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Old 11-28-2013, 01:54 PM   #1
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Angry Could it be just the battery?

Hi
While I'm going through these posts, I thought I'd throw out my odd little problem and see what you all think. Truck is a 1996 F150,231K, 5.0, MSD ignition new alternator, new starter, battery is an Optima yellow top probably over 7 years old. She's been acting up lately when it gets cold. Yesterday temp was 17, tried to start it, nothing. Today temp is 32. When I tried to start it, nada. However, with key in accessory position power is fine on idiot lights and radio, etc. I tried the solenoid jump, nothing...just a mediocre spark and no start. Back in the cab, key in accessory position, radio goes off when headlights are turned on or door is opened. Radio goes back on when door is closed, headlights are turned off. When I was jumping the solenoid (front passenger side fender mount), I heard a clicking towards the back right side of the motor. Female, no tools, not a lot of dough. Any suggestions? Could it be just the battery? Please tell me it's nothing serious! Thank you guys!
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Old 11-28-2013, 02:18 PM   #2
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A good battery will crank over times on restarts. Do a new one or get UR's tested after a full charge if U feel it can save U money. The Parts store will put it in for U if UR's test weak. A home battery charger can sometimes keep U going for a month or so but cold weather it will not help much at all.

Last edited by papa tiger; 11-28-2013 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-28-2013, 02:48 PM   #3
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Well, sub-freezing temps will certainly make a weak battery rear it's ugly head.

Got access to a multi-meter? If so, check the DC voltage across the battery terminals. It should be at least 12.5-12.6, somewhere in that range to at least attempt to turnover the starter. In a perfect world, with everything in good operating order, you should see as much as 13.6 vdc at the terminals (with the truck not running).

Once you get the truck started (if you charge the battery, or jump start it), and the engine running, you should see something around 12.8 to about 13.6 volts, when the battery charger or second vehicle is disconnected.

This could be one of several problems. MAYBE, the only problem is terminal/cable corrosion. And it doesn't necessarily have to have large deposits of corrosion to have a bad connection, either. Start with disconnecting the battery termianls, and clean the battery cables and the battery erminals with a terminal cleaner brush, until the connections are nice and shiny. Then reconnect everything, make sure the terminals are tight, but don't over-tighten them. Just snug them up, so they are tight and don't spin on the terminals. No need to crank on them with a breaker bar!

If your battery needs to be charged, don't think it can properly happen in an hour or so. It needs to be done over several hours (maybe as many as 8-12).

These are a few starters, to eliminate some simple possibilities. But once you get to this point, it's necessary to dig deeper. There's a reason the battery went dead. A 7-year old Optima, may very likely be at the end of it's rope, and simply need to be replaced. and then again, maybe not.

If your voltage test (when the truck is running) shows less than about 12.6-13 volts, then you might very well have an alternator issue, and a replacement (or rebuild) is required. Luckily, on the truck you have, these are about the most inexpensive alternators available, in the $60-$90 range. Compared to some imported vehicles, that can be upwards of $300-$400.

And maybe the issue is even simpler than all of this. You might have a loose alternator belt. So when the vehicle's running, the belt is too loose to properly spin the alternator. While not likely, it's always possible.

My initial guess (without personally trouble-shooting)... you need a battery and/or an alternator.

Hope this helps!

EDIT: After gong back and re-reading your post... I'm betting your battery is junk. But don't just go buy a battery without the tests I mentioned. A weak alternator will never keep ANY battery alive for very long at all.

Last edited by Wanna Ride; 11-28-2013 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:34 PM   #4
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I agree with Wanna Ride, I also think a new battery id in order, but check the old one first, or have a parts store check it along with your alt.
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Old 11-29-2013, 01:23 PM   #5
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Thanks to all of you for the replies/help. Update...this morning I tried to start again. First there was nothing, no idiot lights, digital odometer, not even one click. After sitting in the truck for 5 minutes, I turned the key to start position and the battery seemed stronger, idiot lights came on, seat belt buzzer worked, etc. Back to accessory position, radio didn't come on but flashed extremely fast on and off. Back to start position, a very loud, very fast clicking but no turn over. Battery? Maybe? Gonna try and get someone over to test it...just picking your brains a bit. Thanks again!!
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Old 11-29-2013, 06:00 PM   #6
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Are the terminals on tight?
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:23 PM   #7
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Hi sylver91
I'm pretty sure everything is nice and snug, but will recheck that when I try again 2morrow. Seems weird that the warmer it gets here, the stronger the battery is getting. Not confident it'll fix itself to a starting charge though. Thanks.
Nice truck, I envy your absence of rust up there in the great white north.
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:35 PM   #8
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Ohh no, we have plenty of rust up here where I am since the roads are salted. Just lots and lots of undercoating but thanks.

The reason I ask for the terminal is that I've had numerous vehicles towed in to our shop for no starts and all it took was turning the terminals an 1/8" and fired right up. It has enough of a connection to run the accessories but not enough to give enough amperage to turn the starter.

I also wouldn't put much faith on a 7 year old battery since that is about the end of its service life. Most places do battery testing for free and can tell you right away if its failed and cold weather is hard on on them as well since I just waranteed mine yesterday for very slow cranking as it has dropped bellow freezing now.

Now since all this has happened, have you been able to start the truck at all or had a boost?
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Old 11-30-2013, 03:04 PM   #9
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Hi again
another update......I know, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Temp is 48, battery seemed nice and strong in start position, but still getting the rapid clicks. Starter and alternator both new in 2011. In accessory position, idiot lights are all on now, digital odometer is back, ABS light flashes slightly but I don't think I have ABS ::::shrugs:::. Gauges all seem to be resetting, battery gauge stays at 8, radio is back. Bad battery then, no? Quick question if I may. When I jumped the solenoid with the screwdriver I did get a spark although very weak. Does this mean the solenoid is ok, can I rule that out? I wiggled the battery cables, Pos. is clean nice and tight. Neg. is slightly rusty, and twists back and forth....not the cable but the post itself. Still waiting on someone with a voltometer to help me test it here. Thanks again, and again, and again.
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Old 11-30-2013, 03:16 PM   #10
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Its the battery. Low voltage or a bad cell will make the electronics do dumb stuff. A new battery is in order.
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