Volvo electrical problem - Gremlin?

1992 Volvo 740 Turbo.

We’ve owned this car since February 2007 and did not know the previous owners. We bought it at about 150K and it’s now at about 175K.

Back in September it kept dying. We’d jump it, it’d run, then next time we turned it off it would die. I did the test where you remove the positive side of the battery, and it died, leading me to believe it was the alternator. We replaced that with another used (tested) alternator, then ended up having to replace the battery also (which was installed in March of 2006 according to the sticker).

Now it is the end of December, and it’s pulling the same crap. So I’m thinking it’s got to be an electrical gremlin. I don’t notice any lights remaining on, it’s a wagon so I can see my “trunk” light. I went in tonight and pulled all extemporaneous fuses (heated seats, radio + all door, interior, and glove lights, etc.). I jumped it, drove it for a bit, let it run for a total of 30 minutes. Turned it off, waited about 30 seconds, and it was dead again.

I guess I’m wondering if anyone has any insight to this problem. I’ve already dropped quite a bit of money (that I don’t have) on this thing since I’ve owned it, and I’m worried that bringing it to the garage to have them spend a LOT of time tracking down an electrical problem (@ $90 an hour) is more than I can handle.


Your “test” is bogus. Many places will test the battery and charging sustem for free or a relatively small fee. This should be your first step.

An original 15 year old vehicle will definitely have poor electrical ground connections somewhere on it.

A battery that’s run down to the point of needing a boost and then kept running for 1/2 hour is not going to replenish the charge to full capacity.

If a charging system load test proves correct but there’s still a discharge, then there has to be something amiss. Maybe just a parasitic drain.
Perhaps the used but ‘tested’ alternator is faulty.

Was it bench tested or tested while hooked up within the charging circuit in your vehicle?

It’s possible you have a bad ground.
Either a dirty/loose/corroded connection between the alternator and engine, between the engine and chassis or perhaps a bad ground between the battery and frame or fender.

It’s possible there is a corroded or broken battery cable between the battery and the starter.

Remember too, ALL electrical connections/connectors must be REMOVED/CLEANED (wire brushed) and replaced WRENCH tight. (not hand tight)

Any experienced tech will agree that “any job worth doing, is worth doing right”.

I would like to know the definition of “dead”.
No head/tail lights, no dash warning indicators, lights operative but no starter operation, starter clicking only, or what?

I wasn’t testing the battery with removing the fuses… I was testing to see if I could narrow down the drain on the battery. Since these patterns are the same as the previous time this has happened, I know by now that the battery is dead, so I don’t really need to jump it, bring it to auto zone, get it tested, the jump it to drive back. I’m just going to take this battery out, replace it (under warranty), then use the two months of juice I’ll have on the replacement to weed out the possible gremlin.

Forgive me :slight_smile: - When left overnight, nothing. No clicking, no lights, no starter, nothing. When left yesterday for 30 - 60 minutes, we could get lights. After today when I jumped it, and pulled fuses, ran it, then turned it off… It tried to start 30 seconds later, then the next time I tried to crank it it was dead-dead again.

Forgive me being vague here, as this is the first time (in general) that I’ve had to deal with this sort of problem… so bear with me :slight_smile:

My step-dad is an electrician and he test the incoming and outgoing wires to/from the battery with a voltage meter the FIRST time this happened (with the previous battery), before I replaced the alternator. The voltage was fine on them while it was running, and I’m not sure if he tested it while it was off. He must have. Would testing it while it’s off show me whether there is a drain or not?

Anyway, during the previous round of tests, nothing was amiss, yet it was still needing a jump. Replaced the alternator, same thing. Replaced the battery, worked fine after that. Then it soon crapped out again, and I, thinking it was a bad battery, replaced the battery again. Worked fine since then (October) until now.

One giveaway is that this thing has a remote starter and the remote starter was working when we replaced the battery, then a month or so later the starter wouldn’t work all the time, and the last few weeks the remote starter wouldn’t work at all - aside from turning the side lights on, then turning them back off. (Maybe I should have mentioned that this thing has a remote starter earlier in the thread??)

I cleaned the battery connections the last two times I replaced the battery. They were pretty clean to begin with but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Not having a wiring schematic for your vehicle makes it a bit tougher, but my opinion is that this problem is going to be battery cable, distribution terminal, or fusible link related.
Many European cars have a distribution terminal in which everything electrical on the car is tied into. An old corroded connection there can cause nothing to work or can be a hit and miss affair. The same applies to cable ends or fusible link ends which are all in the power circuit.

I would suggest following the battery cables, especially the positive, and verifying that every connection is clean and tight.
(A VOM to check voltage is not always a sure thing on automobile electrics because the VOM is so sensitive. The proper voltage may be there but the connection to carry any current load at all may not be.)

The problem you are having may be to due a problem with the power lead to the accessories power panel as OK4450 suggested. If this is the problem the battery can be fully charged and still appear to be dead since nothing can get power. You did state that jumping the battery helps so there may be a current drain while the car is parked. Have your Step-dad check the current while the car is parked and with nothing on. If the current drain exceeds 80 milliamps then you need to start pulling fuses to see what circuit has the drain on it.

Another possible problem is a bad connection between the alternator output lead and the positive battery post. The alternator and battery could be fine but not charging as it should be. Check to make sure the battery is getting at least 13.5 volts while the engine is running at around 2,000 RPM.

Thanks! I will go as far as I can with this info!

How fantastic. Thank you for the information! Truly! :slight_smile:

Ahh, remote starter. Vehicle manufacturers installation or aftermarket?

If aftermarket, disconnect it and see if there is a difference. In fact, insist it be disconnected anyway to be positive it doesn’t interfere with the electrical system.
It should have a separate fuse, pull it.
JMHO, but I wouldn’t take anyones word that it is good, not at this stage.

Un-huh. You cleaned the battery connections when both batteries were changed BUT, did you clean the STARTer end too?

The answers are all in the details, nicole.

The starter end??? Uhm… no? I cleaned the positive and negative. Forgive my lack of knowledge in this area… I only know about things I’ve broken and fixed before, thanks to you fine gents.

ANOTHER QUESTION: Battery Kill Switch? Thoughts? Should I buy one? And by “buy” I mean from eBay because it’s way less expensive than an auto parts store…