89 Chevy Van won't stay running

I have an 89 Chevy Van. It has been sitting for 4 weeks without being started. I went to start it and no lights or radio and didn’t even try to roll over. I figured the battery was dead so I went to jump it. With the cables connected the van started but once I removed a cable the van turn off! Is it the battery or is there another problem?

You need to charge the battery.

When you jump the battery to get the engine started and then remove the jumper cables, the battery doesn’t have enough of a charge to operate the computer.

If the battery voltage is below 10.5 volts the computer won’t operate and the engine shuts off.


How much would it cost to charge the battery? I have a 10amp battery charger. Would that be able to charge it back up?

You want to charge the battery at 2 amps.

At 10 amps you’re putting a surface charge on the battery which won’t last long.

Since the battery was completely discharged, and depending on the age of the battery it might not take a charge.


How old is the battery?

If it’s older than 5 years, it’s not worth trying to save it

Once you get the battery issue resolved, make sure the alternator is doing its job. Should be putting out around 14V at idle

So I should just get a new battery?

If the battery is over five years old?



I’ll second that yes if the battery is over 5 years old.

Battery is 3 years old.

With a dead battery, a “jump to get it running” won’t put enough energy into the battery to power the alternator field when the jumper cable is removed. With no battery power, the alternator can’t supply any current to supply any electrics on the van, thus it dies.

Yes a nice slow charge is desired, but my 10 amp Schumacher charger, when connected to a very, very low battery, will charge at the 10 amp rate for only a fairly short time before the charge rate drops off to 6-8 amps. Several hours at that charge level (that continues to taper off) will bring the battery up to a start and sustained run charge level.

Starting batteries do not like to be deeply discharged, so a battery check might be in order just to be safe.

If that battery had been connected to the 10 amp charger from the time of the OP until now I feel sure that it would either be fully charged and ready to go or be certrain that it was over the hill.

This is not rocket science. Connect your battery charger to the battery. That’s what it’s designed for. Wait 24-48 hours. Disconnect charger. Start van and drive away.

Umm, it’s a little more complicated than that

After charging the battery, you’ll want to test the battery, to make sure it’s good

Depending on the battery charger, and what settings you’ve got, leaving a battery hooked up for 2 days might be asking for trouble

What if you manage to start the car, due to the surface charge from the charger . . . and then you drive off to do errands. And when you get out of the store, the car wont start

Not to mention, you might want to check the charging system and parasitic draw

But at the very least, test that battery

I think you may have a bad alternator. Cars will remain running without a battery once started. That is why race car battery cut-off switches need to open the field wire to the alternator to shut the engine off. You may need a new battery but once you get the van started, with the recharged battery I’ll bet you only see 12.4 volts across the terminals. A functioning alternator will get you 13.5 to 14.5 volts.