Problem after jumping car


Checked through a number of posts here and haven?t seen anything like this problem. My van wouldn?t turn over, dead as a doornail, may have had an interior light stay on or something but not sure. Decided to try and jump start it. After reading posts here I am heartened to find that I did the jump process correctly? However?. I got the van running and took it out for a spin to build the charge. Within a half-mile the thing died. After wrestling the power steering and coasting to the curb, I tried another jump start. Wife swears only accessories on in van were headlights and wipers. Hooked car to van, placing negative clamp for dead van on car frame and get nothing. Went back through and adjusted clamps, but this time placed the final van negative clamp on the negative battery post and it promptly sparked (expected), then all the interior lights and headlights, etc., go on a moment then off again (not expected). The van does not turn over. Back through the clamps one last time, this time returning the van negative cable to the frame, and get nothing. Does anyone have any ideas on what I have done to my poor van or is it a poltergeist trying to run me off? My guess is a power surge occurred, but doggone it I did the jump starts correctly. How deep is this hole likely to go?


I’m not sure I followed everything but it is possible you have a bad cable or bad connection to the battery. You could also just have a plain bad battery. Best way is to take the battery out and put it on a charger to see if it will take a charge or not. I’m betting you’ve got a bad one.


Do you know why the battery was dead in the first place?

I’d suspect that you either have a problem with your battery or alternator, probably not related to the jump start. The van running for a little bit then dying again would make me think alternator-- is the charge/generator/battery light on? If not, does it come on when the engine is off? Do you have access to a plug-in battery charger? If so, I’d try fully charging the battery that way and see if you can get it running. If that works, check battery voltage running and not running-- should be a few volts higher running, if not you’ve got a new alternator in your future!


Connecting the NEG jumper lead to the frame can easily burn out the ground straps. Always connect to engine or bat terminal. Sounds like a bad battery cable. Use a test light to find where voltage stops with headlights on for a load.


sounds to me like you have a bad negative cable.

is ther any white/green podwer around the cable ends of the battery cables?, try wiggleing the cables and see if they feel mushy, or crumbled inside.


You had a slightly different experience but the answer is basicily the same.

How old is that battery? Did the battery light come on when was running before it died?

Car batteries are not designed to be allowed to go dead. With a older or marginal battery one time of leaving a light on etc and draining the battery can kill that battery. But the fact that you were able to drive it a while after the jump and it died while you were driving suggest that the charging system was not able to function properly.

That could mean the charging system has failed, or there is a problem with the cables/connections. Since cleaning and checking cables is something most people can do themselves, that would be the place to start. Remove and clean each end of each battery and starter cable. Do one at a time and make sure they are tight when you put them back on. Then using a battery charger or trying a new jump see if it will start and stay running.

Once you get it running bring your car to an auto parts store and have both the battery and charging system checked. Don’t be surprised if they find a problem. The check is usually free.

If it is an older battery (like five or more years) I would have it replaced even if it test OK.


How about giving us year, make and model? You cannot use the vehicle’s alternator to recharge a dead or almost dead battery. Use a battery charger. Disconnect both battery clamps from the battery posts. Connect the red charger lead to the positive battery post. Connect black lead to the negative post. Ensure that the charger is set on 12V. Some chargers are dual voltage, i.e.: 6 and 12 V, but you have to switch the charger onto the correct voltage. Choose Manual charge rate. Some chargers have three choices: Manual, Low maintenance, and Conventional. For your purposes, start out with the manual charge. Plug the charger into a 115V grounded outlet. After a few hours, see what the charge rate is. That’ll tell you how bad the battery is or if it’s o.k. enough to drive the vehicle to a place that does battery and charging system testing. Do it during the day with no accessories on. That battery should get you about ten miles or a little more. Since you tried using the alternator as a charger, I suspect a dead battery, probably bad for a while, caused your alternator to be way overworked. In turn, the alternator is now weak or shot. If your battery doesn’t hold a charge after charging it with a battery charger, then borrow a known good battery and get the vehicle to a shop. Then it’s new battery time and possibly rebuilt alternator time. While you’re at it, check both ends of your battery cables for corrosion. Clean them. This is done, of course, with the battery disconnected.


All these posts are good ideas for the problem (my guess is a battery cable problem - I’m guessing the positive, not negative but check both to be sure)

What I didn’t see was a response to your guess about the power surge. If you did the jump correctly - and it sounds like you did - you didn’t cause this problem - or make it worse by jumping. Rest assured you will solve this easily and without selling the farm :slight_smile:


Wow, you guys are really great and I appreciate you taking the time to help me out.
First of all: 1997 Chevy Astro van. Already in bad shape, totalled out, only still kicking around because my father-in-law gave it to my wife shortly before he died and we don’t want to see it go.

Anyway, went back and checked the battery cables and connections and they look and feel fine - no corrosion. I really couldn’t do much else with it on a very busy street and the engine compartment on the thing is like a breadbox. I can usually root around and find stuff but looking for grounds and all in this thing means a lot of crawling around. So, I tried jumping it again but first let the booster car nurse it a little before starting it (5 min’s). Didn’t start but the panel lights came on for a moment and after releasing the key it made some fluttering/clicking noise. I figure I’ve got a dying battery that tries to take a charge and a dead alternator that was sick of recharging the ol’ battery over-&-over. At least something ain’t right with the charging system.

Next, I will try to charge the battery, get it to a shop or store and have them test the charging system and get me a new batt’ry. How much might a alternator set me back (or whatever is kaput with the charging system)? Considering its $$$worth and state, it may just be time donate the van and keep the fond memory. In any case, I might take the advice from one of you sages given in another posting and look into a battery charger and volt meter now that I know a little something about my starter system and I’m sure my other car will pull something on me soon. Any recommendations on chargers and meters? Thanks all!!!


Rather than just jumping in and changing the battery and alternator (both may still be good), it could be cheaper to let a shop/mechanic do the troubleshooting. A mechanic can use a voltmeter and check the power wires. This check, with a voltmeter on the power wires, would determine what connections are good, and which aren’t.
A quick way to get better connections is to: loosen the nut (or, bolt) that holds each ground, or power, wire (cable) to the battery, engine, fender, transmission. As you re-tighten the nut (bolt), wriggle the wire (cable) from side to side. Loosen, wriggle while re-tightening, the side-mount battery bolts, top-mount battery clamps, the wires attached to the fender, engine block, and to the transmission block.
This has a wiping action on the bolt head to the wire, and to the attachment surface, which gives a better connection, which carries more electrical power, which could get the van going.


While this may work to get you going, it doesn’t solve the problem - if you have a bad connection, you need to remove and clean it. Otherwise the problem will soon return - Murphy says at the most inopportune time. And since you are messing around loosening the connections anyway, it’s not much more work to take them off and clean them. I always say - do it the right way or don’t even bother.

If the battery is as old as the car - I’d go buy a new battery, charge it and install it. If you do the work yourself, the battery and alternater will cost you in the neighborhood of $200 total.


You cannot use the vehicle’s alternator to recharge a dead or almost dead battery. Use a battery charger.

I can’t tell you how many batteries I recharged that way in the past 30+ years…Why do you think it can’t be done.


If a battery is run down to the point of being dead you have have killed it and it won’t take a charge anymore.