Electrical gremlin - 2000 Dodge Intrepid, 128K miles


#1

This is my parents’ car.



Just today, they tried to start the car and found that it was utterly dead. No lights, no cranking (except for a starter click), no nothing. It had been started and driven earlier that day and everything was fine.



I checked the voltage at the terminals and found it was way down at 3 volts. We jumped it and it started right up. My stepfather took it for a drive to recharge the battery (we thought it was dead), and he pulls into the driveway, shuts it off, and it’s totally dead again. No lights, no cranking (except for a starter click), no nothing. Check the voltage, and it’s recovered to a measly 5.5 volts.



Jump it again, again it starts right up, and now we just let it idle for a while (about 10 minutes), when it suddenly just dies. No lights, no engine, no nothing. Check the voltage, and it’s back down to 3 volts.



Jump once again, starts up, and now we notice that the interior lights are flickering while the engine runs. A few minutes later, it totally dies again. Voltage is still way down at 3.



While the engine is running, voltage reads normal at 14, so I’m not suspecting the alternator or charging system. The battery was replaced less than a month ago, and all battery terminal connections are tight and clean. We found no blown fuses or obvious wiring problems.



Can anyone give me a clue as to what’s happening here?


#2

Reading 14V while running is from the alternator as you said. The battery is obviously not holding, or getting charged. You have to charge a dead battery for many hours to fully charge, running the car won’t easily do it. Trickle charge it for at least a day. If it doesn’t read around 12V, get your $ back for the battery.


#3

It sounds like the alternator is failing. Start the car, put your meter to the battery and watch the voltage reading while optional equiptment is turned on ie: headlights, radio, heater fan, rear window defogger. I bet your voltage will disappear.
~Michael


#4

It appears the new battery has failed on you and since you stated that the lights started flickering then the alternator diodes may have gotten damaged also. I would remove the battery and get a replacement at the store you purchased it from. Then install it in the vehicle and drive it to a shop that can do a load test on the system to check for damage to the alternator.