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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 08-20-2006, 10:08 PM
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Default Battery discharge or drain problem

I have purchased a used 98 New Beetle for my daughter. We have battery/electrical problem that I am having trouble resolving. The Battery will die (not start the car) after just a few hours of sitting. If just driving around town running errands, the car will start every time.

I have the alternator and battery checked at a local parts store, performing a load test on the battery and the alternator and they said both are fine. My tests included checking the static battery voltage, 12.68v, alternator output with car running, 14v at idle and current drain with every thing off, 30ma.

Of the three things that should cause this problem, Battery, Alternator and Excess Drain I think even my tests have eliminated the alternator and the current drain. Knowing that 14v is a good alternator output and 30ma is well below the maximum static drain with the car shut off, I feel certain that the alternator and drain are fine. How ever, I am not so confident about the battery test. The battery should be good by the load test, but can a battery pass the load test yet still not hold a charge for a specific period?

The battery is an Interstate 580 CCA, stamped for Jan 05. which is not that old and I have always had good luck with Interstate batteries.


What else could be the problem?

In troubleshooting I refer to this excellent post by Dick_Larimore, however, I used a digital mulimeter, between the battery negative terminal and negative cable, for the current test

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick_Larimore
It is unfortunate that your particular VW dealer is unable to perform the necessary troubleshooting to determine the root cause of your discharged battery. Actually, cars are not "lemons" -- it is the dealer service departments and the car maker's technical assistance systems that are the real lemons.

You don't show your location in your profile. I live in central Indiana. If you live close, I have equipment to troubleshoot this kind of problem.

There are 3 basic causes for a dead battery:
1. The battery is defective
2. The alternator (generator) in the vehicle cannot provide a charging current sufficient to keep the battery charged, or
3. There is a parasitic drain on the battery when the engine is off, draining the battery. Any parasitic battery drain can be there constantly or less likely, it occurs only intermittently.

If you have a battery charger (even if it is only a trickle charger), connect the charger to your battery when the car is sitting in the garage to prevent a parasitic drain from discharging your battery. A prolonged low battery SOC (state-of-charge) will shorten the life of the battery.

Did the dealership service manager describe any details of how they determined whether the root cause is item 1, 2, or 3 above? Typically, if the battery can be recharged and when charged it can pass a battery load test, it is likely to be OK.

If the battery has been recharged and the system voltage is 14 volts or higher at any engine RPM above idle speed, the alternator is likely to be OK. There are more sophisticated alternator output checks that can be made if you use a clip-on amp meter to check charging amps out of the alternator.

Troubleshooting a parasitic load on the battery requires a clip-on DC (direct current) amp meter that has resolution to about 0.05 amps. These meters typically use Hall Effect sensors or you can use the more expensive Swain DC amp clips (http://www.swainmeter.com/index.html). The Swain DC amp clip that I own costs about $800 and is probably not something that the average dealership service department has available to it. These DC clip-on instruments allow you to simply clip over a wire carrying DC current and the current flow in amps can be directly measured by the instrument.

A typical Beetle will have a parasitic current drain on the battery of no more that 0.06 amps (all doors closed and unlocked). This magnitude of current drain would easily allow your car to sit for 30 days without use and still crank and start. However, if the current drain increases to 0.15 amps, your car will likely not start after 11 days of no use if the battery was fully charged when the engine was shut off. Any typical relay that is continuously energized will draw about 0.15 amps. A battery drain of 0.5 amps which is typical of a glove box lamp will drain the battery to the point of a no start in just over 3 days.

Most of the electrical loads in the Beetle are isolated from the battery by either the ignition switch and/or the load reduction relay (relay 109) when the ignition switch is in the OFF position. Therefore, the most likely causes of a run down battery include the modules controlling security, door locking, trunk unlocking, the engine control computer, cooling fans, etc. These are examples of loads that are "awake" when the key is not in the ignition.

Your dealer must be able to measure DC current flow as describe above to isolate the offending electrical load. If a battery drain is detected, fuses can be pulled one-at-a-time to determine the circuit that is drawing the current. If your present dealership service department does not know how to do this, you need to find another one.
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Old 08-24-2006, 03:35 PM
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The saga continues… we have progressed and my daughter is turning out to be a good wrench .

We compared the drain of the battery disconnected vs. connected in the car. In the car the battery drops from 12.68 to 12.40 overnight (approximately 12 hours), isolated from the there is no drop in the same timeframe. This proved that there must be more drain than the 30mA that we are seeing. One problem with the drain test is that in connecting the meter, in series, the battery must be disconnected and power interrupted. Normally when the key is in the off position, the last condition the car has seen is the “run” condition.

