Weird dead battery situation

Thad Niles

Asked by Dec 04, 2015 at 05:59 PM about the 2006 Chevrolet Equinox

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

OK, I do know a thing or two about cars, but this has me stumped.  

Background info:  
Fairly new battery (less than 2 yrs old)
A month ago was the last time i did anything to the car's electrical system
(barely).  I put in new headlamps for the winter and I replaced a fuse--the
fan high-speed fuse for the radiator.  After i did those two things, I drove 16
hours for Thanksgiving, several trips over an hour, etc.  LOTS of highway
driving, and no problems at all.

Last night, I drove 45 minutes each way on the highway.  No problems.

This morning, car won't start.  The starter clicks and rotates a bit, but the
battery is just too dead to make it work.  I jumpstarted from another car,
drove 15 minutes to work (I was late and couldn't drive it longer).

This afternoon, of course, the car won't start again.  Maybe I did not let it
run long enough.  Another jumpstart, and this time I drive and let it idle for
about 30 minutes or so.  

I disconnected the positive terminal and tried to see if there is a power
leak--I put a voltmeter in between the electical terminal and the wire, and
checked for amps.  I got abotu 50 milliamps...this should be normal.

So I figured I should be good, but then when I tried to start, nothing.  So
literally 10 minutes after shutting off, it won't start again.

I have one of those cheap alternator testers that hooks into cig lighter.  It
says my alternator is good, 13 V or so.  

So i am stumped.  I am off to buy a damn battery charger at the auto store,
but it ain't gonna fix it.  

If I had a voltage leak or short circuit somewhere, why didn't it screw me
over earlier?  I have been driving fine for several weeks.  Any thoughts
would be great; I am really frustrated...

12 Answers


Before doing a parasitic drain test keep the door closed for 10 minutes or so to let the ECM go back to "sleep," (if you expect to be pulling interior fuses between tests pull the fuse for the door). Otherwise you'll get a higher draw reading than normal. My suggestion would be to first recharge the battery fully then take it to a parts store to be checked - it might have a dead cell, even if it is only two years old. Do a thorough check on the alternator while there as well.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.
Best Answer

Alternator output should be from 13.8 to around 14.2 at idle. Today's alternators are not designed to recharge a very weak or dead battery without burning up, make sure the connections are clean and bright, none of that black corrosion. Make sure the engine ground straps are also clean and tight. HTH

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Thad Niles

Thanks guys I am recharging so will know more soon.

Thad Niles

OK I have some more info if anyone can help. I'm at wit's end. My battery was charged the whole time (12.5 V), even when my cheapo lighter socket battery tester read low. Starter is good. I bench tested it and it's fine. Also put in a new starter (don't ask) and that didn't fix it. Baking soda and wire brush all connections I could find. When I try to start I get a click or two or three. Not turning. Any help would be appreciated!

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Thad Niles

As I poke around the net many folks point to a bad ground issue. So I will also explore that possibility tomorrow.


I'd start with a voltage drop test of the ignition/power circuit at the starter, and then a voltage drop test of the ground circuit. ( Good luck

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

probably a bad ground..verify that ALL your grounds have a very low (or no) resistance..with power off of course. A proper way to accomplish this is to check resistance from source side, to an area close to the metal close to the ground point. If they all check good, no reason to remove ground nuts or clean them have verified your grounds are good. chasis grounds, starter grounds, alternator grounds. also check the ignition coil wire...verify you have low resistance and continuity. also check that all fuses are firmly and snugly in place, do the wiggle test with wires also when you do these could be a degrade wire that opens when it moves around. o load test of battery? do that also..a static reading may show ~12 volts, but under load it could be shot. once that you have done all that and they pass or you have made good repair as required, then check the ignition switch. An easy way to verify a good ignition switch is to bypass it with power...if the car starts, you know its either a bad ignition connection (corrosion, something loose or the switch is broken) . I don't know this vehicle, but sure you can google out a diagram schematic of how your ignition switch operates, and find a youtube that shows how to "jump it". good your results what you find, what you have done and see if we can all help you or you can help someone else once you have it all solved. Another things to check of course, is is always a good place to start..just to make sure you have any codes that might producing this kind of fault. Always a good idea, just as important as checking fuses. another thing to consider is passlock...I've read that a car with battery removed (even from a bad battery) defaults passlock into failsafe..making the car inoperable, until you go through the steps to reset...It may not apply to your vehicle, but it seems to be a sufficiently common problem with certain car/years that I mention it. I don't know the vehicle, but if you can apply power externally to the ignition switch bypassing

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

another issue might be with the charge regulator...its basically a reverse and amp limiter, and it is usually a module attached to the alternator. If it is bad, you are getting volts during charge but not regulated...make sure you ensure this is not an issue...if you get a new battery and this problem remains, you could well end up destroying another battery. I am sorry this is very general in scope, and not specific to your vehicle. If you could post your make/model/year/enginetype/transmission type...that would be more helpful to gain some specific troubleshooting methods...peace

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Thad Niles

OK future internet travelers, I have found my answer. It was the most basic of all: the battery. Even though my battery would charge up to a good voltage, it still wasn't able to supply the required juice (cranking amps?) so it read like a good battery on my multimeter but acted like a bad one. What I should have done AT THE BEGINNING is to drag the battery to get it load tested at the parts store. Just to confirm that this is not the problem. Alternatively, I could have had a buddy start the car while I measured with a voltmeter to watch it plummet below 9.6 V during ignition. As it was, I was getting weird results, like putting a 12 V test light to the starter and watching it light up, then the starter wouldn't engage. SO I would test the starter and it would pass...then I would go cleaning connections and chasing a bad ground somewhere thinking that must be the only option left. I still don't know why the battery died when it did, after so much driving, nor why there were no symptoms like hard starts before this. Maybe the weather turning 5-10 degrees cooler had a role. I may never know for sure. Thanks for everyone's help! I really appreciate you guys chiming in. Unfortunately I can only choose one best answer...

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.
Thad Niles

For those interested, I was running an Interstate battery less than 2 yrs old. Goes to show that you need to CONFIRM what you THINK when you're trying to locate the issue!

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

Good info, thanks for posting the outcome, may help someone in a similar situation. Cheers!

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.
Alison Silves

I wanted to add my issue for anyone else that happens by: 2014 Chevrolet Equinox. Keys left in ignition overnight, believe in the on position. Dead battery, tried to jump but getting no thunk, click, nothing but a strange, super quiet popping from deep inside the engine compartment each time the key was turned on. My hero mechanic came out and disconnected battery (which is buried!) for 5 minutes then reconnected & put the key in the ignition for another 5 minutes "to reset" and voila! it started and has not been a problem since. ECM or BCM who knows? (I'm not a mechanic) I just wanted to add my easy fix in hopes it helps someone else.

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

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