Can anyone offer an explanation as to what is going on?

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 08:19
ThreadID: 109663 Views:2188 Replies:8 FollowUps:21
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V8 100 series petrol Land Cruiser.
Three times now we've had a totally flat starting battery - goes flat overnight. Nothing at all when trying to start. This time we measured the voltage and it was about 4 volts.

The viewing window on the battery was showing green (so at least one charged cell).
The occurrences have been over about a year and each one has been months apart from the previous. Once recharged the battery appears to be totally fine in between episodes.

When put on the 3 stage charger this time it initally sat on green (floating charge) for yonks before going to bulk charge and then as normal through the absorption stage back to float.

So any ideas on what is going on? What would flatten a battery like that? - it doesn't sit idle for ages - normally used daily.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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Reply By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:00

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:00
I'd say you have a battery that is dropping a cell.

If the battery appears flat but the little hydrometer in one cell is showing charged at the time...it would see you have a problem.

It may be material in the bottom of the cell diacharging that cell only or a partly broken plate connection or such.

I Recon ya battery is buggered.

cheers
AnswerID: 539711

Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:10

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:10
The fact that it appears to be totally fine in between spak attacks is the bit that has me stumped. Surely if it had a buggered cell it would always be playing up?
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:17

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:17
Sorry but batteries do have intermittent faults.

If you are reading very low volts at the battery terminals and the inbuilt hydrometer is working and reads charged....no question you have a problem in the battery.

Your logic is influenced by your dislike of the need to purchase a new battery.

cheers
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:26

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:26
BTW..how old is this battery.

The design life span of normal lead acid batteries is about 2 years.....if ya lucky you may get 5 years out of a battery....but by that time it may still be cranking the engine but it will be way below spec.

if the battery is more than 2 years old and giving problems.......just replace it.

cheers
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Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:28

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:28
No Bantam - my logic is influenced but my lack of understanding as to how batteries work. I would have thought that a buggered battery would be buggered all the time, not on an intermittent basis.

Happy to buy a new one if that is what will solve the problem.

I will be taking it for a load test to confirm that a new one is required (which, based on the responses so far, seems most likely).

I'd have to check but I think it is over 2 yrs old.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 12:31

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 12:31
Don't rely on the load test...it may load test perfectly fine...well within the expectations of a battery of its age.

Only if the particular fault is occuring at the time will it test badly.

Remember when the fault is not occuring it cranks the vehicle.

Everything and I do mean everything can develop intermittent faults.

All to often I find that people insist that it cant be that or it must be this....because it worked....whenever.

If something was working at the time....that is not what matters....what matters is what was occuring when the item did not work.

If the measurements and observations where correct.....a battery failing to start the vehicle, hydrometer showing green and a measurment of 4 volts across the battery terminals.
AND a previous histrory of the same problem.

There is a problem with the battery.

Just about any 12 volt battery measuring 4 volts across the terminals is toast for one reason or another.

Nobody wants to believe that the in specificaton service life of a standard car battery is arround 3 years.

cheers

cheers
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Follow Up By: get outmore - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 18:09

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 18:09
bantam... youve obviously nevervbeen on the overlander forum
I had a battery that no matter how much charge it was given would not start my vehicle.... replacing the battery fixed the issue.
I was told id wasted my money because apparently batteties like that can magically be repaired
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 19:15

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 19:15
yeh ..right.

cheers
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Follow Up By: Slow one - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 20:07

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 20:07
I must be really lucky as the last 3 vehicle batteries have lasted 5 years, of The current vehicles one is 3years old and the other has had the red showing on the battery for the last 2 years since the vehicle was week old.

Guess I will have to be a believer and replace my batteries. Please send money so I can do that.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 22:31

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 22:31
Yeh its not unusual for batteries to contunue cranking the engine well inti the fifth year...my best effort was 7 years....particularly in vehicles where the battery fitted has ample reserve capacity

But most batteries will be well below spec after 3 years if load tested.

cheers
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Follow Up By: get outmore - Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014 at 04:52

Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014 at 04:52
engine type makes a difference too.
batterys in petrol vehicles usually last much longer due to less demand on them to turn the low compression engines over and they will keep starting a petrol long after there too dead to start a diesel
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Thursday, Oct 02, 2014 at 21:31

Thursday, Oct 02, 2014 at 21:31
What can happen with a battery is a chunk can shed from one of the lead plates and largely short out the cell by shorting the plates.

In 90% of the cases, this is a total and irreversible battery failure.
However, you may have one of the rare instances where charging the battery moves the offending chunk and the battery "unshorts" itself.

Years ago, when all batteries had an unscrewable top on every cell, we would often give crook batteries the "Epsom Salts treatment."
This involved picking up and shaking the battery, then inverting it over a plastic tub and draining all the sulphuric acid.

We'd then fill the battery with warm water and shake it again and invert it to wash out all the accumulated crap.
Then we'd make up a mixture of Epsom Salts and warm water (stirred well) and pour this brew into the cells.

We'd leave the battery overnight and then shake, invert and drain again - then flush with clean water to remove all the Epsom Salts.

We'd leave the original acid to settle and decant the clear portion of the original acid back into the battery and then top up with fresh acid.
The battery would then go on the charger at low amperage for a couple of days to see if it would hold charge again.

About 30% of the batteries we treated would recover and be useable for another 6-12 mths on average - but overall, the efforts involved in trying to recover dead batteries were generally agreed on as not being worth it (batteries cost less back then, too), so we gave up on the stunt.

There's some good info in the link below.

Corrosion shedding and internal short
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Reply By: Les PK Ranger - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:01

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:01
What brand / type of battery Krooza ?
My Century Overlander has a little window, shows green when levels are ok, not anything to do with charge level . . . it's red when fluid level is down.

