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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I did find and have gone through half of cdaily's guide on this subject so far.

What started this (I think) was a grand idea of washing the engine bay. Did the same to a '86 'Yota and my '97 Saturn. Both the 'Yota and Saturn are fine (between this and the "quality" gearbox I'm not sure I want to keep it, but I'll give 'er a fighting chance). After doing that it started fine but I noticed the battery light and brake fluid lights on. Brake fluid was kinda low, and being on a slope made it think it was really low, fixed that and the light went out. The Battery light would go out if I jabbed the throttle so it'd rev above 2k rpm. This was about a week ago.
I started it up Friday (no problems other then batt light on) and let it idle for ~5 minutes. I came back to it having "stalled" and a battery voltage of 10.xx volts (first thing I checked after it not re-starting).

1-10 (from the "guide"s numbering) check out fine but now I can't start it. Pretty much 12.06v across the board, except the field wire->'D' terminal which gave 11.16v.


I've been thinking it's the voltage regulator (mostly because it's $30) but w/o having turned on the thing does that seem the best idea?
 

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You will need to charge the battery fully before you go on with the tests...

The voltage regulator is a likely culprit. Unscrew it and inspect the carbon brushes. If they're short or have irregular ends, they're likely at fault. You can get replacement brushes for pretty cheap and repair the regulator that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So it may be just the brushes "in" the regulator and not the whole "module"?

I charged the battery, my charger is old and won't get it above 12.5 volts though.
With the engine running (battery light on) all tests were the same. I tapped the gas pedel (made the battery light go out) and they jumped up to the 14.2-14.3v range. So somethings hinky with the alternator, if it's just the brushes that should be a easy $5 fix.
 

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fetchitfido said:
I charged the battery, my charger is old and won't get it above 12.5 volts though.
That's an indication of a bad battery, not a bad charger.
With the engine running (battery light on) all tests were the same. I tapped the gas pedel (made the battery light go out) and they jumped up to the 14.2-14.3v range.
That indicates an alternator charging properly.

Dirty/corroded battery terminals could cause those symptoms.

Clean terminals.
Charge battery.
Test alternator.
 

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It would probably take less time to just take the batt. to advance/autozone and have it load tested, provided you have one close by.
 

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fetchitfido said:
I charged the battery, my charger is old and won't get it above 12.5 volts though.
With the engine running (battery light on) all tests were the same. I tapped the gas pedel (made the battery light go out) and they jumped up to the 14.2-14.3v range. So somethings hinky with the alternator, if it's just the brushes that should be a easy $5 fix.
The alternator should give about 12-13v at idle, going to 14-14.5v above about 1000rpm. That's what it's meant to do.

I'm with Jim. Alternator's fine. Battery's dead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'll have the battery load tested a Napa tomorrow. Advance Auto and Autozone are 50+ miles from me...and Napa seems to hire the smart people. Maybe the local one just got lucky...lol
 

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fetchitfido said:
So it may be just the brushes "in" the regulator and not the whole "module"?

I charged the battery, my charger is old and won't get it above 12.5 volts though.
With the engine running (battery light on) all tests were the same. I tapped the gas pedel (made the battery light go out) and they jumped up to the 14.2-14.3v range. So somethings hinky with the alternator, if it's just the brushes that should be a easy $5 fix.
If it's not getting over about 12.5 to 13 volts on the battery terminals with the engine running and the voltage regulator enabled (charging light on the dash off), check what happens after you switch the engine off.

If the terminal voltage starts to decay straight away and drop down below 12 volts after a few minutes, you either have a sick battery or something is still pulling a lot of current. Most likely it would be a sick battery, though if the water/acid level on each cell chamber is down a fair bit (at or below the top of the plates), that would also reduce the battery's capacity to hold charge. So it can pay to check that as well and just make sure that the battery itself is in good condition, then look elsewhere. Adding a little distilled water to each cell to get the level up to the correct point can make quite a difference if the water/acid level is well down on what it should be.

If the battery terminal voltage doesn't decay quickly after switching off the engine, suspect the voltage regulator (brushes or the regulator electronics could be bad), and check that the alternator is properly grounded to the engine block.

You should get a minimum of about 13.5 volts at the battery terminals when the engine is running with the voltage regulator working properly (which also means good brushes too), with an optimal voltage of about 13.8 to 14 to correctly charge the battery and overcome it's internal resistance.

The battery should maintain about 12.5 to 13 volts when everything is off and the battery is in good condition.

Craig.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Battery still says 12.2v after sitting all night. I would think if there was still a draw on it it'd be lower then that.

It's gotta be something in the alternator. If I just start the engine and let it idle, the battery light doesn't go out. When I tap the gas (rev it up a bit) the light goes out...which I don't understand how it'd do that if the battery were at fault. I'll take it out and have the battery checked anyway, it's free and won't take very long.

How do you add water/acid to a maintence free battery anyway? I've never owned (may never have seen either) one you have to add stuff too...
 

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Usually there are little caps on top of the batter you can pop off and fill with water.

Just because the voltage reads ok with no use doesn't mean that the battery is maintaining good charge/outputting proper amperage while under load.
 

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I am a ex-mechanic, now an DIY.

