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Old 07-24-2012, 10:29 PM   #1
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Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

So a few times on our last trip I would hear a sound while driving that sounded like the automatic locks were firing, like the zapper had been pressed- but it hadn't. One night, while book docking, we heard the locks fire a number of times. For the rest of the trip, we'd occasionally hear the locks firing.

We got home uneventfully, and emptied and parked the van, not plugged into anything. Tonight, when we went to start it, the starting batteries were dead as a doornail!. The zapper wouldn't even open the locks. I plugged in the little voltmeter, and got no reading on the LCD or on the lights whatsoever- dead dead dead. (I checked the house battery- still the original 4d AGM from 9 years ago- and it was at 12.4).

Hooked up the charger, and as soon as I hooked it up, I heard the locks firing again. The charger read very low voltage, but within a few minutes it was charging up to the 12 volt range. The starter fired up, but not w/ enough juice to turn the diesel over. I've left the charger hooked up overnight, to bring the starting batteries up to normal.

The starting batteries are 3 years old, and I haven't had any issues with them. I can only hook up the charger to the under hood charging battery, but the other one (under the van) was replaced identically at the same time.

In the past, the van's been hooked to shore power when parked, and I haven't had any issues w/ starting it when not run for a few weeks, even in the dead of winter.

Is the collective wisdom thinking short somewhere? fuse issue? or another unusual drain?

My thought is to take it in to the dealer tomorrow to get it checked. Any other ideas?

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Old 07-24-2012, 10:59 PM   #2
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Re: Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

Not much help but the locks "firing" has been my indication of impending battery problems twice now. Must be some type of low voltage solenoid action. My last starter batteries lasted exactly 3 years. Only one was bad (Would only hold 10V) but I replaced both. An accidental total discharge via the radio switch seemed to be the killer in my case. This is extensively discussed in another thread. You have an additional clue in that you heard it while driving. I would wonder about the alternator then.

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Old 07-24-2012, 11:53 PM   #3
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Re: Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

Do you have an aftermarket alarm system? Or a remote start unit? If so one of those or possibly a pinched wire if you dont have one of those could cause the door locks to zap as you say. I assume when you say zap you mean lock and or unlock and that the zapper is the key fob or remote. The locks should never lock or unlock without a comand from the button or a remote. If there is something wrong with that system it could easily drain the battery.

You could also have bad battery (or two) since they are three years old but it sounds like the power door lock system has a problem as well. The house battery should have nothing to do with the door locks and definetly nothing to do with the starting system.

A completly dead battery can take a very long time to charge depending on the charger let alone trying to charge two.

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Old 07-25-2012, 12:01 AM   #4
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Re: Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

I had this problem once on a '94 van. It started more intermittent. I'd lock the van, and next time out it would be unlocked. It was a little creepy finding the van unlocked on a dark street, when I was sure I locked it. Finally one night I heard it start unlocking without anyone in it.

Turned out to be the driver's door switch. Probably internal corrosion from rain getting on it.
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Old 07-25-2012, 09:31 AM   #5
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Re: Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

I had a similar problem with my van. It turned out to be the VSM (vehicle security module) that interfaces with the remote fobs. I first pulled F2.2 to kill the power to the VSM and that stopped the random locking/unlocking.

I bought a VSM from Tousley and replaced it and all is good. It is a pain to replace as it is tucked up in the passenger side footwell behind the kickpanel.

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Old 07-25-2012, 10:48 AM   #6
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Re: Another Starting Battery/Van electric issue

I've had that happen on a vehicle with a single battery and it turned out to be a corroded neutral connection at the battery but I doubt it would happen with twin starting batteries. A bad cell in one of the starting batteries can kill the other overnight. It just had it happen to me. It sounds like what the others are posting needs to be checked and I would suspect a drain from the locking system.

I would take voltage off the battery terminals (not the connectors) and see if you still have low voltage after the charge. If it is a bad ground it's even possible the batteries are still up. It might be a good time to pull the battery leads, charge each battery, and clean the terminals. At least you'll be doing some standard maintenance while checking the status of your batteries. That will point you towards a possible short or voltage drain. Also some of the older vans with battery Isolators (not separators) had a nasty habbit of corroding causing the batteries to drain.

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