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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-13-2014, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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Check Engine light: Check the battery!

Just a heads-up on this: Check Engine light: Check the battery!

The Check Engine light lit up on our 2000 SES ("Gen 4" Taurus SES, 3.0L DOHC Duratec V6 engine). A couple days later, luckily in out driveway, the car wouldn't start. I pulled the battery and put it on the charger on the bench on a slow 2A charge overnight. Next day, the charger's "it's charged" light was green. But . . . before reinstalling the battery, I put a meter on it: only 11.4 volts (not good).

I took it back to Wallyworld this morning. They put their fancy tester on it, and it had a bad cell. They gave me a new one no charge: It was purchased 12/24/12 and had a 2Yr free replacement warranty. This specified 36R-3 battery is a 650 CCA battery. That's way more than we need down here in the FL hotlands. Next outright purchase, I'm going to find a 550 CCA that fits. That would mean less plates and longer battery life I'm betting.

Here's how I test:
1. Get some safety glasses on.

2. Don't create any sparks with tools or the test meter's leads or probes around the battery.

3. Initially, I have the battery still in the car with it's cables still bolted on.

Did I let the battery run dry?
4. If so equipped, pop the caps off the battery and make sure it is properly filled. If not, this may be the root of your problem. Fill with distilled water to the bottom of the fill well slots and recharge the battery. Btw, I check the battery water level a couple times a year down here in the hotlands.

My volt meter setup:
5. Using a volt meter set for DC, securely clamp or hold the tester's positive lead (usually red) on the battery's positive terminal, and negative lead (usually black) on the battery's negative terminal. Again, be careful and don't make any sparks or let the probes fall off.

Here's what I should see if the battery and charging system are good:
6. First verify that the battery is good (you did check the water levels) :
With the engine off, you should see 12.5 - 12.8 VDC. If it's not in this range, check that the voltage is the same from the actual lead (ie. metallic Pb) terminal posts, as it is if you attached your probs to the cable clamps. If that voltage is different, you need to clean your cable clamps before any further testing or recharging. If the voltage is the same from either posts or cable clamps, remove the battery and charge it on the bench (or call your parts house to see if they'll charge it for you). If your charger immediately detects a shorted battery, it will let you know and you should take it in for a proper battery exam and probably replacement. If it's not shorted, let it charge and and recheck the voltage while still on the bench. As I mentioned above, my battery with the bad cell would only charge to 11.4 VDC. Solution: replace battery.

7. With the engine on, have assistant run it up to ~2000 rpm: You should see 13.8 - 14.8 VDC. If not in that range, take your alternator in for a checkup. Like batteries, most parts houses can test alternators too.

8. Engine on and normal idle: Have an assistant turn on headlights and heater motor about the same time. You should see the voltage drop for a several seconds, then move back up to 13.8 - 14.8 VDC. As above, if it doesn't jump back up to 13.8 - 14.8 VDC, take your alternator in for a checkup. Like batteries, most parts houses can test alternators too.

I never would have thought a bad / dead battery would trip a Check Engine light, but there you go.

This (lengthy) post was just my 2 cents worth on the subject and I'm just happy to give something back for all the help I get from TCCA. As always, I appreciate your comments, corrections and suggestions.

Regards,
Brcobrem
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-13-2014, 02:17 PM
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A few important notes here.

If a cell is low enough on electrolyte that the lead plates are exposed, that cell is going to have a severely reduced capacity due to sulfation and oxidation. Just filling it back up with water will not really help unless you put it on a desulfator for a week or two and there is still enough lead intact. A regular battery charger really won't deal with the damage. Never let the water level get low enough to expose any lead.

If one cell is way lower than the others on fluid, that's a sign it may be shorted. Filling with water is only a short term fix (it will boil off again in a short time). Likely the battery just needs to be replaced.

You don't mention anything about removing surface charge from the battery before measuring the resting voltage. This is important because it will give you a falsely high reading if you don't. Turn on the headlights for 30 seconds to remove the surface charge and then read the voltage after it comes back up and stabilizes.

