Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2002 Cavalier alternator/battery/connection issue

Hi. First post here.

I recently got the above cavalier with 145,000 miles for $500. Plenty of new parts, including the starter. Expecting to add a few electrical add-ons (small 400 watt inverter and maybe a second battery) I pulled out the battery ground connections (one to the battery frame, one to the engine block) and cleaned all points of contact to bare metal and added dielectric grease as a preventative measure.

I had a panic attack as i tried to disconnect the positive lead from the battery cable to the under hood fuse block. The bolt kept turning. I determined it was a
fold-over style retainer clip that had rotted and i replaced it. Added some of the above grease to the above as well.

The day after i noticed the alternator doesn’t seem to be charging until A: 2-5 seconds have passed or B: the engine RPM gets above 12-1500. Also, the
starter seems to lug a bit harder then it did before. On later starts the issue doesn’t happen.

A few pieces of relevant information:
This car has not been driven on the street for over 2 weeks. I’ve been pulling it into the garage in and out for about a week now, disconnecting the battery (running wires and relays in the general area) Once I’m done with the car i pull it out and let it run for about 2-3 minutes to regain charge. Yesterday i let it run (first start of the day) for over an hour to ensure full charge. Today i started it about 24 hours later and the same issue happened (Lights dim and heater motor running slowly until 2-5 seconds later)

I’m kinda trying to narrow it down to one of three things:

1: While cleaning the connections I damaged something, possibly in the fuse block. Right now i can’t understand how i managed todo that as everything else is fine. Indeed, before starting the car, the lights seem brighter then they were before. The only other thing that might affect it is a slightly changed the routing of the positive cable as to make it easier in the future to access. Its not touching anything that could damage it (IE the exhaust) and the factory wire loom is still intact and protecting the cable.

2: A combination of both not driving the car for the past 2 weeks and the repeated starts AND the bitter cold snap we’ve had here in the northeast did it in for either the battery, alternator, or both.

I’m going to have the alternator and battery checked in 2 places (Autozone and Advance) as well as the belt and pulley (though i havent noted any slippage)
and I’m going to check the voltages (before starting, after starting, after the alternator delay)

Can anyone offer anything I might have missed or some advice on how to proceed?

EDIT: I just remembered that i had the same issue with my revious 1998 Cavaler and it went away AFTER i cleaned the ground to chassis connection. I dont get how it managed to show up after i cleaned the connection in this car…


The voltage numbers will help. Also get a $50 battery charger and use that instead of letting the engine idle for long periods.

Also recheck your ground connections. Perhaps one is not good.
edt: and don’t forget the other battery connections, did you check/clean them?

When you say you used dielectric grease, how exactly did you use it? Most greases including silicone dielectric grease are insulators. So they shouldn’t be used between two surfaces that are supposed to conduct current. They are used to prevent current from following unwanted paths, like along the surface of the battery case, and as a general anti-corrosive.

My guess is that the exciter inside the alternator is causing the issue to happen. It really isn’t much of a problem as long as the charging system turns on fairly quickly. Make sure the battery warning light turns on when you turn the ignition ON.

I’ve had two Cavaliers, a 2000 & a 2001. Both had a 2 second delay until the alternator kicked in. It never became a problem. I assumed it was normal. The solid state regulator is probably set up that way to allow the engine to start up with minimum load.