Reverse Charge

Has anyone ever heard of a battery with a bad cell allowing a reverse charge, which instantly causes the car to shut down? If not, what could cause a car to shut down completely (no lights, bells, dingers, gauges, engine, nothing!), then as soon as I put the car back in park and turn the key, it starts right back up again

I’ve never heard of it, but stranger things have happened.

What’s more likely is a bad battery cable connection. Take 'em off, clean 'em, inspect them for corrosion and resintall them tightly and I’ll bet that’ll resolve the issue. An ignition switch issue would also be possible, but try the connections first.

Back in the old days of generators, I’ve heard of the problem of a battery taking a reverse charge. What happened back then is that the due to a poor ground connection, the generator would become polarized opposite of what it was supposed to be. When this happened, the battery would receive a reverse charge. The repair would be to completely discharge the battery, clean all connections, connect the battery and repolarize the generator. Repolarizing the generator meant that one simply touched a wire to, I believe, the battery and field terminals at the voltage regulator. In the late 1970’s, I bought a 1948 Dodge where someone had installed the battery backward. The Dodge had a 6 volt positive ground and I guess the person who had installed the battery didn’t realize that many cars of this period grounded the positive terminal rather than the negative terminal. It was interesting that before I fixed the problem the ammeter gauge read backward.

On today’s cars with alternators and diodes that only permit the flow in one direction, I don’t think the reverse charge could happen. It sounds more to me as if you have a bad cable connection at the battery.

A bad cell can cause one or more diodes in the alternator to either short out or open up. In either case, the damage is permanent. The fact that the car starts immediately after it cuts off indicates the problem is elsewhere. If the battery had a bad cell, your car wouldn’t restart unless you were jump starting it.