Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

2004 Toyota RAV4;mystery

So, I left my car idling for 4 hours with the heater on(yes I know it was a dumb move). When I realized I immediately turned it off. The next day my battery was dead, so I jump started it, and since then my car has been blinking warning signs on and off like a short or something. I took it in to get it tested, and it’s not: the alternater, starter, or battery. There’s also no codes stored. I cant figure out what kind of damage I could have done with leaving it idling. It never did this before.

“blinking warning signs”

Please elaborate

Letting an engine idle for extended periods is not necessarily a dumb move. There are stationary industrial engines which are in operation all day, at a constant rpm

What light(s) on the dash are blinking exactly? Does it seem to work ok otherwise, no other symptoms than the blinking lights on the dash? Did it run out of gas, and than sat overnight with the ignition on, and that’s what caused the battery to die? When the battery ran dead that might have erased stored codes, so you may have to wait a couple days to see if they come back. If the CEL is blinking however, you shouldn’t operate the engine until that is resolved, as doing so could damage the cat. It should be no problem to idle the engine for 4 hours as long as there was no exhaust or air intake obstruction and the radiator fan is working correctly. If the radiator fan is balky however, that could cause the engine to overheat during long idles. We need a little more info I guess before any guesses can be offered up.

1 Like

Well the Battery one mainly. But the vsc track and abs occasionally. It did run out of gas! No I turned off the ignition and left it alone until the next morning. The check engine light is not on.

Also the battery is 7 years old and the testers say it’s good but I really don’t know what else it could be. It ran all day but I left it at 2:30 and just checked on it(5:30) and it’s dead again.

Not sure if your comment was a typo or not. Please clarify, did the engine run out of gas, or not? The reason I ask is when the engine runs out of gas that can cause a variety of problems, including damage to the cat. On the other hand, its entirely possible there’s been absolutely no damage at all, and all you need to do is a routine battery service to get you back on the road. The lights you mention blinking are normal when the battery isn’t fully charged properly. So it may be that just charging the battery will fix everything.

oh my, a 7 year old battery has to be a major suspect here. They rarely last much longer than 5 or 6 years on a car routinely driven. Less than that in hot summer climates. To determine the battery condition a shop would have to do what’s called a “load test”. Just measuring the voltage won’t provide the needed info…

Yes it did run out of gas

I think the first thing I’d do in this situation is just replace the battery, and go from there. The existing battery must be very near the end of its service in any event, being 7 years old. So you need a new battery anyway. Consumer Reports has a article on car battery recommendations. Check out what they think the best brand is for your car at your local public library maybe.

If it ran out of gas at some point during those four hours, it sat there draining the 7 year old battery of the last of its lifeblood. Batteries drained that thoroughly undergo chemical changes internally that can prevent them from being able to hold a recharge. My wild guess is that’s what you’re dealing with.

1 Like

Toyotas of this generation with dead batteries will light up the VSC and ABS lights, as well as the charge light. A 7 year old battery that just went through a deep discharge is almost certainly toast and should be replaced immediately.

1 Like

Okay guys I replaced the battery and it seemed okay…but my car is dead again when I left it overnight

Buy better batteries. I’ve yet to have a battery last less then 7 years. Longest is 12 years…all on daily drivers. Hotter climates will drastically decrease this (3-5 years).

I got an interstate battery

Has anyone checked the charging system? Or you have a bad parasitic drain on the battery when turned off.

When you say “dead” I presume you mean it fails to crank … that rr rrr rrr sound. Do you hear a click when you turn the key to start, and the dash lights still turn on oik, but no rrr rrr rrr … Or do you hear nothing wwhen you turn the key to start? Or does it crank ok, but won’t pop and run? I’m presuming it is the first in the list, click but no rrr rrr rrrr.

After you replaced the battery, were there any warning lights on the dash? If so, which ones? If the one that looks like a battery was lit up (with the engine running), that means there’s something wrong with the battery charging circuit. You may have blew an alternator diode for example. that would definitely cause this symptom.

As the car is driven it uses electricity from the battery to create the sparks for the spark plugs. The alternator replaces what’s used, so the battery remains fully charged. If the alternator isn’t working, the battery will lose most of its charge after about 30 miles or so. It takes a lot more charge to start the engine the next morning than to keep it running the night before, so that may be what happened here. The other likely culprit is the charging system is ok, but something is draining the battery overnight. A shorted alternator diode could do that too, but no need to guess; it is fairly easy to for a shop to figure that out. Parasitic drain test is what they call it.

George you got it. It was my alternator all along. You all have been so helpful and made me sound like an expert when I went in to finally get it checked. Again, thank you, you guys are awesome! :clap:

1 Like

Thanks for posting the result OP. Glad you got your machine back on the road and purring like a kitten again.