Alternator, battery, or electrical?


Asked by Feb 14, 2015 at 10:19 PM about the 1996 Ford F-150

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My truck had been running fine, until a couple of days ago. It started fine, all gauges reading normal (I'm a habitual and constant gauge-checker). I was out running errands, and after driving for a couple of miles, turned off the truck, and when I went to start it again, just got the "click." Well, I'd been having some issues with the neutral safety switch, but this felt like a battery issue. I checked the terminals, and the positive was a little loose, so I tightened it up, jumped it - it started right up - and after checking the gauges to make sure all was well went on my way. After a couple of miles, the engine shut off - as though you'd turned the key - and then popped right on again! (When it was off, all gauges were dead and so was the engine. It came back on - all the way, gauges and everything - within about a second.) I parked it, let it sit, and jumped it again. Same thing: Started right up, all systems go, only this time the lights, gauges, and everything but the engine shut down, with the engine finally dying after maybe another mile or so. Fine. Towed it home. Replaced the lead from battery to starter (it was a little worn), tried it again. This time I noticed that when the jumper cables are hooked up to the battery, the alternator gauge shows charging - and a little higher than usual, as I would expect. As soon as the jumper cables are disconnected, the alternator gauge shows zero (all other gauges showing appropriate levels), and the engine dies almost immediately.

10 Answers


First thing I'd do it take the battery and alternator out and take it to a parts store like advance auto parts and them test them just to rule them out. There is also a fuseable link on the positive battery cable, if that fails then the alternator can not charge the battery. To check the fuseable link you need a volt meter. Pierce the cable at either end with the volt meter leads with the engine running it should show at least battery voltage 12.5 volts. If no voltage is present then the positive battery cable must be replaced. If all three of them check out then check your starter solenoid if it's fender mounted. I have seen on some f150's where the post for the solenoid breal off inside the solenoid and caused an open circuit and shut the vehicle off. If everything is tight and the post on the solenoid do not wiggle Then you have an electrical problem or pcm (powertrain control module) problem.

4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.

Your alternator is bad. Take it off and have it tested

4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.

Thanks to both of you. I was thinking it was the alternator, but I'm thrown by the positive reading on the gauge when the jumper cables are attached. After perusing other posts, I'm going to check all related connections, try it again, and if the problem persists, the alternator is coming off. Thanks!


It's reading the voltage of the other vehicle when the cables are attached

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

Your battery is probably good unless you have run it down trying to start the truck. If so, just give it a good overnight slow charge. From your description it sounds like the whole problem is alternator.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Andrew: I thought maybe that was what was happening, but I didn't know if that was possible. Thanks for confirming my suspicions!


Follow-up: I decided to have the battery charged while I was switching out the alternator, and after I'd gotten the new alternator installed, I went back to the parts store ( where I'd left the battery) and they informed me that the battery was bad - it had a bad cell. Wondering if I'd needlessly installed a new alternator, I had them test the old one. It was basically fried: Several internal components were completely shot. It's worth noting that there was absolutely no sign of any damage whatsoever to the naked eye: No scorching, nothing. Nonetheless, it was totally destroyed. From reading other posts and other research, I'm guessing what happened is that the cell in the battery went bad, and then the alternator fried itself trying to maintain a charge in a bad battery. For anyone doing their own research: Again, despite the fact that there were no visible signs of damage to the alternator externally, it was in fact totally shot. I replaced both the alternator and the battery, and all is well. Again, for those of you who are researching: This was an incredibly simple and easy fix. The 1996/7 Ford F-150 is an easy engine to work on, especially regarding this specific issue and others like it. Finally, my sincere thanks to those of you who so graciously took the time and made the effort to offer your advice. I greatly appreciate it, and am pleased to say that my truck is back up and running, which means my grandfather's cattle have enough hay to get through the next few weeks.

6 out of 6 people think this is helpful.

