Strange behavior

2012 Ford explorer. 3.5 engine. This is my 83 yr old mom’s car and it’s about 100 miles away from me.
Nephew called and said it had “battery trouble”.
Tried to start it but it clicked like a low battery. Let up on key and it kept clicking. He disconnected the battery. I said maybe the battery was low because she doesn’t drive it much. Even more so now because of virus fears.
He charged it with a charger, now the strange part. It still just clicks but when you open the door he says the radio comes on with the key out. Goes off after a few seconds.
It stays in a garage but she’s had mice making nests in it before.
I said unhook the battery and call someone smarter than me.
Anyone have any thoughts?

Forgot to say the battery is about 3 yrs old to the best of their memory.

For how long? A small battery charger may take 24 hours to recharge the battery.

Battery is probably toast, she might have AAA for a jump, but if she is like my mom tow it to the mechanic and let them put a new battery in, I am hoping that is all it is, and I m fairly confident a new battery will solve the issue, one every 3 years under minimal driving is an expense I can live with, until asking her t give up the keys and stop driving. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but we will all get there one day, where the kids have to take care of the parents.

I was wondering if low voltage could make a modern car do weird things like that. I know his charger isn’t a small trickle type. But I don’t know the exact size.
As for stopping driving, she lives about 15 miles from a town of 1000 people and 25 miles from a town of 5000 people. Not many options for old folks. And she’s still doing well. Still jumps on the riding mower and takes care of her yard.

Not so strange. There’s enough voltage to power the radio, but not enough to turn the starter, so you can hear the starter solenoid clicking.

1 Like

The Explorer should be driven at least every other week for no less than 20 minutes to keep the battery charged. If charging the battery overnight doesn’t work, remove it and take it to an auto parts store for testing. If it fails, leave it and bring a new one home for installation. If the battery hasn’t failed, you need a tow to a shop for diagnosis and repair.

1 Like

CapriRacer, maybe I wasn’t clear. The radio comes on when you open the door. Key in your hand, not in the ignition. And the clicking solenoid doesn’t stop when you let up on the key. Keeps clicking until you unhook the battery.

The radio notwithstanding, when given insufficient information my approach is to start with the cheapest & easiest thing first.

If your Mom isn’t driving much replacing the 3 year old battery seems like a good place to start. With only very occasional usage it’s probably on it’s way out, due for replacement anyway and it’s an easy DIY so drop a new one in and see if it fixes it.

If not then you’ve got to spring for the tow but either way, plan on a AAA memebership and a trickle charger for her Xmas gift. Much better than another World’s Best Grandma tee shirt.

Nephew called and said she wants to get it fixed and get a new explorer to replace it.
Is it improper to dope slap your mother?

That depends on whether she is still able to drive safely. My FIL drove until dementia made it impossible for him to continue. My wife and her mother discussed it and eventually hid the keys after he sideswiped a guard rail and got lost going for a haircut a couple miles from his house. Fortunately, the police found him in the car in the shoulder about 10 miles from the barber. If he left the car, we may never have seen him again. If she’s OK, don’t stand in her way, but have a plan for what to do when she is incapable of driving. That includes having designated family members to check on her and be willing to swipe the keys when she can’t handle driving anymore. They also have to take her to the store or church when she wants to go.

Being that far away from civilization I’m sure she wants a car she doesn’t need to worry about. Why not a new one with a warranty? People make broad assumptions based on age rather than individual capabilities. She still runs the lawn mower? Sounds like she wants to stay active. My dad was driving at 89 and my grandfather was doing concrete work at 85 many moons ago. Black is a popular color.

The new car will probably die as fast as he old car. Buy a battery and save the expense my thought.

Yes I’m sure the new cars battery will be in the same situation in time.
I’m going to introduce a float charger into the mix though.
She has the finances to do what she wants so I’m not going to say she shouldn’t buy a new car. Not sure she needs something that big though.
I’m also going to bring up a AAA membership to rescue her if something went wrong. Of course she doesn’t have a cell phone so that might not help much.

Yeah sure, a battery is cheaper but still it’s an 8 year old car. I’ll bet our
Acura hasn’t gone 50 miles in the last three months and the battery has held up fine, although I have put the charger on it just to be sure. People that age just don’t want complications, including me.

Well mom doesn’t need a new car, I got a battery yesterday and put it on the float charger overnight.
Went today and put it in. Cured all the problems. I said well now you don’t have to get rid of it. She said “that was all Zach’s (my nephew) talk.”
She said “I’m 83 years old, I don’t need a new car”.
As I bonus I diagnosed a bad starter on her ATV as well. That’s right she still rides an ATV. She still rides around and looks at the crops.
It would only make the solenoid click so I tapped the starter with a ratchet and it started.
We celebrated by taking the grandkids to dairy queen. So she drove the explorer for an hour.
I made her drive so I could see how she does. Not bad at all. And I’m the favorite child for awhile!