2003 Toyota Corolla: New battery needs a jump ever other week

My girl friend just moved to another city and is having problems with her car.

The first week in town the car wouldn’t start, so she got a jump bought a new battery and put it in herself (very proud of her). Well two weeks later the car wouldn’t start again.

My first thought was the battery cables. However, when I was last able to visit her, I checked them out and they are fine. Sold connection, no corrosion, and the ground appear to be connected to the body soundly as well. In fact they look almost brand new.

My next thought was the alternator. However, she has taken the vehicle on several 2 hour plus drives since this problem began which makes me believe the alternator is operating fine.

She has gone over the car several times checking for lights which maybe staying on, or other draws and has not found any. despite this every two weeks, give or take a few days, the car doesn’t start. Needs only one jump, runs for only 20 mins or so, and is fine for a week plus.

To recap.

1. New battery

2. Appear to be in good condition.

3. Car does not die on long trips (alternator)

4. No obvious current draws.

What is going on?!? Dieing, but not dead alternator? Deceptive cables? Unknown 03’ Corolla electrical gremlin?

What tests can be done one the charging system? Would a parts store be able to test anything more than the battery? I will be visiting her again in two weeks and will be able to bring a volt meter and some tools. Please Help!

The entire charging/starting system can be analyzed. Last time I asked for one,just this past Spring, they told be the battery load test was free, but a charging/starting test was $50.00. I just had the load test done, and the ‘new’ battery was bad, and replaced free under warranty. I’m not saying you’ll get that lucky, just telling you what happened to me.

The charging/starting system test generally is done with a computerized unit that hooks to the battery, and monitors the electrical system as it is both starting the car, and as it is charging the battery. It also applies metered loadings to check the reactions of the starter and alternator. Generally if there is a problem, it can locate it.

A lot of auto part stores will check the battery and charging system for free. They generally do a good job. I suggest you start there.

If you ask the people at an auto parts store, the chances are good that, at least, one will be a mechanic (ameteur or professional). So, in that curb-side check of the battery and alternator, they bring more than just the machine; but, also, experience.

Last year, a friend was having intermittent start problems. For a quick diagnosis of the battery (voltage and current checks), I took the car to an auto parts store for the curb-side check. The tester/mechanic quickly pointed out a loose power cable which bolts to the main battery, positive, cable. I tightened that, and the problem was fixed. I should have caught that loose cable. I should’a, should’a… Anyway, a second set of eyes, and hands, don’t hurt.

What, exactly, happens when it doesn’t start? Does it turn over? Does any noise occur? Do the lights, etc, stop working? Is the battery dead at that point?

If you have alot of time you can disconnect a battery cable and see if there is a spark meaning draw on the battery if you touch the end to the terminal, then disconnect remove a fuse and see if it still shows draw. Good place to start is door locks.

Be sure that the ignition switch is OFF, if you use this technique. Making and breaking, making and breaking circuits to electronics is not a healthy thing to do to those electronics.

After you’ve checked that the alternator is charging the battery, there are a few other things to check. The battery discharge may occur while the car is sitting, and the discharge may be something that comes on, and turns off, after a while.
Return to the car a half hour, or so, after shut-down. Listen and look carefully. Do you hear anything running, or being actuated, or lights ON? Sometimes a radiator cooling fan will come on when the engine is cool, then, shut off. Perhaps, the heater/ac blower fan, also.

Thanks for that insight, Does this mean you do not recommend this suggestion?

You need to look for the not so obvious current draws,for this hire a professional,using the parts store person for electrical system diagnosis is just as bad as using Jiffy Lube for your oil change,but the parts store diagnosis is free,how does that old saying go “you get what you pay for” in this circumstance what you don’t pay for could cost you a lot.

Why do you think parts stores perform tests for free? they want to sell you something,If they sell you something and it doesn’t fix your problem do you have any recourse?

Many posts from people doing multiple starter,alternator,battery changes,with the justification being “the parts store guy tested it and it tested bad” here’s a new one ,you must be getting pretty good at installation.

“Thanks” for the twist, oldschool. EditicBMW, he’s right that you shouldn’t rely, solely, on the advice of people who have the greatest vested interests in making certain findings; but, I’m sure, you already knew that. Really, though, who does have vested interests who would take advantage of her?

Here are some guidelines to follow to use your multimeter: http://www.aa1car.com/library/battery_runs_down.htm

Pick-a-wiring-circuit diagram: http://www.autozone.com/shopping/repairGuide.htm?pageId=0900c152801a8909

Thanks for the replies guys. She will be taking the car back into town in a few weeks at which point I will perform unloaded, and loaded tests on the charging system, as well as a draw test with the car off. In the mean time she will be taking the car down to autozone for there test and call me with the results. Thanks for the links hellokit, excellent resources.

I have pretty extensive experience with mechanical work, and some basic electrical diagnostics on my 85’ 735i, a 95’ dokata, and an 86’ bronco 2. However, I have managed to avoid most electrical issues and newer cars to this point. As such, other than the door lock system mentioned by waterboy, which other systems should I give more attention to if it is a draw issue? Any known issues for the e120/e130 (9th gen) corollas?