I have a 02 Chevy Cavalier 4dr 2.2 base engine LS that has been experiencing a major charging system problem for 2 years.

Asked by Oct 30, 2014 at 10:18 AM about the 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier LS

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Changing out both the alternator and battery with brand new ones will now only allow around 2 hrs of operation before  failure. Each time (over 5 times) both the alternator fails and the brand new battery develops bad cells. The problem has progressed until now and in 3 days we have lost 3 alternators and 3 batteries. I have checked wiring for bad connections and even ran a 2nd ground to ensure the connection wasnt weak at the grounding to the battery compartment. The only thing I have found is a draw of 2 volts higher than my 2001 cavalier at the cluster fuse with keys out of ignition. There is also a small amount of corrosion at the hot terminal of the cluster fuse. Today I will be removing instrument cluster to check for corrosion at the connector. Other than that I have completely ran out of ideas. Any suggestions? Thanks ahead of time for reading and any advice.

25 Answers

335

I would do a key off, doors closed, battery draw test between the negative of the battery and the ground cable. If you have an under hood light make sure you remove it so you don't get a false reading. you should have very little draw with everything off. Let us know what your readings are.

58,535

From what i have read,i think you may want to try and change the igintion switch,after all,it is the source of all power,and if bad would eat the battery,and could cause alternator to go bad ,do to the power draw,the only other thing to check would be the ECU.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Thanks to both for responding. Will check power draw ect. What should the draw be at?

335

Less than a volt. Every car varies. Let us know what you get for a reading.

Okay. Im gonna head to the garage in about an hour and ill check that first and see what we get. Thanks

Okay I have a constant 12 volt draw. I took the time to remove every fuse one by one and the 12v draw never changed.

Added note-With vehicle running AND the charging light OFF the wiring harness on the alternator is receiving 5v on red and 0 on tan. I havent caught it with the light on with a meter on me to check it then however.

335

just to check... you removed the negative battery cable and placed your meter between the negative post and the ground cable?

Yes. NOT between hot and negative or anything goofy.

335

Okay. next you need to find the affected circuit. Hook your meter between the negative post and the negative cable. start pulling fuses one by one, starting under the hood. when you pull a fuse and the voltage drops, you have found the circuit that is the problem. Remember, when you move to the inside of the vehicle to pull fuses, you will have to wedge something against the door jam switch or the dome lights will come on and give you a false reading. Once you have found the circuit thats draining the battery. its time to pull out the wiring diagrams.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

That's the odd thing. About this. No matter what fuse I pull I still had the same 12volt power drain.

335

If you have pulled all the fuses, and nothing has changed, then i would look to the starter. Only thing that throws me off is, if the starter was always pulling 12 volts, it would fry the positive cable.

Yea it would definitely look like it would gave fried the cable by now. Not sure if it matters but the power flow is -12 with black lead on ground red lead on negative battery terminal and +12 with red test lead on ground wire and black test lead on the negative battery terminal. Therefore is it possible the alternator hot cable is grounding out somewhere as it is bundled to run behind the engine?

335

Thats normal because power is flowing backwards through the meter. Unfortunately, I cannot think of anything else to check.

Im going to be double safe and unhook a couple lights then try all the fuses again with the door sensor jammed again. Ive heard of some of the failures resulting from failt instrument clusters and connectors as well as from the ignition switch being bad. Any thoughts there?

335

Just make sure you are doing the draw test correctly. Remove the negative cable from the battery, clamp the positive lead of the meter to the negative post and the negative lead to the loose negative battery cable.

Best Answer

@vindicator1948- thanks man. I have finally figured out the problem and you saved me probably $300 & a massive amount of my time, as well as my wife keeping her job and having a way to get there. Our problem was my bad. I started saying volts. We needed amps and I had us all messed up. Sure enough instead of it drawing under the max 0.034 amps it was drawing 1.576-1.578 WHOLE AMPS. Sure enough I removed the cluster fuse I had mentioned in the first post and bam... 0.008 amp draw! THANK YOU for your time! I'll be sure to pass forward a helping hand the next chance I get.

(P.S. my volt vs amp mess up was the result of the meter only reading AC amps and not DC amps. I swapped and borrowed a multi-meter after I slept off my ADD moment/brain fart & found our problem)

335

Awesome. Glad I could help you out.

Okay update. So I currently have a parasitic drain of 14.50 mA or 1.45amps. Only removing the cluster fuse stops the drain. Removing bcm/clu fuse doesnt nor the bcm fuse. I have removed the dash and unplugged the cluster harness connector going into the gauge cluster (which appears okay) and STILL have the drain with the fuse in. (I also here a relay that isnt the one directly on the dash fuseblock click when putting in or removing clu fuse) any new ideas??

Removed harness from turn signal/headlight/cruise switch and draw dropped to 0.83ma or 0.083amps. ??

Since posting I tried unplugging another harness on the same switch and since then the draw has return to 14.5mA 1.45A

Okay crazy. Testing drain and due to a poor connection on test lead to the ground cable the relay I keep hearing kicked on and off fast a few times.... this cavy has a push button trunk popper.... out of nowhere as its clicking bam it pops the trunk open! Man this car is wired up like my old college computer or something WTF?

That's my car, I don't know measuring volts or anything but I had same problem. 02 sunfire first a year ago put in a new alternator cuz bearing was sqealing. Then in nov. Put a new battery in cuz the old one keep draining we'd jump it then it finally died so got a new battery. Now, 6 months later having same problem. Battery keeps draining, when everything was off the positive spark so something was pulling juice when it should not. Next, if I pull the cluster fuse there is no spark and meaning no draw so I put it back in and there was a spark again also if sparked a few times the trunk pops open. What did u end up doing?

What did you end up doing?

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