours afterwards, but anything like over night in the morning it's dead. My partner has just gone to the car and it's not even allowing her to unlock it via keyfob it's that dead at the moment.
 

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Get the car jump started and see what voltage you have across the battery with the engine running.
 

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batteries can fail anytime--you need to see what voltage you are getting but it would seem that the battery is goosed--if its only that old it should have some warranty on it------Dave
 

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Basic Electrics for beginners, lesson 3:

Ok in lesson 3 we can talk about starting systems, the primary source of power on the car is the battery, that provides power for the starter and for anything else that is needed when the car isn't running, like the radio or parking lights, if you have a car that wont crank over do a visual inspection first of battery and leads, battery terminals do get corroded and wont pass current, another test you can do is put the headlights on main beam, if they dont come on the battery is probably flat, if they come on and when you crank it they go off, either the battery is flat or there is a bad connection, if you have a multi meter put it across the battery, at rest it should be a minimum of 12.4 volts, when you try to crank it, its shouldn't go below about 10 volts, if it does either the starter is taking too much current or the battery isn't any good. If the battery goes flat overnight it could have a parsitic draw, like boot light stuck on running it down, i found the best way to find that is to put an ampmeter or milli ampmeter in series with one of the battery terminals and see if you get a reading, anything over say 300 milliamps is enough to run it down overnight, the easiest way to locate it, is to see what fuses are live, check the reading on the meter, pull the fuses out one by one, note where they come from, and when the meter drops down you have pound the problem, then check what it does and find out the problem, if none of the fuses makes any difference you will have to investigate further, like remove all the leads off the alternator, i have know those to cause discharge, anything like that...the best way to test a battery is with a high rate discharge tester.

Another thing to try is make sure the engine physically turns, if you can't turn it, the starter cant either, so put a spanner on the crank pulley nut see if it turns, or put it in top gear and see if you can push it with handbrake off, see if engine moves, if it doesn't you have some kind of mechanical fault with the engine, or the fan belt might be trying to turn a sized alternator or water pump etc, if it turns by hand you can do a voltage drop test on the leads etc, put a multi meter from negative battery terminal to engine block, try to crank it, if you get more than 0.25 volts on the meter you have a high resistance in the earth side, do the same with positive side, connect multi meter from positive battery terminal to starter main terminal, crank it over, if it's more than 0.50 volts you have a high resistance on the live side to the starter, also check for power at the solenoid energising wire when cranking, nothing there indicates either a faulty inhibitor switch if it's auto, or ignition switch...or a relay..if all that checks out ok, the starter itself might be faulty. if it gives a heavy click when you try to start it's usually the starter motor.

There is a theory that if the immobilizer is stuck on the engine wont crank, or wont fire up....if the immobilizer is armed there should be a light on the dash to tell you so, if that light is on the car will never start, The starter motor of the pre engage type works like this, its earthed to the engine, it has a 12 volt power lead and a lead from ignition switch which energises the solenoid in the start position, now when you turn the key into the start position it supplied current to the solenoid, that is a kind of electro magnet, and the armature inside is pulled along and there is a pivot and an arm which is connect to the motor shaft, so it pulls the gear along and engages it with the flywheel teeth, at the same time the armature in the solenoid bridges the two contacts a the end and spins the motor so it turns the engine, its very much a reduction gear, so spins the engine about 200 to 500 rpm say, when the engine fires up you let the key back and the gear disengages from the flywheel, i think its also on a spiral gear, and there is sometimes power to the motor winding just before the switch engages which turns the motor slowly to help it engage, the pinion on the starter also has a one way clutch in, like a bicycle free wheel, so when it fires up it the engine doesn't turn the starter, if that one way clutch ever goes it will cause a high pitch screech and not turn the engine.....one thing that is sometimes overlooked is the earth lead from the engine to the chassis, as the engine and gearbox are rubber mounted.

From Fred in Essex, 2016.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My other half has just spoken to our neighbour who knows a tad more about cars than me. He advised that the connections are corroded and that the negative connection is loose.

I'm assuming that this could affect the car starting/charing if the connections are not always reaching. As like I said, if you jump it starts fine for a few hours so I believe the alternator is charging it when it can. What is the best way to clean the connections?
 

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That could certainly explain the problems you are having.
Give them a good wire brushing using a brass brush if you have one.
Or a bit of sandpaper or emery cloth or a scouring pad from the kitchen.
Clean the terminals and the wiring clamps that go onto the battery too.

You should be looking for a voltage around 14V across the terminals with the engine running.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
That could certainly explain the problems you are having.
Give them a good wire brushing using a brass brush if you have one.
Or a bit of sandpaper or emery cloth or a scouring pad from the kitchen.
Clean the terminals and the wiring clamps that go onto the battery too.

You should be looking for a voltage around 14V across the terminals with the engine running.
If after cleaning the connections and the battery gets around 14V across the terminals, does this also mean the alternator is charging fine as well?
 

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At least you are getting somewhere finding out your problem---once cleaned put a little petroleum jelly[Vaseline] onto the battery connections.------Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hi all,

I cleaned the connections up, jumped the car and gave it 30mins idle. Voltages are:
Idle - 14.02
Lights, fan, radio etc - 13.98
Rev around 2k - 14.35

I havent tried the voltage yet with engine off going for a drive first then will try.

Chris
 

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14v is a good alternator output, just for reference mine measures 14.4v

If you have issues after the cleanup and this session of charging then you battery is on its' way out.
If the battery is fully charged it should read around 12.6v with the engine off.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just driven 10 miles, everything on full all the way. Reading of 13.98v when I pulled over. What I will do when I am home is leave the car off, read the battery voltage. Then give it an hour so everything sleeps then see if anything is draining
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Okay engine off.
13.12v

That's after 30 mins idle, 30 mins drive.

I've compared my car, a kia rio which has been off for 1hr 30, 12.74v
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Hi Fred, that is my next thinking. I might check it in a few hours if the light is kind! I guess it could have also been related to the loose connection as well I mentioned earlier?

Just to confirm, to do that I disconnected the negative and measure between the connection and the cable?

Is there an acceptable limit or should it show 0.00? Is this in amps or the current setting?

Chris
 

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Hi there it doesn't matter which lead you use, the current is the same in the whole circuit....i would put the meter on 10 amps if you can rather than milli amps scale to start with...i would say if its over 200 mA it will run the battery down overnight....the less the better, dont be fooled by the fact when you initially connect the meter up there might be quite a big drain but i would give it about half hour with it connected to see if it drops down, the electrics on the car can do that sometimes....if its below 1 amp you could put meter on millamp scale. the meter has to be wired in series or in line with the lead....dont put an amp meter across a battery under any circumstances as its the same as a jump lead....Fred.
 
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