Car off, electrical surges

Sitting in my living room I noticed that suddenly my headlights on my 97 subaru ob turned on. First thought was someone was stealing my pos. Knife in hand I went to investigate. No one there. The keys were in the car, in the off position. The headlights all of a sudden turned off. I noticed that the dash lights were flickering on and off. I removed the keys yet the dash lights remained on. Not wanting my battery drained I disconnected the positive cable, which obviously corrected the issue for the time being. When I was disconnecting the battery I heard a mechanical whirring noise coming from the passenger side of the car just behind the headlight. Have never heard this noise before. NOT the intake fan or the AC. Did not investigate extensively due to darkness, wind and rain. Any suggestions on where to start?

Do you have an aftermarket security system installed? If you do then I highly recommend getting it removed because most of them are trouble just waiting to wreak havoc. If you’re not sure…have a good independent mechanic give the car a thorough going over.

Please explain your abbreviations. ob? pos?

The ob means Outback and the pos means piece of sxxt. And the real question is why leave your keys in the car?

Were you hoping that someone stole the POS? The ignition was in the off position, but lights were on. Sounds like the ignition switch is bad and not turning everything off.

In order for the headlights of a Subaru to turn on normally, the ignition switch has to be in the ON position, and the light switch turned ON, which makes a connection to ground for the lights and headlight relays that switch power to the headlights. The easiest way to explain why this is happening is to suspect that the light system has been modified at some point, like @missileman suggested. If there has been no mods done to the lights then I would start with the ignition switch circuit. If there is a problem with the switch not cutting off power you will have power getting to the fuses in the dash.

I can’t really explain the noise you heard but I think the ABS system is in the area where you heard the noise come from. If the ignition power is not turning off with the key switch then that means the ABS system is getting power. Until this problem is fixed you will need to disconnect the battery each time you park the car in order to keep it from discharging, if that is the case. The ignition switch is located under the dash by the column and is separate from the key lock.

Subarus normally have a very dependable electrical system and are better than most in my opinion. Soobs rule the winter roads.

Thank you for all of your feedback. Yes it does have an after market security system which came with the car and has not worked for years. I leave my keys in the car because I live out in the county far from people who would want to steal my pos car. A friend recently installed a new duel cigarette lighter for charging phones which is directly tied to the battery and stopped working about two months ago. I have a feeling it may have something to do with the cigarette lighter, or the ignition not fully disengaging.

So there are two possible sources of your problem, 1. the security system, and 2. the wiring your friend did. Given the timing, I’s suspect #2.

I don’t care where you live leaving keys in your car is just plain irresponsible. Some kid takes it joy riding and crashes means possible lawsuit.

I second what Volvo V70 stated, plus the relationship between headlights and the ignition switch of Subarus indicates to me that it is not wise to leave the keys in the ignition.

On some Subies, if the headlight switch is on, the lights don’t turn themselves off until the ignition is turned off. On other models, the lights stay on until the key is removed from the ignition. All of this is designed so that a driver can leave his headlight switch in the “on” position on a constant basis if desired, and not run down the battery. However, when someone chooses to leave the key in the ignition, it may have…unintended consequences.

I’d guess a faulty ignition switch. Is there quite a bit of stuff on the keychain, quite a few other keys on it? If so, even more likely. The weight of the other keys swinging around as you go around corners and over bumps can wear out the ignition switch.

Did your friend really wire something directly to the battery without a fuse? If so, this is a fire waiting to happen, regardless of any other issues.

You’re only going to get educated guesses here as to whether the issue is one of the two hacks to your wiring, the ignition switch, or something else. Unless you’re ready to dive in and start testing various circuits yourself, you probably should get this car to a good mechanic or auto electric shop. It would be ideal to rip out that aftermarket security system and restore the original wiring setup, although maybe this car doesn’t have enough life left to make that cost worthwhile at this point.

If you leave your keys in the car and the car is stolen, your insurance company is going to fight the claim. I hope you have enough money to cover the loss yourself if it comes to that.