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Discussion Starter #1
Weird issue....

The "two years zero problems car" has crashed and burned... Wouldn't start this evening, just a lot of clicking from the solenoid.

AAA came out and jump started it, indicated "the battery is very weak, alternator is fine."

Battery light is ON. Car idles and ran by itself for 30 minutes, but it's unclear whether it will start again.

Here's my disconnect:

I have never seen a battery light come on and indicate a bad battery - it's always the alternator.

BUT AAA guy says the alternator is in fact charging, and the car ran fine once he jump started it.

How are both possible with a dead battery, right off a jump start?

All of this is via text message so who knows if it's accurate....
 

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How old is the battery? The ground and battery terminals should probably get doubled checked too, to make sure they are clean and have good connections. But it just sounds like the battery is no longer holding a charge.
 

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Is it putting out the proper voltage when running? 14.4 at the + battery terminal. Bad voltage regulator, still charging but maybe one of its' internal components is bad?
 

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Yeah, something not adding up. You have to get your hands on it. I can't imagine a Saab running 30 minutes on a battery even if the battery was very good. I have zero faith in an AAA technical analysis of anything.
 

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What is battery voltage when engine is not running?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I am 500 miles away, everything I know is via text message. :(

The battery is almost exactly two years old, a NAPA Legend I bought when I bought the car. It's under warranty.

The battery cables looked great in September when I last saw it, no reason to suspect anything has changed.

I assume that the AAA guy put a meter on it after jump starting it, and that's how he determined the battery was low and the alternator fine. But I can't see any scenario where there is 14v at the battery and the light is on.

Bah.
 

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The AAA guys have a device that supposedly measures the charging voltage, the battery, etc. They don't look at numbers, it just displays a message about conditions.

Similar long story short... I was picking up my car after leaving it for a few weeks 300 miles from home. Battery had died. Ran with a jump. I was concerned about driving 300 miles through the relative wilderness with a possibly damaged battery (ain't the first time it's run down, unfortunately). I stopped in at an Autozone on the route to buy an overpriced battery to carry on the trip as a backup; figured I'd return it if all went well. The guy in the store offered to put his tester on the car and see what it reported. It said my battery was OK (it had been charging at idle for 45 mins after jump start), but my alternator was bad. Made no sense to me.

Months later, alternator is still fine as is battery. Even sat for months without a charge (disconnnected cable) and was ready to start with no issues. Conclusion: Those testers aren't worth shoot.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Makes sense.... I've seen those inductive testers from a distance, but never up close. Maybe next time it's here I will install a voltmeter in it... unless the week ends with me forking over a pile of cash to a shop I've never been in. Boo.

I'm 100% sure my "make sure you drive it 20 miles in one drive per week" advice ended up nowhere and that it's just doing a bunch of deleterious 2 mile trips. The situation isn't a surprise, but it's still frustrating.
 

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If I was on the jury, I'd weight the evidence of the light being on and the battery being flat considerably higher than the testimony of the AAA guy. Unfortunately you don't get to cross-examine him.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Unfortunately the witness providing that testimony isn't 100% reliable. None of the information I have is truly reliable.

After several inquiries yesterday morning, I finally got a text back saying "The light is off, everything is fine." Clearly some inaccuracies have been reported, but I will probably never know what, but apparently the car did 100+ miles yesterday without incident.

I told her to take the car over to NAPA to get the battery tested and replaced if necessary, today, before it ends up out of warranty and this becomes a cost. I think when next I see it (February or March) I will probably replace the alternator, just in case. You know, assuming it doesn't become necessary before then.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I can't get to that question, because there isn't a voltmeter available. Even a 13mm wrench (so the battery could be taken to NAPA) wasn't available.
 

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I can't get to that question, because there isn't a voltmeter available. Even a 13mm wrench (so the battery could be taken to NAPA) wasn't available.
You could buy a cheap one at HF and send it. They aren't the most durable devices but they do an acceptable job of measuring basic voltages at a cost of < $10. A couple photos and most anyone could do the off battery / on charging test.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The thought occurred, but my experience with these people and remote hands is... not good. And, I suppose, really problem is less finding the issue and more fixing it. It's easy to find someone to accurately test an alternator, a bit more difficult to find someone to replace one properly and not charge a million dollars for it. :| (Obviously) I have a really hard time paying someone $500 to do what I could do in an hour. ;)

I need to find a good OBDII app for iPhone... Torque only works on Android phones. An OBDII app could tell system voltage with car off and car on, easily.

Edit: I wonder if OpenSID can do that?
 

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I haven't seen any voltage measurements in Open SID: https://www.saablink.net/forum/performance-modifications-ng900-old-9-3/7544.htm. There's something about battery in there, but I don't think it's what you need... and charging voltage isn't there.

Perhaps a cheap Android tablet? They can be had for short money. My thought with testing was that you might be able to avoid buying an alternator if not needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
It reports system voltage, which should do the job... car off it should be battery voltage, car on it should be alternator voltage:

ActuActualIn.U_Battbattery power in Volts
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Maybe this is the solution...

The problem with a cheap Android tablet is that it will be lost. Years ago I bought a pretty decent OBDII reader to go with the PT Cruiser I gave her... It wasn't needed until it was, at which point she assured me I had never given her such a thing. The next time I was down there I found it more or less right where I'd left it a year and a half before. I'm sure the same fate would befall an Android tablet. :(
 

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I was able to run my car with the battery light on (a 9-5, '02) for about 2 hours to get home, driving on the highway. Minimal electrical accessories. I replaced the alternator and the battery light was no longer on (so it was definitely the alternator).

Just some info for ya that might suggest it is indeed the alternator. I have experienced a bad alternator in my Saab's twice, indicated by the battery light, and NUMEROUS bad batteries, never indicated by the battery light

In my experience, when the battery light comes on, the alternator is never fully dead. I've surmised this by noticing if you actually rev the engine the battery light sometimes went away, meaning that the alternator is actually 'trickle charging' the battery, but not by enough to actually run the car for an infinite amount of time, hence the battery light. But maybe for, like you experienced, 30 minutes idling, or in my experience, 2 hours driving
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Yeah, that's my experience as well across the board, Saab or no Saab. It really doesn't make any electrical sense that "bad battery" would result in an alternator putting out <13v, or whatever the threshold is for the light not to go off. It's definitely on the table that the alternator is weak, and maybe Tuesday was a bad day. Of course that means it will get worse.

Maybe I will send down one of those portable jump start packs in case of emergency, until I can swap the alternator.

I suppose the other possibility is that the car has just about done the two years expected of it, so I might cut bait and replace it.
 
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