My favorite test for batteries is cranking voltage because that is the most stress the battery has to deal with. Make sure the battery is able to maintain 10 volts or more while the starter is turning. You need a helper and to crank the engine in clear-flood mode so it doesn't start right away.

When you do the load test at idle, I would clarify you want to turn on high-beams, the rear defrost, and the blower motor on high.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-13-2014, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brcobrem View Post
Just a heads-up on this: Check Engine light: Check the battery!

The Check Engine light lit up on our 2000 SES ("Gen 4" Taurus SES, 3.0L DOHC Duratec V6 engine). A couple days later, luckily in out driveway, the car wouldn't start. I pulled the battery and put it on the charger on the bench on a slow 2A charge overnight. Next day, the charger's "it's charged" light was green. But . . . before reinstalling the battery, I put a meter on it: only 11.4 volts (not good).

I took it back to Wallyworld this morning. They put their fancy tester on it, and it had a bad cell. They gave me a new one no charge: It was purchased 12/24/12 and had a 2Yr free replacement warranty. This specified 36R-3 battery is a 650 CCA battery. That's way more than we need down here in the FL hotlands. Next outright purchase, I'm going to find a 550 CCA that fits. That would mean less plates and longer battery life I'm betting.

Here's how I test:
1. Get some safety glasses on.

2. Don't create any sparks with tools or the test meter's leads or probes around the battery.

3. Initially, I have the battery still in the car with it's cables still bolted on.

Did I let the battery run dry?
4. If so equipped, pop the caps off the battery and make sure it is properly filled. If not, this may be the root of your problem. Fill with distilled water to the bottom of the fill well slots and recharge the battery. Btw, I check the battery water level a couple times a year down here in the hotlands.

My volt meter setup:
5. Using a volt meter set for DC, securely clamp or hold the tester's positive lead (usually red) on the battery's positive terminal, and negative lead (usually black) on the battery's negative terminal. Again, be careful and don't make any sparks or let the probes fall off.

Here's what I should see if the battery and charging system are good:
6. First verify that the battery is good (you did check the water levels) :
With the engine off, you should see 12.5 - 12.8 VDC. If it's not in this range, check that the voltage is the same from the actual lead (ie. metallic Pb) terminal posts, as it is if you attached your probs to the cable clamps. If that voltage is different, you need to clean your cable clamps before any further testing or recharging. If the voltage is the same from either posts or cable clamps, remove the battery and charge it on the bench (or call your parts house to see if they'll charge it for you). If your charger immediately detects a shorted battery, it will let you know and you should take it in for a proper battery exam and probably replacement. If it's not shorted, let it charge and and recheck the voltage while still on the bench. As I mentioned above, my battery with the bad cell would only charge to 11.4 VDC. Solution: replace battery.

7. With the engine on, have assistant run it up to ~2000 rpm: You should see 13.8 - 14.8 VDC. If not in that range, take your alternator in for a checkup. Like batteries, most parts houses can test alternators too.

8. Engine on and normal idle: Have an assistant turn on headlights and heater motor about the same time. You should see the voltage drop for a several seconds, then move back up to 13.8 - 14.8 VDC. As above, if it doesn't jump back up to 13.8 - 14.8 VDC, take your alternator in for a checkup. Like batteries, most parts houses can test alternators too.

I never would have thought a bad / dead battery would trip a Check Engine light, but there you go.

This (lengthy) post was just my 2 cents worth on the subject and I'm just happy to give something back for all the help I get from TCCA. As always, I appreciate your comments, corrections and suggestions.

Regards,
Brcobrem
Several ways to use a "keep alive" support to keep your memory while changing the battery. Still it will spark if you short the Pos cable. I use a portable jump battery with a power port, and I have a male-male wire for power ports. Open the pas door and trip the latch with a screw driver to turn the inside lights out. Then plug one end in the portable battery and other in the power port of the car. Just did that yesterday to clean the terminals. Just got the '03 Wed, and Ford garage put a new battery in but did not clean the terminals. CRUD! I dipped the cable ends in a cup of household ammonia till clean. Sanded the bat posts, oiled the post and clamp and put it back. Oh yes, they did not come close to tightening the hold down bolt.