One final note for those of you who are researching your own problems: If you're thinking "well, how am I supposed to know if or when a cell in my battery goes bad?" Here's the thing: It turns out that the battery was 13 - yes, thirteen - years old! Of course, had I known that, I'd have put a new one in long ago, and more than likely this wouldn't have happened. My advice - and I'm not an expert, but based on what I've read - is to change your battery if it's 5 years old or older, or at the very least take it in and get it tested. Your local parts store will do it for free. And always keep in mind that no matter how we may try to prevent things like this from happening: Life is unpredictable, and sometimes bad things happen. Good luck!

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

You figurred it out. The battery celll went bad and then the Alternator blew the diods trying to keep it going. If this is not a daily driver, you might want to consider getting a Battery Tender, I have one on me tractor, classic cars and spare battery. Well worth the money. Glad you got it fixed.


Same thing happened to me so I bought a new alternator and drove it for a couple days and then all of a sudden the battery gauge when right to zero and shut the truck off.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

Your Answer

Add photo

Related Questions

  • Battery or alternator 3 answers

    Dash lights turned off then started losing power till it died. Got a jump after removing the cables truck wouldn't stay running. Check battery it wasn't good so put a new one in. Working now but ho...

    2001 Ford F-150 Lariat Crew Cab SB


    Maintenance & Repair

  • electrical system

    Replaced battery, alternator and had pcm repaired. Still have the battery light coming on, what else could be the problem. Started with engine,instrument failure. But still have the same problem a...

    2006 Ford F-150 XL


    Maintenance & Repair

  • Battery Light ON... Drains while running 1 answer

    A few days ago, battery light came ON... Then pretty dramatic draw on Battery Gauge became evident. Had Alternator checked... tested bad Voltage regulator which is inside the Alternator. Changed out ...

    2001 Ford F-150 XLT Extended Cab LB


    Maintenance & Repair

  • 2005 F150 battery question 6 answers

    Yesterday while driving home from the office I noticed that my battery light suddenly lit. Rev engine it goes out; no other indication of failure; that car starts fine runs fine; all gauges is wo...

    2005 Ford F-150 XLT


    Maintenance & Repair

  • how to open the liftgate when the battery is dead? 10 answers

    I want to open the liftgate manually to take the 120 v convenience cord out for charging, because no power in the battery. Please tell me how to open the liftgate? Thanks!

    2015 Ford Focus Electric Hatchback


    Maintenance & Repair


Looking for a Used F-150 in your area?

CarGurus has 208,275 nationwide F-150 listings starting at $1,200.


Search Ford F-150 Questions

UK Questions

Are you a UK consumer? CarGurus now has a discussion forum in the UK.

Ford F-150 Experts

#1 OJ
Reputation 6,700
#2 dandyoun
Reputation 4,130
#3 tennisshoes
Reputation 2,470
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used GMC Sierra 1500
997 Great Deals out of 60,141 listings starting at $1,299
Used Dodge Ram 1500
531 Great Deals out of 13,075 listings starting at $1,800
Used Toyota Tacoma
727 Great Deals out of 31,913 listings starting at $2,750
Used Ford F-250
560 listings starting at $1,342
Used Ford Mustang
576 Great Deals out of 42,797 listings starting at $1,699
Used Ford Explorer
1,134 Great Deals out of 71,754 listings starting at $799
Used Chevrolet Tahoe
884 Great Deals out of 28,086 listings starting at $1,700
Used Ford Ranger
216 Great Deals out of 6,860 listings starting at $1,595
Used Jeep Wrangler
526 Great Deals out of 18,438 listings starting at $2,900

Used Cars For Sale

2017 Ford F-150 For Sale
3 Great Deals out of 81,514 listings starting at $17,710
2016 Ford F-150 For Sale
185 Great Deals out of 58,030 listings starting at $4,922
2015 Ford F-150 For Sale
219 Great Deals out of 7,508 listings starting at $18,296
2014 Ford F-150 For Sale
501 Great Deals out of 11,476 listings starting at $12,457
2013 Ford F-150 For Sale
673 Great Deals out of 14,075 listings starting at $8,450