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Dead batt, hot leads, wonky voltage

Discussion in 'Stock 1991 - 1994 Explorers' started by Glasken, August 21, 2015.

^^Searches ExplorerForum.com^^





  1. Glasken

    Glasken Elite Explorer

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    Hey guys, been a while!

    I come to you all with a problem.


    Aside from my two lovely explorers, I also own a '94 Ranger XLT 2x4 that I use as a daily driver.

    It has remained stock and in excellent condition, except for an odd quark that has developed into a problem.

    The Story:

    In general, the vehicle runs great. Three small matters of contention that have plagued me are that the engine revs and sputters slightly at idle, and that the voltage reads somewhat high (~15V) while running. Finally, the buzzer for the door/lights on alarm seems to have choked and died. These three things have been a constant for about 50k miles. Oh, and the low beams don't work.

    A few days ago I had driven to work like any other day. Truck ran fine like it always did, pulled up and put my 9hrs in. As I am walking out to my ride home a become thankful that my new AC system is working well in the 117 PHX heat. Sliding into the drivers seat I fail to notice that the interior lights were dim. I turn the ignition to start the vehicle aaaaaaaand....

    nothing.

    No clicks, no turn over, just dead. :(

    "Thats odd..." I think to myself. Almost without thought, I turn the key off, take it out, and repeat the process. Truck starts. :)

    Fast forward. Another day, another 9 hours, 115 degrees of heat. Truck does the same thing, except this time it wont start. Period. No clicks, no turn over, just dead. :(

    I end up calling a buddy to jump me, and I make my merry way home. On the way, I notice my voltage meter inside the truck is jumping from ~8V to ~18V all the way home. Once in the driveway I turn the vehicle off, and attempt to start it.

    No dice. No clicks. No turnover. D.e.a.d. :(

    "Must be the alternators time." It only has 115k miles, but its still 20+ years old. Maybe its time for a new one. Off to the local Autozone (its the closest parts store, no ads here) to get a new to me alternator and a new voltage regulator.

    Now, being that its ridiculously hot here, I decide that I'd rather work on the truck in the shade of the garage. Again I call a buddy to help push me up the slight hill into the "shop".

    As I get in the truck to get the windows rolled down and the wheel unlocked, I notice that the dome light comes on. "Hmm, thats funny..."

    With cautious optimism I turn the ignition. I hear the AC blower, and the radio comes on. "Oh boy, maybe it will start!" :eek:

    No dice. No clicks. No turnover. :(

    "Well, we're here to do the alternator and voltage regulator, may as well get to work."

    As we get the truck rolled into the garage, I notice an odd thing:

    Smoke. :eek:

    And not just any smoke. The magic blue smoke that electronics tend to give off when they are upset. I had left the ignition in the "on" position while we were pushing the truck in. I quickly remove the key and pop the hood.

    A small puff of the blue stuff billows up. The battery lead has melted plastic ooze on it from the dust cover, and the positive leads were hot *chuckle*. Hot to the touch and hot enough to melt plastic.

    I started pulling fuses, checking for stray volts and amps. I also noticed that the ground cable, and indeed every cable in the engine bay other than the positive leads were stone cold.

    Following the wires (I didn't have a manual handy with a diagram), I traced them under the vehicle to the starter motor and the fuel pump.

    Finally, to my question: what on earth would cause the battery to drain, the voltage to be funky, and the leads to short themselves nearly to death while the ignition is on, but no other time?

    To summarize, the symptoms are as follows:

    Ignition OFF:
    "Dead" battery
    Dome light comes on as it should
    Underhood light comes on as it should

    Ignition ON (but engine off):
    Interior accessories work (Blower, radio, dash lights... everything else is manual)
    Dome light comes on as it should
    Underhood light comes on as it should
    Positive battery terminal and leads get extremely hot, enough to melt plastic
    Ground battery terminal is cold
    All engine bay wires are cold (except for positive battery lead noted above)
    Door buzzer sometimes works... like it has been for the past 50k miles

    Engine ON (from jump):
    Interior accessories work (Blower, radio, dash lights... everything else is manual)
    Dome light comes on as it should
    Underhood light comes on as it should
    Positive battery terminal and leads get extremely hot, enough to melt plastic
    Ground battery terminal is cold
    All engine bay wires are cold (except for positive battery lead noted above)
    Door buzzer sometimes works... like it has been for the past 50k miles
    Erratic voltage levels read from the dash

    Vehicle Details :rangergreen::
    1994 Ford Ranger XLT Extended Cab. 2.3l 4cyl, 5-speed M5OD 2x4.
    Power steering, cruise control, manual locks, manual windows.
    ~115000 miles. Had required ignition, plugs wires ect.. at 60kmiles per owners manual. Battery is two years old, Duralast Platnium.

