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Old 01-12-2016, 04:19 PM   #1
koopatroopa92
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92 Accord battery light came on, think alternator is going bad or possibly a short

Sunday afternoon, the battery light on my car turned on for the first time ever. In all the times I've had battery or alt issues, it has never turned on. The car has 240k, the battery is maybe 3 years old max and alt is probably the same. Both are Duralast (my mistake). When the light was on I tried to put as much load on the electrical system as possible to see if I could get it to briefly die and confirm an alt issue. I turned on a/c, defrost, brights, all remained normal. The only other symptom I noticed was that rather than idling at 700-900 rpm, the car would sometimes idle at 1500 with the light on. The light doesn't remain on and I can't pinpoint what makes it turn on or off.
Coming home last night, the light turned on again. Not immediately after starting the car but soon after I started moving. I try and load the system heavily again and it still won't "skip". The dash lights seemed slightly dim but I might just be paranoid. As I got closer to home, the needles on the gauges would bounced down to 0 and then back up to where they should be. The radio would continually turn off. When I flash the brights the car will briefly die.
Does this all point to a bad alternator? I could get it tested for sure, but it doesn't have quite the same symptoms as the last time the alt went bad. It's frustrating because the original one lasted 200k, and I'm really busy right now and it's very cold and I would love to wait until the weekend to change it, though I don't think that's possible.

I drove the car to work today, but that was definitely a mistake. I haven't had a chance to check the charging system but I will go to Napa on my break.
When I started the car everything worked fine, but the light was on. Thinking about it, the wipers have been very slow the last few days also. After driving for a few minutes, the radio started turning off, then the dash stopped working also. The using anything like the blinkers or the wipers would make the car "skip", or die, if you know what I mean. I was on the highway and it was skipping pretty bad, I could barely stay at speed and I was already regretting driving it. I turned off everything else that drew power but it kept getting worse. I started going up a hill and downshifted to 4th to stay at speed and it almost seemed to clear its throat and everything worked again. The dash started working, the radio came back on, I drove completely normally the rest of the way to work.
With all those factors, doesn't a short sound more likely than a dying alternator? I don't see how an alternator could get better, I would think it would steadily get worse. A few months ago, the car also had trouble starting for a whole day for seemingly no reason, checked out on a tester, and never had another issue.
Does this all point to a short? And if so where do I start? I briefly checked both connections on the alt and they seemed fine, both terminals looked fine as well. Where do I go from there? I know chasing it down is a tedious process and I'm not looking forward to it
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Old 01-12-2016, 05:09 PM   #2
Red4doorAccord
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i would check the ground to the alternator. then the connections to alternator and the battery make sure everything is tight and not broken anywhere. Then i would check the fuses in the fusebox and the two wires running into the fusebox make sure they are complete and tight.
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Old 01-12-2016, 05:32 PM   #3
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No, a short is a totally different problem and would display very different symptoms such as blowing fuses or car fires.

Check your positive battery terminal and make sure it's snug, too.
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Old 01-12-2016, 06:04 PM   #4
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I would agree with checking all of your grounds.

I experienced the exact same thing you are describing. My issue turned out to be the ground from the battery to the passenger fender. However, any bad ground could cause this issue.
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Old 01-13-2016, 08:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red4doorAccord View Post
i would check the ground to the alternator. then the connections to alternator and the battery make sure everything is tight and not broken anywhere. Then i would check the fuses in the fusebox and the two wires running into the fusebox make sure they are complete and tight.
Can you tell me where the alternator ground is?

But Op, you are right that this is a short or more of a ground not working. The fuse ground comes to mind, so please check these grounds ASAP:

- The ground wire coming from the battery to the body
- The ground wire under the fuse box in the engine bay
- The ground wire going to the transmission (and the other end of that wire on the body)


As noted above, also check your positive battery cable/wire. Everything so far is pointing to the ground for the fuse box or the ground to the battery (which completes the circuit). Ground cables near the elements tend to rust/corrode first of course.

Good luck!

Last edited by Raf99; 01-13-2016 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 01-13-2016, 02:16 PM   #6
koopatroopa92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raf99 View Post
Can you tell me where the alternator ground is?

But Op, you are right that this is a short or more of a ground not working. The fuse ground comes to mind, so please check these grounds ASAP:

- The ground wire coming from the battery to the body
- The ground wire under the fuse box in the engine bay
- The ground wire going to the transmission (and the other end of that wire on the body)


As noted above, also check your positive battery cable/wire. Everything so far is pointing to the ground for the fuse box or the ground to the battery (which completes the circuit). Ground cables near the elements tend to rust/corrode first of course.

