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Old 09-17-2012, 07:33 AM   #1
ict-wrx
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Default Electrical problems after washing engine bay

I covered the open air filter but nothing else. ( dont it this way before with no problems). sprayed engine with chem-tool engine degreaser and let it sit for 5-10. then spayed down the engine bay. I diverted around the alternator and other various electrical spots.

let it sit for about 2 hours. drive it about a mile to eat and when i pulled in the parking spot and pulled the park brake thats when the weird stuff started. when i rolled up my windows they were much faster than normal. then the stereo and sub kept shutting off and on and the battery, park brake, and abs lights started coming on and off. popped the hood to see little bubbles starting to form around the two caps on the battery. now i just put a new battery in around two years ago, it was the higher level one from autozone so i expected it to last a little longer at least.

then driving to work this morning, the battery light was on and the dash lights seemed dimmer than normal. get a little further down the road and it just seems like they are getting dimmer the further i go. pull into the gas station and shut off car. come back out and it turns over noticeably slower than before (like barely started).

obviously my battery is either not holding a charge or it isnt getting any charge from the alternator. is this a typical problem for subbies when you wash the engine? it is clear now that i should have covered more than the air filter before i started. the car sat for around 12 hours so i thought any water that got anywhere it wasnt supposed to should have dryed up by now. anyone have any ideas or have had something similar happen to them? thanks in advance
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:04 AM   #2
11stikmd
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Sounds to me like your alternator is pretty much on its way out. Might be just a coincidence?? Water could have induced the alternator shorting out possibly. Just to make sure, throw a meter on and check the voltage to see if its charging or not. Then make your call on replacing it. Most likely it will need to be replaced.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:09 AM   #3
ict-wrx
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Yea i had a meter on it an hour ago and the alt was charging and the battery was holding at around 12 volts. So I'm not sure what the problem is now.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:38 AM   #4
Mulder
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If the battery is at 12V with the engine running then the alternator isn't working.
From your description of what happened it sounds like the engine wash got into the alternator and trashed something inside, either the voltage regulator or some of the diodes (or both). That would explain the symptoms you described, the foaming from the battery was from overcharging and unfortunately it may have damaged the battery to the point where it has to be replaced.
I would suggest removing both the battery and alternator and having them tested, you may very well end up replacing them both.
In the future, before washing the engine be sure to cover up everything electrical. Personally I won't use any chemicals or heavy spray to wash under the hood, just a light spray with a hose and maybe a bit of car soap on the hard surfaces.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:06 AM   #5
ict-wrx
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after spending a few hours messing with a fluke meter we traced down that the alternator was not pushing anything to the battery. which makes sense for how it was acting minday morning driving to work. plus when i went thru all the electrical connections the alternator plug had standing water in the alt side of the connection and burnt black marks on the plug. after installing a new alternator and stating it up the battery never came on and she runs good as new now.

thank you everyone for your help on this matter.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:48 AM   #6
Mulder
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That's good, but I'd still test the battery as the overcharging may have damaged it. If the battery has removable fill caps take them off and check the fluid level, some of it may have boiled off. Top it off with distilled water and charge the battery, then test the individual cells with a hydrometer (they're cheap at the parts store if you don't have one). All the cells should bubble equally while charging and should show approximately the same charge and fluid levels after the charge is complete. If any cells bubble a lot more than the rest, lose fluid, or show a lower charge then those cells are bad and the battery should be replaced.
If the battery does not have removable caps, then there is no way to replace the fluid that was lost when it boiled over and it would be best to replace it even if it seems ok now.
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