    Vehicle issues prior to the above condition:
    Voltage read slightly high, door/light buzzer erratic, low beams inoperable (high beams work fine), engine has a "rough" idle on a cold start. Runs like a top otherwise.



    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue. I am at a bit of a loss at the moment. I have not yet replaced the alternator, voltage regulator or anything else as I do not want to add fresh parts to a broken system without knowing what may be the root cause.

    Lets get this figured out! :salute:

    Thanks in advance!


    tl;dr: Truck wont start, shits broke. :roll:
     
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  3. 2stroke

    2stroke Elite Explorer

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    That sounds like very high resistance in the battery wires. Either bad ground connections, bad battery terminal connections, or even corrosion inside the wire insulation. If you have replaced either battery terminal with one of those clamp on styles, it could be the problem. They are total garbage.
     
  4. the_don

    the_don Active Member

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    Heat=resistance. remove the battery, charge overnight with a 2/10amp battery charger, clean the battery terminals with a terminal cleaner or wire bush as well as the cable terminals, then reinstall and see what happens.
     
  5. FR-425

    FR-425 Used to be a road here. Elite Explorer

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    Bad starter motor. They can and do fail in such a way as to cause a short.

    Pop the starter out and take it to be tested.

    Or bench test it yourself with jumper cables. (DO NOT do this while lying under the truck!) Remove the starter.
     
  6. natenkiki2004

    natenkiki2004 Blue Bomb!

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    x2 on this. Probably severely corroded cables. I don't believe it's the starter because you're not even passing enough voltage to get the solenoids to engage.

    You may think your battery cables are ok but inside they're screaming for mercy...
    http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3309529&postcount=75
     
  7. Glasken

    Glasken Elite Explorer

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    After going out to pick up some new parts, I decided to cut into the leads to check for corrosion.

    Good advice:

    http://i.imgur.com/EHJEh4z.jpg

    It's the same about a foot down the cable. After I replace them it will be interesting to measure the resistance across old vs new.

    Repairs start tomorrow morning. Will have pics and updates.
     
  8. natenkiki2004

    natenkiki2004 Blue Bomb!

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    We have a winner!

    Do keep in mind, resistance is just one way to look at it. You can have 0 resistance going through a cable like that but we all know that it's not good. Voltage drop is a better indication because that's what the resistance is doing under load. Pretty hard to voltage drop test the starter though, especially with cables like that which don't even actuate the solenoid :)

    At least they're so far gone that it's a guarantee to replace them, not like you're throwing money at the problem while guessing.
     
  9. Glasken

    Glasken Elite Explorer

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    The list for replacements grows:

    Starter: http://i.imgur.com/SBOAxwo.jpg

    Alternator
    (Voltage Regulator)

    +12V Lines (grounds look fine upon inspection)


    Pulled the starter this morning. I will have to make an adaptor for the ground cable but it otherwise looks like good fit.

    I ordered some 1/0 welding lines from amazon to use for my leads, should be in by the end of the week. Pure copper braided strand, .533".
     
  10. the_don

    the_don Active Member

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  11. natenkiki2004

    natenkiki2004 Blue Bomb!

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    Definitely overkill but it will give you peace of mind and not stress your starter and battery. Follow the link above. Always crimp then solder connections, ignore those that tell you otherwise.
     
  12. 2stroke

    2stroke Elite Explorer

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    1/0 will be just fine. Its bigger than you need, but pretty standard for replacement battery cables. My prefered battery terminals are the marine type, with the threaded stud. I solder on a ring battery terminal to the wire, and bolt that right to the marine battery terminal. You can buy the ring terminals at menards, but I make mine out of copper tube. Just cut off about 2", crimp down on half, and drill a hole in it. 1/2" copper tube works great for 1/0 wire.
     

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