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Instrument panel draining battery

I have an '05 Mercury Sable with not quite 40,000 original mi. on it…recently I thought I needed a new battery, car was not turning over well.
Make a long story short, it didn’t start well 2 days later with the new battery. Mechanic said the instrument panel is doing something that is draining the battery…I will be taking it in this coming Monday, and he will be taking, and sending it to be refurbished by a company he said they do a lot of work with. Said it will take about 10 days till I get car back.
Anyone…Does this sound possible…Also said it may cost me possible over 500.00 and guarantee will be for 2 years.
Advice Please…Any answers would be greatly appreciated…Thank you Dan S

It would be nice to have a more precise description of what he says is draining the battery so if you can get one then post it.

If you’re uncertain you can always get a second opinion - or … if you have an electrical meter or know someone who does then you can look into it a bit yourself. What you’d need to do is check for a “parasitic battery drain.” I don’t know how ambitious you want to get but just checking is not that hard.

I suppose there could be something wrong inside the cluster but usually power to it turns off with the ignition switch. Hopefully the tech diagnosed the problem correctly. There might be something inside it that requires continuous power.

There are a number of places that can fix the cluster. Five hundred dollars to fix yours and labor to install it seems to be a reasonable number to me.

It may or may not be the cluster. Go out at night and look for any lights on. Don’t forget the trunk. Hopefully you can drop the rear seat and see. Maybe glove box.

FWIW . . . I have seen instrument clusters causing significant parasitic draws . . . including on Fords

The important thing is that the mechanic does a second parasitic draw test after installing the reconditioned cluster

That is where some mechanics flop, because they don’t bother to verify the repair

Here’s some interesting stories . . .

On a Ford Focus, the ac on/off switch (the actual pushbutton switch in the dash) was causing a significant parasitic draw. Yet the ac system itself was working normally

On a Mercedes-Benz E320, the radio was causing a significant parasitic draw. Yet the radio turned off with the key, and the backlighting was not on after shutting the radio off

On an Ford Econoline 150 van, the cluster was causing a draw. Again, no backlighting or warning lights on after turning the ignition off

To the untrained eye, all of these components seemed to be working correctly . . .

FWIW . . . I performed a second parasitic draw test on all of these vehicles after installing the new components, and in every case the problem was resolved. The draw was under 50 milliamps for all of the vehicles

My point is this . . . don’t assume the cluster, radio, etc. aren’t a draw just because they’re off

If the mechanic has narrowed the problem down to the instrument panel he should be able to identify the fuse supplying current to the parasitic draw so that it can be removed whenever the engine is turned off. If removing the fuse eliminates the problem the diagnosis is somewhat substantiated. If the problem can’t be narrowed down to a fuse a closer look is in order.

And a failing diode in the printed circuit can cause a heck of a problem and be difficult to diagnose. BTDT.

It would be interesting to know what it is inside the cluster that requires continuous power. The only thing I can come up with is the odometer possibly.

Hey everybody, Great comments, And I thank you all for that…

 Here is what I've decided to do!   Tomorrow,  Monday,  I am calling the service manager at a local Ford dealership....I think I would get a better diagnoses, and perhaps even save some bucks at the same time...Maybe not either....Bottom line...This car has to last me a long time,  and I keep it in immaculate condition....I don't particularly like dealerships,  but in this case I feel it is the right way to go.....Even though the mechanic I took it to is great..  I don't like the idea of leaving my car there for possibly 2 weeks till they get everything done.

 I will leave a notice and let you all know about what they say at the Ford place,  and I welcome you thoughts too on my decision about this...Thanks a lot guys.   You all been helpful.

The cluster contains a computer that is networked with the other computers in the vehicle. On some vehicles the cluster is the “gateway” or controller for the network, on some the “BCM” or Body Controller Module is. I think some GMs have the radio as the controller. A modern vehicle can have a dozen or more “computers” of varying complexity, all of which talk to each other, typically through a gateway, which is just a module that does extra duty and manages these communications, similar in a way to the router in your home that allows computers and other networked devices to talk to each other and the Internet.

But that’s getting off track. I guess my point is that the cluster on a modern vehicle is a lot more complex than the panels of yesteryear that just served to hold the speedometer and other instruments. If the module that manages the cluster isn’t going to sleep when it’s supposed to, it can certainly drain the battery.

The cluster, while the source of the parasitic drain, may not even be at fault if there is a sensor or other module that is not letting it sleep or keeps waking it up. On my car if you open a door or pop the trunk, the cluster wakes up to display the door ajar or other warning message. I would assume that it’s bright enough to go to sleep before the battery would be drained, but I’ve never tested it. I know the system is supposed to realize if you’ve left interior lights on or the door open and shut them down after some time to preserve the battery (according to the manual), but who knows–if a sensor like a door switch was far enough out of adjustment that it kept randomly sending a signal to the system and kept waking everything up, instead of a steady “on” like would happen if you just left the door open, I could see how the battery would be run down by it–the timer would be reset every time the module got a pulse from the malfunctioning switch and wake up again.

So long story short, the cluster may not even be the root of the problem. I hope the dealer mechanics are bright enough to diagnose the problem properly and not just toss parts at it.

You make some interesting comments about the cluster. After reading your comments I seem to recall my '02 van cluster lights up when the door is opened.