And for the topper, Ford Garage I bought this from put a 18" wiper blade on the driver's side. Yep, gotta love Ford service. (250 miles from here so no chance of going back).

-chart-
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2014, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by behlinla View Post
A few important notes here.

If a cell is low enough on electrolyte that the lead plates are exposed, that cell is going to have a severely reduced capacity due to sulfation and oxidation. Just filling it back up with water will not really help unless you put it on a desulfator for a week or two and there is still enough lead intact. A regular battery charger really won't deal with the damage. Never let the water level get low enough to expose any lead.

If one cell is way lower than the others on fluid, that's a sign it may be shorted. Filling with water is only a short term fix (it will boil off again in a short time). Likely the battery just needs to be replaced.

You don't mention anything about removing surface charge from the battery before measuring the resting voltage. This is important because it will give you a falsely high reading if you don't. Turn on the headlights for 30 seconds to remove the surface charge and then read the voltage after it comes back up and stabilizes.

My favorite test for batteries is cranking voltage because that is the most stress the battery has to deal with. Make sure the battery is able to maintain 10 volts or more while the starter is turning. You need a helper and to crank the engine in clear-flood mode so it doesn't start right away.

When you do the load test at idle, I would clarify you want to turn on high-beams, the rear defrost, and the blower motor on high.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the clarifications and improvements to my OP :-) My electronic tool box has been updated!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2014, 09:44 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chartmaker View Post
Several ways to use a "keep alive" support to keep your memory while changing the battery. Still it will spark if you short the Pos cable. I use a portable jump battery with a power port, and I have a male-male wire for power ports. Open the pas door and trip the latch with a screw driver to turn the inside lights out. Then plug one end in the portable battery and other in the power port of the car. Just did that yesterday to clean the terminals. Just got the '03 Wed, and Ford garage put a new battery in but did not clean the terminals. CRUD! I dipped the cable ends in a cup of household ammonia till clean. Sanded the bat posts, oiled the post and clamp and put it back. Oh yes, they did not come close to tightening the hold down bolt.

And for the topper, Ford Garage I bought this from put a 18" wiper blade on the driver's side. Yep, gotta love Ford service. (250 miles from here so no chance of going back).

-chart-
Another keeper for the tool box :-) Thanks!

Interesting idea to use a portable charger to keep the electronics/radio/etc from losing their setups. Fyi, many of the computer UPS battery backups in the 500VA+ range use 12VDC 7A (ie. ~500VA) or 9A (~700VA) batteries in them. If they can run a 300watt PC for 10-15mins, I bet the battery in these UPS's would work for the "keep alive" support you've mentioned. The batteries for the UPS's have "F2" fastons (ie. connector tabs) that are 1/4" wide to handle a higher current draw. Some of these batteries for non-UPS uses use only 3/16 fastons. Some batteries look the same but are only 6VDC. Here's a link on the fastons if interested:
Terminal Type | The Difference Between F1 and F2 Tabs

Byw, I don't know what you mean by "power port". Can you please explain for my knucklehead?

Thanks again . . .
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2014, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brcobrem View Post
Another keeper for the tool box :-) Thanks!

Interesting idea to use a portable charger to keep the electronics/radio/etc from losing their setups. Fyi, many of the computer UPS battery backups in the 500VA+ range use 12VDC 7A (ie. ~500VA) or 9A (~700VA) batteries in them. If they can run a 300watt PC for 10-15mins, I bet the battery in these UPS's would work for the "keep alive" support you've mentioned. The batteries for the UPS's have "F2" fastons (ie. connector tabs) that are 1/4" wide to handle a higher current draw. Some of these batteries for non-UPS uses use only 3/16 fastons. Some batteries look the same but are only 6VDC. Here's a link on the fastons if interested:
Terminal Type | The Difference Between F1 and F2 Tabs

Byw, I don't know what you mean by "power port". Can you please explain for my knucklehead?

Thanks again . . .
Used to be cig lignter, later called cigar lighter, but for PC talk they are now called "power port" according to Ford. That round hole you plug things in for 12V accessory. And in my Lin Cont, it is nearly vertical, right beside where coins are kept. Penny falls in real nice. Maybe a dime.