Good luck!

This all makes sense to me. The whole rest of the day it worked fine, then when I start this morning the light comes on under 1500rpms but no other issues appear. I would really like to wait until Saturday to check this out because I'll have more time and it will warm up a bit.

When searching for all those things, do I just follow the black wire to wherever it leads? I'm not trying to be dumb, electrical issues aren't really my thing. I know my positive terminal on the battery has some corrosion, so I'll make sure to take it off this weekend and clean it with a steel brush
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Old 01-13-2016, 04:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raf99 View Post
Can you tell me where the alternator ground is?

But Op, you are right that this is a short or more of a ground not working. The fuse ground comes to mind, so please check these grounds ASAP:

- The ground wire coming from the battery to the body
- The ground wire under the fuse box in the engine bay
- The ground wire going to the transmission (and the other end of that wire on the body)


As noted above, also check your positive battery cable/wire. Everything so far is pointing to the ground for the fuse box or the ground to the battery (which completes the circuit). Ground cables near the elements tend to rust/corrode first of course.

Good luck!
Lol I so was not thinking when i wrote that I for some reason was thinking about the starter ground. but i would clean up all the grounds anyways. Its always nice to have good grounds! and heck i would check to make sure that the plug to the alternator is plugged all the way in, you never know... plus alternators at my junkyard are only $15 you'll have more in time then money lol unless you don't have ps like me haha.

Last edited by Red4doorAccord; 01-13-2016 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 01-14-2016, 07:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koopatroopa92 View Post
This all makes sense to me. The whole rest of the day it worked fine, then when I start this morning the light comes on under 1500rpms but no other issues appear. I would really like to wait until Saturday to check this out because I'll have more time and it will warm up a bit.

When searching for all those things, do I just follow the black wire to wherever it leads? I'm not trying to be dumb, electrical issues aren't really my thing. I know my positive terminal on the battery has some corrosion, so I'll make sure to take it off this weekend and clean it with a steel brush
Yes. These grounds are easy to see and are short wires that are not hidden. The engine bay fuse box has two 10mm you have to remove to see that wire under it. Don't forge to disconnect the battery negative cable before you start playing around with positive and negative wires. No need to short something out.

You may find broken wires and you'll need new ends to clamp on. Cut the end off the cable if needed to get fresh wire.
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raf99 View Post
Yes. These grounds are easy to see and are short wires that are not hidden. The engine bay fuse box has two 10mm you have to remove to see that wire under it. Don't forge to disconnect the battery negative cable before you start playing around with positive and negative wires. No need to short something out.

You may find broken wires and you'll need new ends to clamp on. Cut the end off the cable if needed to get fresh wire.
Well I wanted to start with the simplest thing first, and I'll have more time to dedicate to looking at the wires more this weekend. I took both terminals off and went to town on the corrosion with some steel brushes, and now everything is pretty clean. I haven't had any issues since, but I've only driven it once so we'll see what happens
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Old 01-17-2016, 03:36 PM   #10
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I've seen similar issues resulting from a bad ground wire. In my case, I have had 2 Honda's with a bad ground wire from the battery to the bottom of the block (the big black wire that runs directly off the negative terminal of the battery).
You can find generic replacements for about $12 at autozone or walmart that will work.
A good indication is to look down where that ground wire attaches to the block; if the connection point has about 3 inches of green, frayed, corroded copper wire, then that's probably your issue.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:28 PM   #11
koopatroopa92
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Originally Posted by Vermonter View Post
I've seen similar issues resulting from a bad ground wire. In my case, I have had 2 Honda's with a bad ground wire from the battery to the bottom of the block (the big black wire that runs directly off the negative terminal of the battery).
You can find generic replacements for about $12 at autozone or walmart that will work.
A good indication is to look down where that ground wire attaches to the block; if the connection point has about 3 inches of green, frayed, corroded copper wire, then that's probably your issue.

Hope this helps.
The cable for the positive terminal was definitely covered in green crap. I cleaned it up as well as I could but I should probably replace it soon. Either way, the car has been pretty reliable since I cleaned it all off so hopefully that was the issue.

Thanks for your help
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:11 PM   #12
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Good luck! If you see any other corroded wires, It's always a good idea to replace them before they go bad and leave you stranded. It's cheap enough to replace.
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