I suppose one thing you could do is purchase a used cluster from a salvage yard while yours is sent in for repair. It will cost you a little more but you can still use the vehicle while the part is being repaired. I would think it would be less expensive than renting a car if you need a vehicle to drive during that period of time.

@oblivion Thank you for your detailed response and advice on getting around on the site. I will let you know what happens after tomorrow.

@Cougar My son has an 2 vehicles…if worse comes to worse, I can always use his. I don’t think the salvage yard idea would work, as it has something to do with the VIN# Thanks anyway.

I want to thank everyone who responded with advice on my problem, but made a decision over the weekend. Car started great even with the cold weather we’re having here in Indiana, so I am doing nothing at this time.
If I have trouble anymore this winter, I will have a good neighbor give me a jump start, then I think I’ll buy a battery trickle tender and just keep the battery plugged in during the night.
I have already invested over 200.00 for the new battery and mechanics diagnosis, and rather then put 700.00 or more into it, a battery tender will do just fine by me…
Thanks again everyone for your responses…Dan

Sabler120, this seems similar to what I may be experiencing with my 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee 120, miles, only I believe that since my sunroof leaks and creates a puddle of water on the passenger side (when the adhesive tape no longer sticks). I may be experiencing an electrical shortage that is draining the battery, if i open the car door, there is a constant clicking sound coming from the passenger side of the lower dash board… turning the ignition on, only further kills what little energy is left in the battery. also my check engine light stays on…ant suggestion from anyone?

@Patty2013; Have you tried recharging the battery? Your battery may have simply failed. Take the battery to an auto parts store to have it tested.

After you get the vehicle operating again open the sunroof and clean the drip tray found below the edge of the sunroof glass. In each corner of the drip tray you’ll find a 1/4 inch hole that leads to drain tubes, be sure these holes are clear.

@nevada_545: The sunroof hasn’t worked in over 5 years. I try to keep it taped close. My daughter somehow jammed the tracks/ motor, so it doesn’t do anything when you operate the sunroof switch. the mechanic wanted more than I wanted to pay so The sunroof became my least worry. This vehicle hasn’t really caused any major problems and the ride is still superb. with only 112,000 actual miles… Now if I find out that the electrical shortage is from water damage that fills up the floor board on the passenger side and where the constant clicking sound is coming from… i may need to invest in seeing if this is the culprit. to prevent further electrical damages.

Patty2013: The term is a “short circuit”, not shortage. And you do not have one in any case. What you probably have is a parasitic drain. The sunroof issue and even the water leak may be totally unrelated.

The “clicking” from under the passenger side of the dash might be the problem, but it is more likely a symptom of the battery being low–when the battery voltage is very low, electronic modules can get confused and malfunction, causing relays and other components controlled by the car’s electronics to chatter. I have had cars do this as well with a very low battery, and the noise is completely unrelated to the cause of the battery drain–in my case just letting the car sit way too long without being started.

I’d start by getting the battery and charging system checked, then you will need to have someone isolate the power drain. You also didn’t mention under what circumstances the battery goes dead, and how long the car sits before it won’t start. How old is the battery?

You should probably start a new discussion for your issue to avoid confusion with the original poster’s issue and responses.

@oblivion, thank you for your input. I will start a new discussion to avoid confusion with the previous post

UPDATE" Instrument panel drain! There was none! I took the car to the local Ford dealership for a second opinion. The problem was simply a “Faulty Starter” which was repaired by them, and the car runs great.
Upon taking the invoice to the ASE shop that diag. the panel drain, I requested at least 1/2 of my funds returned, which would have been 60.00. This was met with adamant rejection, as this service manager explained his mechanic had worked to many hours tracing the starting problem, which did not exist in the instrument panel.
A complaint to the Better Business Bureau about this business resulted in no response from them either. They went from an A+ rating, to a D, for the ‘no response’.
I put a letter in hoping that Tom and Ray could answer this question, as to why this diag. happened, and what else I could, or should have done…As this has really been bugging the heck out of me. Best news is , car is running fine. Also interesting, on the invoice of the ASE shop, the words, VALUE, QUALITY, & INTEGRITY are all in large print.

Anyone, please help me with an answer to this, I mean I really would like an explanation.

                                          Sincerely,  and Thank you.....Dan S

How long has it been since the starter was replaced? Why did you end up at the dealer shop? The last report was that the car was fine so you were going to leave it alone.

I’m just not sure that you’ve seen the last of the issue, and the next service desk you might “storm” could be the dealer desk.

Going back to your initial post, your report of symptoms is actually too vague for anyone here to know what is really going on. What you said was that the “car was not turning over well,” and then that “it didn’t start well 2 days later with the new battery.” It’s not at all clear what either one of these things mean. But if you need a new starter it’s most typical that the car won’t turn over at all. If it turns over weakly (“not well”) it’s usually because you have a weak battery or poor cables / connections.

My alternative theory for now is that your initial battery was just due for replacement and on its last legs. Then the new battery you bought never got fully charged. (You never have any idea how long they’ve been sitting on the shelf). Coupled with the wintry weather the car was wimpy about turning over. I would add that it may still be possible that you have some kind of parasitic drain.

If you give a much better and more detailed description of your actual symptoms when you were having trouble I might change my guesses about such things. If the car was turning over, but only weakly, that’s not how a typical starter problem shows itself. I am saying “typical” - so not ruling it out entirely