I'm stumped

my 1993 subaru legacy would not start, the headlights would not come on but the radio and all interior lights work, including dash lights. I recieved a jump start and the guy suggested i take it for a drive to charge the battery. After about 8 miles, the car began to cut out and loose power, and when i stopped at a stop sign, it died and just clicked when i tried to start it. again the headlights would not work but the radio and interior lights work. any suggestions?

I suspect your alternator. Do two things: (1) charge the battery with a battery charger, or take it for a load test to an auto parts store. O’Reilly will quick charge and then test your battery for free. Then reinstall and start the car. Check the amount of voltage at the battery; I think it should be around 13-14 volts or so. If the number is less, then suspect an alternator issue. It is possible your battery was so low output that the alternator didn’t charge enough in the eight miles you drove. Many recommend that you never charge a dead battery using the alternator, because it doesn’t provide the same amount of charging capability as a battery charger.

I recommend that every household have a battery charger and volt meter in their tool set, so that such issues as this can be self-diagnosed.

Very good advice from Jayhawkroy. The battery is drained for some reason and may be bad itself. Get the charging system checked out.

as my post said, i’m not only stumped but i’m stranded also and won’t be able to get the battery checked til i have it towed to a shop tomorrow. I just replaced the battery last fall, so i doubt it’s that. I WILL purchase a charger and tester this week for future needs. i was just curious about the cause of this and should be thankful that it might be the alternator and now the computer or something more costly. thanks for your insights.

Buy the charger now and go and get the battery and charge it up. Reinstall the battery and drive to have the alternator checked. A car needs battery power to run and once it gets to low will not operate the computer etc. to run the car. The interior lights worked and radio because they don’t need the same amount of current to run as the lights do. You could also have a bad cable or battery connections. Also, batteries do not like to be discharged and even though relatively new, discharging them a few times like this can kill them or shorten their life.

You have to pay attention to whats going on around you.Dont go for a 8 mile drive in a car thats having critical problems like yours is.You could get stranded,ask mister helpful if he is going to follow you in case you have more trouble.

How far will a vehicle go just running on the battery. I will have to take the car at least 7 miles to the mechanic and i don’t want to get stranded again. I think its safer to just have it towed.

A well charged battery will get you down the road for a long ways, certainly more than 10 miles. In case the alternator isn’t charging at all, and it looks like it isn’t, leave all accessories off. One thing to check is the battery warning light. Make sure it is lit when you turn the key to the ON or RUN position. Also check the connections to the alternator along with the fuses.

To me it sounds like the charging system is out. Now you have a battery that may well be below norms because they don’t take to being fully discharged very well, so it will not likely have the normal capacity to operate without the charging system functioning. I don’t know if you will make those eight miles.

I also suspect the battery cables, they can look good but have internal problems.

May not make it seven miles. Hard to say, but I would not bet on it. That is why the option to get a battery charger, charge battery, test alternator at home is about the best one you have, without breaking down again. I think $60 gets you a decent charger and an analog multimeter that measures DC volts. Depending on your tow bill, the $60 is well spent. Knowing whether the alternator output is close or not dictates whether you replace alternator or pay a mechanic. You may not avoid a tow bill, in the end, but you are prepared to deal with future issues with this investment.