For about $60 or less I have the multimeter, charger, and load tester - shopping around pays.
And I feel that all of this equipment is necessary for the "high mileage" car owner.
I'd love to see Saab make the commitment to the "high mileage" owner. This includes adequate gages(oil temp, volts/battery condition, trans oil temp).
12.2 volts is not indicative of a good battery. It must be charged externally and then retested.
13.5 to 14.5 should be the charging "lite load" volts.
13 to 14 are OK, IMO, for "heavy load" charging volts.
I go by the gauge on the load tester - a $30 unit - OK for the tolerant DIY - not professional.
Last year, my bluebird passed, as did the Honda(old battery), both with flying colors.
This year, the Honda, with a 4 year old battery, 160K miles, still passed.
Not so with the '96 900 with its $73 brush/regulator set.
She failed the "heavy load" charging test.(only 12.6 volts).
The red warning light(which is useless in my book) never glowed.
Be thankful for your low parts prices.
I'd like to see a sticky FAQ on this battery/charging system service.

lite load charging volts : nothing ON but the ignition and fuel pump, and juice for the clock and ECU

heavy load : everything ON but the battery killing sub-woofers


.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
2 testing contracptions at NAPA say the battery is fine, a tad low voltage though. He used a mechanical tester (I've seen it for $60) and a digital one that aparently has diagnostic stuff to (think I've seen it for roughly double the mech. one). It did drop 1v with the load test using the mechanical tester (battery is low on the "v"'s cause my charger sucks and I probably didn't leave it long enough).

Would a slipping belt cause this (the alternator not working 100% of the time)? The problem seems to go away when I hit the gas pedal (rev it just a little bit). I thought of that on the way back from getting the battery tested. Any tension adjustment to it?

I honestly don't understand how a problem with the battery would go away when the engine it reved up a tad (and doesn't come back till I shut it off).

I'll leave it on the charger tonight, see what it says tomorrow. If it really is a battery problem then it's goona wait 'till I get a decent sized IC so I can put a decent sized battery where the stock IC is. Stupid little mini things they both are...
 

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Just 2 weeks ago my charge light came on at idle, and only at idle. That was on the way to work one day. I thought I was fine for the trip home, and the car started fine, reassuredly, when leaving work. Everything was fine on the way home, but I had to wait at a couple of lights and the light came on while idling again. When I pulled up to the last light on my trip home, I took my foot off the gas, and WHAM-O! Dead car. No starter, nothing! A donor battery from my Porsche got it home.

I had some issues months ago with charging, but I fixed a loose ground wire on the alt, put in new brushes and things worked fine for a while... no issues until the aforementioned light at idle.

My alternator looked as old as dirt, possibly older. I took out the brushes and looked at the copper collar that the brushes ride on (slip ring, maybe?) and there were deep grooves worn in it. I'm guessing that was the problem, or at least one of them.

I didn't even get out my volt-meter, just went ahead and put in a rebuilt alternator with new brushes, and things are right as rain again. The rebuilt alternator had no evidence of grooving whatsoever on that copper collar.

That's my 1/50 of a buck...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
A bit over 12 hours of charging and the battery seems to be holding 13.2v (out of the car). I'll see what it does in the car in an hour or so...hope I didn't overchage it.

No tensioning options? I'll have to look closer myself then. Stupid A/C condensor gets in the way of easy looking.
 

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fetchitfido said:
No tensioning options? I'll have to look closer myself then. Stupid A/C condensor gets in the way of easy looking.
Nah, you can see the adjustment absolutely fine - and even get to it... It's adjusted by the swing of the alternator. Loosen the 16mm bolts top & bottom, and slacken the 10mm adjuster bolt to move it in, tighten to move it out. Then pinch the 16mm back up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This is an interesting problem. I put the newly charged battery in, started up nice and easy...with no battery light on. I let it idle for ~5 mintues to let it warm up/show a problem. Nothing. So I took it out on what turned out to be a 5-10 mile test drive.
It really really really likes the Shell V-Power gas :D Only backed down the boost once, instead of quite often. Guess the 5 month old crap finially burned off. Made me want a 5pt harness.

No problems during the drive other then a oil burning smell...would a leak in the exaust manifold gasket cause an oil leak? It's rather shiny below it (coolant level is fine, nice green color). Or the valve cover gasket? I can't see underneath that.

So the problem was gone for the drive, and I guess I know what to do when the battery light is on at idle again. Maybe it'll come back when I take it to class this afternoon.
 

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Measure the voltage at rest, at idle and at 2500 rpm.
Then measure the voltage at idle and at 2500 rpm with every electrical device in the car on (high beams, heater fan, rear defroster, radio...).
Report the results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'll try for 2500 rpm....the tachs mostly MIA.

Rest: 12.93v
Idle (~1000rpms): 14.03v, with everything on 12.92v (either the alt isn't keeping up or the battery's dead isn't it? :()
~2500rpm (dunno exactly...just pulled the other end of throttle cable a bit, no 2nd person here to help): with everything on: 13.4v

For everything on I did the headlights (not highbeam...just saw that), fan on "3", 4-ways, rear defrost and the recirculate button in.

Just as long as it lasts the 10 miles (and 2 starts) I need it to tonight I'll be ok.
 

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All those numbers are perfectly normal.
If you have further trouble, repeat the above tests.
 
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