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Electrical Power Is Gone

I’m driving a '99 Ford Ranger 4x4 (3.0L V6) with 151,000+ miles and it has lost all of it’s electrical power.

Back Story:

2 weeks ago I woke up on a very cold morning (Grand Rapids, MI) and the truck would not start, acting as if the battery was dead. My battery was a few years old so I assumed it was the problem. I installed a new battery and everything was great and back to normal. Things have been slow here, so, I have driven the truck on roughly 5-6 occasions since then.

Fast forwarding to last night, I drove out of the garage and everything was fine for about 100 yards until I noticed the radio blink out. Immediately following, the indicator lights began to dim out and the truck started chugging and struggling.

My first instinct was to power down anything within reach - I turned off the radio and then the headlights. The moment I turned off the headlights I was granted a burst of power that allowed me to turn around and get back to my garage.

Upon reaching the garage the truck chugged some more and then stalled. With the assistance of my neighbor and his miniature battery-charger unit, we were able to get the truck to start after charging it for about 30 seconds.

I started the truck and let it idle in place for a moment; after about 30 seconds it began chugging again (dimming electrical, etc) and stalled. We tried again (2 minutes this time) to make sure we would get a duplicate result and we did; the electrical began to dim, the engine started chugging, and the truck stalled out.

My first guess was that it was a bad alternator, though I should add that I have little, if any experience in this area. My neighbor, who I believe is more knowledgeable than I regarding auto mechanics, does not believe it is the alternator,… he thinks it is more along the lines of a computer problem.

As you may have gathered, the truck essentially will only run for as long as the battery has the juice to do it; ruling out the option for me to jump-start it and drive it to a mechanic. The 4w drive is currently engaged, so I also have concerns about pulling it out of the garage (is that a legitimate concern?).

I’m feeling pretty stuck over here in every sense of the word; my wifes '06 G6 is a nightmare in anything more than 3" of snow - I shoveled the public alley for 2 hours last night just to get it out of the garage. Any help or suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

You need a complete starting/charging system test including battery load test and parasitic draw test.

Thank you for the helpful reply.

Can those tests be administered from my house (portable testing equipment?) or will I need to find a way to get the truck out of the garage for a tow? (re: The 4w drive is currently engaged, so I also have concerns about pulling it out of the garage - is that a legitimate concern?).

Thanks again for the help.

If you dont have a battery charger your options are pretty limited.

Take a look in your owners manual, there should be a fuse listed as (strangely enough) “generator/voltage regulator”

If it’s blown the alternator cant charge the battery.

I will bet with you on an alternator - though also check the fuse noted above. Given that you are stuck w/ the truck where it is, I would first pull and clean all of the connections at the battery including the grounds and battery terminals. Put a charger on the battery & get it up to full charge (you can pull the battery out and put it on charge while you clean up all of the connections). In the midst of that also pull and check all wiring connections at the alternator - making sure not to overlook any grounds.

Get your hands on a volt/ohm meter. Reinstall the charged battery and start the truck - stick the voltmeter to the battery and you should be getting somewhere between 14-15 volts at idle. If you don’t - and you’re certain that all of the connections are good - I would replace the alternator.

Yep, if you can get your hands on a charger & VOM, i’d do exactly as cigroller suggested.

Here’s how to check the battery and alternator:

I believe I can accomplish most, if not all of that. Thanks a million; here’s to hoping it’s just the fuse.