My portable bat has a "power port" for plug in things. The double male wire is a unusual thing I found in a box of wires at a garage sale. Adapters, autio/video cables, and such. Whole box for $1. Most I gave away but this one really heavy wire.

They sell adapters for 9V battery to plug in but I would not trust that. Pic of one I made myself but cannot find it. Better. I plug one end in the car power port and then short the other end and lght the blub to be sure the port is connected and active. Then plug the other end in my porta battery. Of course trick the door latch first so no running of interior lights.

Basic, very tiny draw for keep alive. And with the light, if I do short the cable, worst thing that can happen is I light the bulb.

Best of luck.

-chart-

Last edited by chartmaker; 06-11-2015 at 02:20 PM.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2014, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brcobrem View Post
Another keeper for the tool box :-) Thanks!

Interesting idea to use a portable charger to keep the electronics/radio/etc from losing their setups. Fyi, many of the computer UPS battery backups in the 500VA+ range use 12VDC 7A (ie. ~500VA) or 9A (~700VA) batteries in them. If they can run a 300watt PC for 10-15mins, I bet the battery in these UPS's would work for the "keep alive" support you've mentioned. The batteries for the UPS's have "F2" fastons (ie. connector tabs) that are 1/4" wide to handle a higher current draw. Some of these batteries for non-UPS uses use only 3/16 fastons. Some batteries look the same but are only 6VDC. Here's a link on the fastons if interested:
Terminal Type | The Difference Between F1 and F2 Tabs

Byw, I don't know what you mean by "power port". Can you please explain for my knucklehead?

Thanks again . . .
While at it, see pic for a handy home made meter adapter. Power port plugs are common and so is wire. This VOM however it a garage sale thing but not dirt cheap. But it has really big digits that this old coot can see while driving.

-chart-

Last edited by chartmaker; 06-11-2015 at 02:20 PM.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-15-2014, 08:37 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chartmaker View Post
While at it, see pic for a handy home made meter adapter. Power port plugs are common and so is wire. This VOM however it a garage sale thing but not dirt cheap. But it has really big digits that this old coot can see while driving.

-chart-
LOL! I never heard a cig lighter called a "Power port". Learn something new every day.

Nice pics of your testing and "keep alive" rigs. Thanks for the clarification of the term :-)
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-15-2014, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brcobrem View Post
LOL! I never heard a cig lighter called a "Power port". Learn something new every day.

Nice pics of your testing and "keep alive" rigs. Thanks for the clarification of the term :-)
See pic, the hole used to be a cig lighter and there was a lighter plugged into it. One would hard pressed to find a lighter today. So "they" keep changing the names of thing and I can't keep up. I saw this in some instructions, likely Alldata and had to look it up. I did not know what it was.

So now others are up to date also. Of course they may change the name and have only USB or whatever comes next.

-chart-

Last edited by chartmaker; 07-25-2015 at 07:37 PM.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-16-2014, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chartmaker View Post
See pic, the hole used to be a cig lighter and there was a lighter plugged into it. One would hard pressed to find a lighter today. So "they" keep changing the names of thing and I can't keep up. I saw this in some instructions, likely Alldata and had to look it up. I did not know what it was.

So now others are up to date also. Of course they may change the name and have only USB or whatever comes next.

-chart-
I thought about this discussion last night. I haven't smoked in over a year. I can tell you it wasn't easy to quit, but I managed over a period of six months starting with nicotine patches, then I moved to halves and then quarters of nicotine pills, and finally one of those electronic cigarettes at a relatively low 12mg dose. Even with the e-cig, there was a week of nicotine withdraw when I finally decided it was time to put that away too. I have friends who still smoke, even when I'm around, and that's just fine with me. It's a matter of personal choice as far as I'm concerned.

All that said, I think for the younger generation growing up, it would please me that they think of a cig lighter as a "power port". No need to continue to freely advertise and promote the phrase "cigarette anything" for the tobacco industry in every new vehicle sold. Again, this is just imho, I'm not trying to make a statement about which name for the 12VDC outlet is politically correct.

Ok, the term "power port" works for me now. Thanks for the re-education :-)

Regards . . .
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