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Help! I'm stumped!

Something is going on with my '88 Escort Pony that I don’t understand or even have any idea what is causing it. This morning I was hearing some sort of electrical noise that sounded like it was coming from near the center of the dash. The sound was sort of a clicking/static sound and while it was doing it apparently it was putting extra strain on the electrical system, because the alternator light was flickering on and off. During the time it was making the noise the motors to the passive restraint system were also running. The car ran fine, but when I got home I cut it off and when I tried to restart it there’s no power to anything. The horn won’t blow, the interior light will not come on, the dash lights don’t come on, even the bell telling that the keys are in the ignition doesn’t sound, when I turn the ignition to the on position everything is completely dead. It did this once about a week ago and within a few minutes power came back and it started just like nothing had ever happened. Before everyone starts saying check battery/connections/cables, that’s not the problem the connections are clean tight, battery is hot and the cables were just replaced a couple years ago and are in very good condition. It seems to me that it’s something overloading the electrical system, but what? Does anyone know of any relays that could be stuck and possibly making the noise? The only relays I know of in the dash are the EEC relay and the fuel pump relay and it’s not either of them.

sounds to me like a wire has frayed (or been chewed by a rodent) and is grounding out where it shouldn’t. This would drain the battery, and also can cause weird electrical symptoms. Unless you tear into it and find/fix it yourself, this will probably be expensive.

Agree that you have a short circuit somewhere in the dash. The noise could be sparks and arching, meaning the car isn’t really safe in this condition. If any fuses are blown or circuit breakers open that could be evidence of what circuit(s) are in trouble.

You stated the battery was ‘hot’. If you mean it was hot in the literal sense, like to the touch, then the charging system is overcharging the battery. If the alternator has an internal voltage regulator then you will need to replace the alternator. The battery may be bad also. The battery should be recharged using a charger and checked out before using it again with a new alternator. It may have a shorted cell. It is also possible the alternator caused the other trouble you mentioned hearing by allowing a backfeed of voltage through the battery warning light.

The sound wasn’t like an arching or sparks, it sounded more like a relay continually clicking. When I said the battery was hot I was meaning it was fully charged. Actually I’ve heard the noise many times over the past several years, but until this past week it would only last for a few seconds and I was always driving at the time and wasn’t able to locate where it was coming from. It’s also never caused a no start condition until this past week.

Found the problem. I had installed a gauge trio in the dash years ago, so a while ago I decided to pull them out of the dash and take a look. One of the connectors going to the amp gauge was covered with corrosion. I figured it was something simple, but really never thought about corrosion on one of them with them being inside the dash.

Stuff happens! Thanks for the update FordMan59 and glad you found the trouble. You never know what you are going to find at times.

I’m not a fan of ammeters and if the car were mine it would be gone and replaced with a voltmeter.

Ammeters require heavier wire. Not only does this take up space but it’s routing some pretty high current into the car and back out along with placing an obstruction in the charging circuit.

Maybe this corrosion was caused by the wire gauge being too small, overheated wire and wire ends, etc, etc.

I don’t think the wiring was too light. I tried to take that into consideration when installing the gauge and used 12 gauge stranded wire.

Using 12 ga. wire sounds a little too small in my opinion but apparently it has been working. Like OK4450, I too think a voltmeter is a better way to go to monitor the charging system.