Any idea why this happened?

OK, my wife has a 2003 Saturn VUE (4-cyl, if that makes a difference). We went this past weekend to a concert and I needed to park on a very steep incline (with the grille on the high end), so I set my emergency brake. We went to the show and, upon arriving back at our car (after about 3 hours), the ‘clicker’ to open the car didn’t work, so I had to open the car with my key. EVERYTHING was absolutely dead (even the radio lost their presets) - no interior lights, absolutely nothing when I tried to start the car (not even a hint of a crank), no hazards - DEAD. When I parked the car it was daytime, so no lights were on when I parked my car, interior or exterior.

After about 15 minutes, a couple stopped with jumper cables and we were able to start the car after about a minute of ‘recharge’ - since then it has been fine.

Any idea what, if any, connection there is in setting an emergency brake/parking on a steep incline and draining a battery.


If this is the original battery in the vehicle, there may be loose plates within the battery. When this happens and the plates touch each other it causes a short within the battery and this will draw a battery down. It would be interesting to remove the battery from the vehicle, connect a voltmeter to the battery and then tip the battery to see if the voltage drops off.


There was a Car Talk puzzler about this once. If I remember correctly, the switch that turned on the trunk light activated when the vehicle was at a really steep angle (on a truck being delivered). I’d hope this isn’t a design issue any more, but it’s worth a check.

Yeah, I remember that puzzler (trunk switch was mercury, activated when car placed at steep nose-up angle, so arrived at dealer with dead battery). However, I can’t imagine a trunk light draining a battery flat in 3 hours. Could well be that something inside – or outside – the battery is shorting out on an incline. If the battery passes the tilt-test suggested above, you’ll have to have a mechanic park it at the same angle and start testing for current draws.

Remember, this is a 5 year old stock battery. 3 hours is plenty of time with a questionable battery. A lot of stock batteries, batteries that come with the car, may not be as good a quality as the replacements are.

Bad battery or bad connection? When the battery loses ground it will lose all power to the vehicle. Might want to clean the terminals real good and tighten them well. Go get the battery tested as well.

If you have a voltmeter, check the voltage when the car is off and when it is running. Touch the red electrode to the red battery terminal; touch the black electrode to a ground under the hood (not the battery ground). Just about any unpainted metal should work. If you get near zero, just try another ground. The reading should be a bit over 12 volts; higher when the engine is running. Let us know what the voltages are and we can help you figure out if the battery needs to be replaced.