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Old 12-19-2004, 12:11 PM   #1
bleuquila
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Unhappy Oh dear, I seem to have toasted something real good

I'm hoping this is as simple as a fuse somewhere, but .. I can't find any that are blown!

Here's the story, and troubleshooting or other advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm very cold and do want to go home for Christmas

2003 WRX, MT

I don't drive much, as I'm very busy with school. I drove about 5 min a week ago Sunday, and when I started teh car, I noted that it was rather sluggish turning over. I blamed it on the cold (I'm in MA) but thought that it really shouldn't be a problem as I have an Optma Yellowtop Battery and it wasn't that cold.

Last night I went to drive somewhere, and the battery was dead, couldn't even unlock the car w/ the remote. So, something somewhere has put a slow leak on the car, but what?

This morning I get a buddy to jump start it. We get everything hooked up, his car is running. Suddenly my security system kicks in scaring us half to death. Disarm the car. I see that the dash board indicators are lit up now, so far so good. I go to turn the car on, I hear a "pop" and bam, all interior dash lights wink out and nothing on the car has any power at all.

so! Sounds like a fuse, but I'll be damned if I can find one that's gone bad. IF there was a short somewhere in the car causing a slow sucking of power and we supplied a lot of power from the good battery all at once, what would happen?

WE were looking for the starter relay, B105 IIRC but it doesn't seem to be in the relay box on the driver's side where wiring diagrams indicate. At this point, I really have no idea what to do We figure it's something in the Battery - cluth + ignition switch - starter path, but I'm nervous b/c the ECU is in that path as well. What should I do? Help!
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Old 12-19-2004, 12:22 PM   #2
Mulder
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Hm, hard to tell what's going on not being there.
There might have been a surge through the system when you were trying to jump start it, it happens. This is one of the potential risks with using another car for a jump.
Did you check the large main fuses in the underhood fuse box? They are the square ones w/clear tops that don't look like normal fuses. You might have popped one of those. If you did they are available at the parts store, just take it in and match it up.
Even an Optima will run down if left long enough with some standby drain. Once you get things running, you can check the amount of drain with a multimeter. Set it to measure current on a low scale so it can resolve in milliamps. Disconnect one of the battery terminals and connect the meter leads in series between the cable and post. Make sure all the doors in the car are closed and it's in its normal parked state. You should see a drain of no more than 100 ma and probably much less. If it's appreciably more there may be an abnormal drain someplace, try disconnecting things or pulling fuses until the culprit is found.
Oh, and do NOT try and start the car while the test meter is connected.
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:05 PM   #3
bleuquila
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thanks mulder.

Well just to sink home the point that electrical systems are capricious beasts, we tried again poking about various fuses, checked all the large ones up front, didn't find anything wrong. We though "well I guess we'll try and trace the flow of power?" so I checked the Optima, about 1.8 volts. So we hooked up my friends battery to mine via cables, his car not running. he put the key in, and it's like "what the, dash lights?!?" So we tried jump starting it and that time it worked!

So I'm sort of paranoid since I don't know what drained it to start with. I drove around for about 15 min, and parked again. Then when I went to start it, it did start under it's own power, but it cranked slowly and sullenly even though I had a nice hot car. I forgot to see how much charge the battery has now I'll go check that.
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:23 PM   #4
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You could also check to see if the alternator is keeping up with the battery drain.Get a basic voltage reading from the battery once it's charged. Then start the car with everything off to get a good basline . Then begin to turn things on as you continue to measure battery voltage.See if the voltage holds it's own.
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:31 PM   #5
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Your Optima may have just taken a dump. Not unheard of although unusual. It's going to take a lot of charging to come back to normal assuming it's otherwise ok, just driving around won't be enough.
Jump starting becomes riskier when the battery in the non-starting car is totally dead as opposed to just too weak to start the car. There is far more likelyhood of a surge through the system when the jumper car is connected since you don't have an at-least partially charged battery to stabilize things.
I'd suggest you buy a cheap jumper pack to keep around for future dead-battery episodes, they're reasonably priced now and much safer than using another car for a jump.
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:32 PM   #6
bleuquila
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welp, battery reads 11.6 volts and the draw was 20-40 mAmp Sooooo... maybe if I just back away verrry slooowwwly and don't touch anything it'll be fine! I'm still concerned about how it seems reluctant to start. Is the start motor something that can go bad slowly or is it usually an all or nothing deal?

Edit: good idea on the jumper pack, they're useful to have around regardless, specially in the winter. Maybe tomorrow I'll drop the battery off at a shop and get it real good and charged up? I think, b/c it's the yellowtop it's better than a normal battery in the completly discharging and then recharging it department. Uhm.. "deep cycling" right? whatever that means
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:48 PM   #7
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Yes the Yellow-Top is a deep cycle battery and is made to tolerate repeated full discharges without damage. So it may be possible to just charge it back up and be on your way. Make sure to have it load-tested after charging just to be certain it's ok. It may have just run down from extended inactivity.
11.6V on a resting battery (engine off, key out) is very low. A fully-charged battery will read 12.5V so yours is definitely at least discharged if not NG. Your parisitic drain reading appears normal.
If you know that you're going to leave the car sitting for a long time, I'd suggest that you disconnect the battery while it sits. This will reduce the parasitic drain to zero and ensure that when you come back to it and hook it up, the car will start right up. The self-discharge rate on the Optimas is very low if there is no load connected to them. Of course you'll lose your radio memories and ECU learning, but you won't have to jump the car. A good tradeoff IMO. To make the disconnect/reconnect easier you can get one of those green knob things that allow you to disconnect/reconnect the battery with just a quick twist.
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Old 12-19-2004, 01:53 PM   #8
AC7880
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A discharged battery can freeze easily. How cold was it? I'd try a new battery first (or pull it out and take it in for testing).
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Old 12-19-2004, 02:03 PM   #9
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While it's true that a dead battery can freeze, it's less likely with an Optima since there is no liquid electrolyte. But I do agree that the battery should be load-tested.
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Old 12-19-2004, 02:21 PM   #10
bleuquila
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it hasn't been terribly cold up here in the past week. 30's-40's.
Can a normal auto shop do the load testing?
I have been craving one of those easy-disconnect knobs for a while. Of course, then I have no security system.. : / But it's not a bad option.
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Old 12-19-2004, 02:27 PM   #11
Mulder
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Most decently equipped repair shops should have a load-tester. Parts stores and repair chains can do this too but they're usually not as trustworthy since they sell batteries and are motivated to tell you yours is NG.
Where you are I'd think the lack of a security system is less of an issue than it is here, in some areas of Tri-State you need to leave an armed guard with your car if you want to see it again. Also note that if you get the green knob switch you can remove the knob part and take it with you, which will prevent anyone from starting and driving the car unless they happen to have a spare knob with them.
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Old 12-21-2004, 12:35 AM   #12
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what else is in the car, ie. alarm, system and other wirinf going to the battery?
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