Any electrical accessories fitted recently ?

Sounds like either the battery is stuffed (have you checked charge with multimeter ?) or there is some voltage drain overnight (again a mutimeter can be used to check this, as seen here Using Voltage Drop To Find Key-off Battery Drains
Or . . .
How To Perform a Parasitic Draw Test
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Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:15

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:15
Thanks for those links - I'll check them out.
Not at home now and can't recall the battery brand.
Nothing new fitted recently.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:21

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:21
Mine has a similar issue now, but happens over about 5 to 7 days of non vehicle use . . . still have to do that parasitic drain test on my rig.
After a week, mine just turns over, not enough to light up the glow plugs I feel.

If testing your battery voltage after a full charge, I think it's required to leave it for about 1/2 an hour for things to settle to get an accurate reading, which should be around 14v, then test it again after 24 hours and see what change there is (by the sounds it should be flat, which could be as low as around 10v or 11v reading ? Someone more knowledgeable might be able to confirm.)
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:20

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:20
That liottle window is most definitely a hydrometer...it is achanber that contains two balls of differing densities.....the red or green one shows depending on the SG of the acid......if the electrolite level is too low they simply don't work and the red ball may show.

The little window has everything to do with the charge in that cell.

a battery reading such low voltas at the terminals at any time is buggered.

cheers
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Follow Up By: Emerging I.T. - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 12:15

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 12:15
Yes I agree on a few things, how old is the battery? Are there any electrical devices connected to it that could be drawing down current? If the battery is around 3-4 years old there is a good chance it needs replacing, usually notice this during winter. After all this you can get it tested by any auto elec or battery house to confirm.
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:02

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:02
Don't put too much faith in the 'condition indicator' built-in to the battery.
Also, measuring battery voltage with a multimeter can give false indications.
I smell a faulty battery here. Suggest you charge it with your 3-stage charger then take it to a battery shop for a load test which is a good indicator of a battery's health.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:17

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:17
Thanks Allan - that's a good idea. I used the multimeter as it was a quick way to check.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 13:55

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 13:55
However, as Bantam said above, do not rely entirely on a load test, it may test OK but still have a problem such as self-discharge due to disintegrating plate sludge. And it could be an intermittent fault.
However, it is an easy test and may reveal a faulty battery.

If it comes thumbs-up then you move to the next investigation such as a load discharge. But even that could be intermittent and not show at the time you investigate.

Electrical fault finding requires logical progressive testing although an experienced technician may look to likely possibilities first.
Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: HKB Electronics - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:06

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:06
Haven't got an old Tekonsha electric brake controller have you,
one of them had a habit of turning on the brake lights and flattening
the battery?

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Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:18

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 09:18
I have a brake controller but not Tekonsha.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, Oct 02, 2014 at 19:26

Thursday, Oct 02, 2014 at 19:26
A Voyager by either Tekonsha or Hayman Reece would do that
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Reply By: Wayne's 60 - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 10:14

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 10:14
HI Krooznalong,

Going out on a limb here............does it have a remote access system?

I didn't pay too much attention to an old post on ExplorOz, because it had no parrallel or similarity to our setup.
However, someone posted on this forum about their vehicle flattening batteries overnight........when parked "out of range" or "in range" of a remote access sensor.
Similar to a mobile phone that is searching for signal and drains the battery quickly.
This system was still actively searching and in the process, flattened the starting battery.

So, with that in mind, does the "occurence" happen within a set pattern??

If not, take your battery and have it "load tested" to see if there is a battery issue.

Cheers,
Wayne & Sally.


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Follow Up By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:03

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:03
G'day Wayne
Haven't noticed any pattern.
Does have a fob for access although it doesn't work properly - I have to use the key.
I guess a load test is the next step.
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Reply By: Member Kerry W (WA) - Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 16:33

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014 at 16:33
HI Krooze,

Best to be systematic about this.
Buy a cheap hydrometer and test and compare the specific gravity of each cell.


BTW the reason your 3 stage charger stayed on float for so long is usually a protection against boosting a fully discharged battery straight away.

If the battery is not the problem - Then check if there is a background current draw. Use a multimeter and test - should be only a couple of hundred milliamps at best.
There may be an intermittent current draw (eg glovebox light, security system, some spurious neighbours RF interference from things as weird as automated roller doors, or other transmissions) Sound system or amplifier fault or loading.
Being a Petrol check/disable the cold start heater element circuit (if there is one - I am not familiar with the Cruisers of if they are even used these days) on the inlet manifold.
Have you had mice in the garage during winter? Check for chewed cables....

Drink Alcohol?

Hope this is of some use

Kerry W (Qld)
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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014 at 05:32

Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014 at 05:32
Hi Krooze
I had the same probs with my 100 series, did all sorts of tests that showed battery was okay, in a day or so it was flat. Then followed trips to battery places, auto elects - all said batt was okay - most frustrating -.

Eventually I bit the bullet and bought a new battery (regardless of what the tests said) and hey presto the problem disappeared and has never come back.

I was told that despite tests saying the batt was ok - it was sus and the vehicles computer picked that up and kept hunting for current etc even when engine turned off - apparently you have to lock the vehicle to stop the computer doing stuff.

I repeat the above because that is what I was told - I'm not a auto mech. and rely on others - anyway all is now good.


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Reply By: Krooznalong - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2014 at 08:35

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2014 at 08:35
OK - I had the battery tested and it was cactus. New battery installed. Once again thanks for your input.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Oct 07, 2014 at 16:27

Tuesday, Oct 07, 2014 at 16:27
Thanks for bringing us up to date Krooz.
Let's hope it is the end of your problems.
Cheers
Allan

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