Thinking the run condition may be setting the offending drain we connected the ammeter as before, saw 30mA as expected, and turn the key to run and then back to off. Once all the surge currents stabilized, the drain was steady at 280mA! That’s ¼ of an amp, which defiantly will kill a battery. NOTE – our multi-meter has a 10amp circuit and actually read 13amps in the run condition a low amperage meter would not survive that test without a surge resistor across the meter.

Removing fuses, we found fuse 14 labeled Power locks and Interior lights. Interestingly the fuse feeds the “Central Control Module for Comfort Systems” which appears to be the control module for all of what used to options, power locks, power windows, alarm system, etc. and some of the lights. We are currently trying to isolate the problem from the module to the other systems.

On thing that happens is that when we “lock” the car from the passenger door the excess drain goes away and does not come back when we unlock. We have to turn the key to the run position to reestablish the drain. Locking the car from the passenger side also initiates the alarm system… NOTE – the driver’s door lock does not initiate the passengers system, that is broke as well… We cannot test the alarm system remotely, from the key, because the key is kaput as well… Yep, it’s a project car

As usual any comments, advice, prayers etc. are appreciated.
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Old 08-24-2006, 07:07 PM
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Hi PC, thanks for the reply and sugestion. what do you think about having a .28A parasitic drain on the battery? Do you think that is a problem or not?

Thanks again


Quote:
Originally Posted by Porkchop
I would still suspect a bad battery. 12.4V is still plenty to start the car and you say that is a drop overnight. Have you left the multimeter attached and then tried to crank the car? What does the voltage drop to? If it drops significantly, it is a bad battery. I would be suspect of a parts clerk correctly load testing the battery. Many times they rely on the machine saying "OK!" rather than reading the voltage when the load is applied.

So I would do my own load test using your multimeter. (or how about just swap a known good battery from another car in and see if you have the same symptoms?)
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Old 08-24-2006, 07:35 PM
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I agree with Porkchop, start simple and then work your way back from there. It could be a bad microswitch in the door, or a number of other things. I would check the battery first though. Also, does it have an aftermarket radio in it? Could be a faulty install if it does.
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Old 08-25-2006, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oyveychris
Also, does it have an aftermarket radio in it? Could be a faulty install if it does.
No, aftermarket equipment. The car is stock, just not very well maintained; several non-working door switches, driver side keylock does not activate the alarm... so we have lots of little things to do to get the car right. But she seems mechanicly sound.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 08-25-2006, 05:41 PM
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I remember a post a while back that pointed towards the door lock, it drains the car overnight. I think its related to the micro switch not activating correctly and somehow using current. This is common in pre 2000 New Beetles, you always hear the overnight and it died statement. I assumme nothing is wrong with the battery or alternator I would abandon that wild goose chase, its related to the door locking assembly. Another member a while ago went through all this just to find it had nothing to do with the battery and alt but the door lock assembly going bad because the switch is somehow not soldered to the circuit board well because of repeated forces being applied to the board, I just don't remember what it was exactly about that drains the current. Focus there and you'll find it. Ohy yeah, it was in the Jetta forums from vortex, someone made a how-to of how to disassemble it repair it with a radio shack switch and put it back together.
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Old 08-25-2006, 07:08 PM
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Thanks fohveh, we have been thinking door switches as an option, especialy because the drivers side door lock (key) does not activate the alarm like it is supposd to.

We will give that a look.
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Old 08-26-2006, 02:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fohveh
Ohy yeah, it was in the Jetta forums from vortex, someone made a how-to of how to disassemble it repair it with a radio shack switch and put it back together.
Hey fohveh, do you have a like to that post, Ive searched and cant find it
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Old 08-26-2006, 06:02 PM
Twizzler
 
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I'll try to find it, one question for you is when the door is shut and the alarm is armed do the interior lights sometimes stay on?? This would point toward the door locking module 100% A microswitch on the circuit board (one of four on the circuit board in the door lock module) determines whether the door is locked or not fails and remains in a stuck open position. Sometimes it will work sometimes it won't. Also the solder that joins certain pin points on the board crack for whatever reason, and become intermittently dislocated from the complete circuit making it "work" trying to determine whats open whats not and it will keep doing that, perhaps, maybe the cause of your power drain; small drain but over a nights time enough that the car won't restart in the morning. Countless people have had this problem and have found disassembling the door to get the locking module out and simply resoldering the pins or replaceng the one microswitch has eliminated the problem. Also this is the same cause for mystery alarms that go off while your car is driving or the car is not armed etc... Basically this one component has been the cause of many headaches and multiple problems that seem unrelated yet are related. I'll try to look in my files for the link or the whole discussion I saved it somewhere.
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Old 08-26-2006, 11:32 PM
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Thanks Man, I have not noticed the lights staying on issue, but I will check it out. We have been testing the lock system and alarm activation and noticed that for the most part, the driver key lock does not activate the alarm or lock the other door/rear lid. However, sometimes it does. Also the passenger door key lock always activates the alarm and almost always locks the driver door, but not every time. This makes me think of a bad connection in the driver door lock system, which resonates with what you are saying...

