1999 Suburban drains battery.
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    Zebrafive's Avatar
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    1999 Suburban drains battery.

    My daughter away at college has the '99 Suburban. It is continually having a dead battery. Since trying to "repair" "long distance" I had her get a new battery installed. Battery is still draining.

    Years ago the feature that would delay dome lights going off after exiting the vehicle failed. That would drain the battery. I could never figure out why and even replaced the headlight switch (from wrong advise). I resorted to using the dome light override button which keeps the dome lights of at all times.

    I had her check and see if the dome light override button was engaged. It was. I also had her check that the dash light "wheel" was not turned "up" to the point the dome lights were "commanded" ON, even if not lit. That was OK. I also had her check to see if any map lights were turned ON. She says none are.

    She says after a jump start the volt meter reads a little over 14 volts. This leads me to believe the alternator is charging.

    I asked if the brake lights were staying ON. She said, no, she would have noticed that.

    She is coming home tomorrow just for the day, Dentist appointment. So I have one day to look at it.

    I plan to check, maybe remove the fuse(s) for visor mirror lights, under hood light (if it has one). Check alternator belt tension.

    Any ideas? Radio gone bad? always has power for the clock?. Keyless entry? Trailer brake controller? How do I check? Any ideas?
    Last edited by Zebrafive; 03-09-2016 at 09:10 AM.
    J
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    coaltrain's Avatar
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    The first thing that comes to my mind is the alternator - more specifically the regulator and diode. Had a similar problem with my wife's Beetle Bug - would charge just fine and a new battery, but if the car sat for 3 days or more the battery was dead.

    It was recommended to me to change out the alternator. What was likely happening is a diode in the regulator was bad and allowing the battery to drain back into the alternator when not running.

    It takes time to narrow down something like this. You can put a meter on the battery and see if it is draining when the truck is off. If so it's a process of elimination from there. If you are getting a parasitic loss on the battery when the engine is off, try disconnecting the alternator while watching the gauge. If it is in fact the alternator it will be obvious right away.
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    Not sure if this is your issue or not but it's worth taking a look at:


    I had a similar problem with my 1997 GMC K1500 pickup. Battery would drain down over the course of 2 or 3 days if I didn't drive it. Turned out to be a problem with the wiper motor control board. The gaskets on the cover for it were garbage from the factory and water gets into the housing causing the circuit board to corrode and you get high-resistance shorts to ground. When this happens you get a constant drain on the battery like you'd have if a light is left on but it isn't a large enough drain to trip a fuse.

    A bunch of late-90s Chevy/GMC trucks has recalls issued to replace this board and fix the gasket problem.

    You should be able to pop the cover off and pull the board to take a look at it and see if your's is clean or not. You can get a replacement board for $25-$30 if need be.
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    I'd double check the charging system with a real meter, but if it's running ok then it's probably fine.

    Connect an amp meter in series between the battery and one of the cables, I usually use the negative. Don't turn the key on, that will overload the meter. It should show amperage if you do have a parasitic draw. Remove fuses until you see the draw go away, then troubleshoot that circuit.

    I've seen alternators, ignition switches, and a handful of other components cause this type problem.
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    Just throwing out an experience. If it has power windows one could be stuck trying to keep rolling up. We only found it due to melting ice from the heat it was generating. No sounds were ever made.


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    Glove box light maybe????
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    Years ago my best friend's father owned a Dodge Aspen that he drove only every 3rd or 4th day. In his 2nd year of ownership he experienced the battery being dead after 48 hours of sitting. The family was all non-smokers. My friend had given a ride to someone who used the lighter to light a cigarette. While pushed in, the lighter burned out, but the tiny bulb in the ashtray that came on when the lighter was in still burned. You couldn't see that bulb being lit during the daytime. It took a while to diagnose this. I found it when my friend and I had the car out after dark- I noticed this small light at the bottom of the dash. Popped the burned out lighter from the socket and told friend's Dad that we had fixed his car!

    These can be tough. Good Luck.

    Frank

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    I had a similar issue with a car in the past. My problem turned out to be a defective relay in the audio system's power amp and it was staying on all the time instead of only powering on when the radio was turned on.

    Electrical is a huge PITA to diagnose, regardless of home, car, whatever... Get yourself an inline tester that shows current draw. Remove the positive terminal to the battery, put the tester in line, and start pulling fuses until the draw goes away. That will at least tell you where to look.
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    What meburdick said...had the same problem with our Suburban. Does it have the Bose system?

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    Zebrafive's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies. Here's an update:

    My daughter got home yesterday about 10:30PM. I had her park in the pole barn. Too late to work on it and I did not want to put the battery charger on it all night and maybe ruin the new battery. She said she had to jump it to get started to come home.

    This morning I was going to put the battery charger on it, so I would start with a charged battery. Walk the dog, have breakfast, then start working on it.

    Putting the battery charger on, I immediately found the positive battery cables loose. I had asked her if the battery cables were tight.
    "How do I tell" she asked, "see if they move/turn" She reported they were tight, and later said the Road service guy that jump started it said they were tight

    The Suburban has tow positive battery cables. One goes to the starter motor and the other to a junction stud. The one to the starter motor has a red cover on the terminal. This one was on first, next to the battery. then there is a spacer and another cable. This is a side terminal battery and uses special bolts. I think the red cover might have been keeping the starter cable from making good contact with the battery terminal. So I put the cable from the junction stud on first (no cover/insulator on it) then the spacer, then the starter cable.

    The spacer had two arc marks on it. I assume from the cables being loose. I cleaned it and all the terminal ends and the special bolt.

    Next I did a check for anything ON or plugged into the lighter outlets. No map lights on. No light in the ash tray. Both visor vanity mirror lights stay off. Glove box light goes off. Heated seats off. Dome light over ride button engaged. The dome light is supposed to slowly go out with a delay when leaving the vehicle. That failed years ago, so I just keep the dome light over ride button pushed in.
    Also the hood light is unplugged, has been for years.

    So I am hoping the old battery had failed and the new battery just had a faulty install. Since it is here, and not 100 miles away, I may as well do the other advised checks.

    Negative battery cable off. Amp meter in series with the battery negative terminal and a ground. Key out of the ignition. All doors closed. Meter reads .100/.110 amps. This seems low enough So now to check things:

    I disconnect the big wire from the alternator, no change. There is a smaller wire, but an AC line is in the way. I am not going to try and take that wire off.

    Wiper motor. Unplug connector, no change.


    Next to the under hood fuse box. I going R&R everything, circuit breakers, relays, and fuses.
    There are only two fuses that change the reading:
    One for the trailer brake controller (it had red lights or LEDs "ON" all the time), reading drops .020 amps. This seems OK
    Two feeds the "end of dash fuse box" it drops the reading .080 amps.

    So on to the "end of dash fuse box" Once again I will R&R everything in it.
    Only one fuse changes the meter reading
    It's "radio-battery" it drops the reading .080 amps. I assume this it clock, maybe memory. This seems Ok too

    So I think the problem is solved Thanks for all the tips. I am not worried about the .100 to .110 .010 variation, probably my meter or a meter connection.

    Oops! that reminds me I need to see if the radio is now LOCKED since the battery was disconnected. I told my daughter to check/unlock it BEFORE the battery was replaced. So maybe all is good and it was never "relocked" fingers crossed.
    J
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    John Deere 285 50" deck Stolen May 2017
    John Deere x485 62" deck AWS
    Kawasaki Mule 2510 4x4 bought new 1996
    Ford F250 4x4 bought new 1978

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