More shall be revealed!

Thanks for the help.
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Old 08-27-2006, 09:49 PM
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Have you checked your radio?
Sometimes radio relais has some problems and it doesn't turn off...
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Old 08-28-2006, 06:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katoom
Have you checked your radio?
Sometimes radio relais has some problems and it doesn't turn off...
Yes, we checked it. Its good to go!
Thanks
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:46 PM
Richey Rivers - '99 Turbo
 
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Default Resolution to the problem?

Was there ever a positive resolution to this problem? I'm having a drain, which I described in another post. I have experimented by disconnecting the battery for 3 days - no drain. I now have it hooked back up to see if it drains overnight again.

I notice that fuse 14 is a big drainer by connecting my ammeter and yanking fuses. which might lead into the door lock problem you describe.

Regarding the door lock problem: About 90% of the time, when I click my remote to lock, the drivers side button does not go down. The passenger side goes down, the horn beeps, but no drivers side lock. If I then hit the remote unlock, then remote lock buttons, it will lock 100% of the time. Could this somehow be related to the battery issue?

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Old 12-12-2009, 01:37 AM
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No...no resolution, they just fade off into the sunset never to be heard from again.
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Old 07-02-2010, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elandem View Post
Was there ever a positive resolution to this problem? I'm having a drain, which I described in another post. I have experimented by disconnecting the battery for 3 days - no drain. I now have it hooked back up to see if it drains overnight again.

I notice that fuse 14 is a big drainer by connecting my ammeter and yanking fuses. which might lead into the door lock problem you describe.

Regarding the door lock problem: About 90% of the time, when I click my remote to lock, the drivers side button does not go down. The passenger side goes down, the horn beeps, but no drivers side lock. If I then hit the remote unlock, then remote lock buttons, it will lock 100% of the time. Could this somehow be related to the battery issue?

Richey
Richey, I have a battery drain issue, and also have the same type of lock problem, however its the passenger side, not the drivers side. I wonder if a stuck lock mechanism is draining the battery because it's trying to lock and isn't?

I also read somewhere that a faulty hood latch/sensor can cause drain? Did you ever solve your problem? I'm on battery #3 with a 99' beetle as well.

Coincidentally, I live in Sherman, TX too.
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:07 PM
Richey Rivers - '99 Turbo
 
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Default Some resolutions

After a complete failure of my alternator, I replaced it, and have had no battery issues at all. I'm thinking my old one was intermittently bad, making it hard to diagnose. Glad it finally quit, as that seemed to resolve it.

2nd, I replaced the door lock mechanism in the drivers door and it resolved problems with being able to lock, and the car not recognizing that the door had been opened.

For some nutty reason today, the small horn sound when the car is locked quick working. Worked yesterday. If that's my biggest problem, I feel fortunate. I'll keep trying to figure that one out. Any ideas out there?
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elandem View Post
After a complete failure of my alternator, I replaced it, and have had no battery issues at all. I'm thinking my old one was intermittently bad, making it hard to diagnose. Glad it finally quit, as that seemed to resolve it.

2nd, I replaced the door lock mechanism in the drivers door and it resolved problems with being able to lock, and the car not recognizing that the door had been opened.

For some nutty reason today, the small horn sound when the car is locked quick working. Worked yesterday. If that's my biggest problem, I feel fortunate. I'll keep trying to figure that one out. Any ideas out there?
Glad you got your Alternator issue resolved, but for the benefit of others, alternators aren't intermidently bad. There are a number of things within an alternator that can weaken/fail, and cause mis-diagnosis of it being faulty, especially with Corner Parts Store's testing equipment and/or employees who don't know how to properly use and/or read the equipment. Read more about checking alternators in this post and about the basic checks in this thread -
Sorry, but another Brake Light Beeping

As to the door, was it the lock mechanism (micro-switch failure maybe) or the door control module? The door control module could be the cause of you're current "chirp" issue.

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Old 08-22-2011, 08:14 PM
Richey Rivers - '99 Turbo
 
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Whatever it was, I had struggled with dead batteries for a long time. New alternator....no problems since, or yet.

The micro-switch was 100% of the problem with the door problems. I replaced the whole mechanism. Glad that little problem is fixed.

Still don't understand the lack of "chirp" though. It's probably something goofy. Not too worried. Where is the door control module, in the event I want to even mess with it?
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