Need Mechanics Help - Van Won't Start!

Hello - I have a 2003 Chry. T&C Van. In December 2015 I replaced the starter and starter relay. A few weeks ago (July 2016) my son was playing the radio in the on position and by the time I got to the car - the battery would not start the car. I turned everything off and while waiting for the tow truck I tried to start it and it worked. A few hours later no start. We pulled the battery and took it to be charged and tested. He said it didn’t go to a full charge but it should have enough to start engine. No start and single click only. We thought the rebuild starter was a dud so we replaced that, a new starter relay, and a new battery. We had the new starter tested - it works. Still only single click. We tested the battery, the terminals, at the point of the starter, and all seem to have 12 volts. Can’t find any other ideas online on what it could be. Or What to try next? Any advice would be welcomed.

Sounds to me like your battery is futzed.

If you discharge a lead-acid battery too far, it chemically self-destructs. I’m assuming the guy who tested it did some sort of load test, but it’s still showing all of the symptoms of a weak battery.

You may have other problems as well, but I’d start by replacing the battery and see where it goes from there.

ETA: Never mind. I missed where you said you put a new battery in it. With that in mind, it still seems like it’s not getting enough juice to the starter. That makes me think you have a bad connection somewhere. either at the battery or the starter most likely.

How else could I check the connections? I used a volt meter at the battery, the terminals and all the connections at the starter - all have 12v.

Check the voltage at the battery while trying to start the van. If it drops below 9 volts it’s bad. If it doesn’t, ill bet you have a poor connection either at the battery or the ground straps.

Ground straps are a less-than-obvious problem … make sure they are all cleanly connected … this does sound like a poor connection … it tests fine because you’re only putting a tiny bit of amperage through it … once you put the full load on is when the connection breaks down.

clean the battery cables ends and clean the terminals thoroughly and make sure they are making good contact. You can use baking soda/water mixture if there is crud built up on the terminal ends.

If you don’t plug in your cell phone to be recharged, what happens? The battery drains and it no longer works!

Same thing with cars which are charged via the "alternator. Check the battery voltage when the car is running. It should jump up to 13/14 volts. That means the alternator is working and charging the battery.

A fully charged battery is 12.75 volts - read with the car off.

The spec for being fully charged is 12.6 volts.

12.6 is the voltage for a fully charged conventional old school lead-acid automotive start battery. The type with caps to add water. “Maintenance free” sealed batteries, due to their materials in the plates are fully charged at a bit higher, 12.8 volts. Tenths are important when it applies to automotive batteries as the difference between 100% and dead is less than a volt.

It’s good practice to charge even a new battery, regardless of what the clerk behind the counter says. Not saying this is your problem, but it’s a possibility. But it sounds like there is corrosion in the cables, or in their connections at the block. Everyone knows to clean terminals at the battery but the connections at starter and block are equally important. Assuming the components replaced are OK, there isn’t much that could be the trouble otherwise. Let us know what you find.

I had a strange battery cable problem once.
The cable terminal looked like it had been internally eaten away and carbonized. You could only see it by removing the cable. There was a small hole on the inside edge. Took a couple of channel locks and twisted it up. Broke up. Hollowed out.
It just suddenly stopped working. The headlights would work somewhat dimmed. But the starter would not turn.
Replaced the cable and all was fine.

You can get the correct voltage in a system, but it may not be capable of conducting the required current. That is what happened with my strange rotted battery cable.

Cables are crimped, and the corrosion will lurk under the insulation. It’s good practice to disconnect ground cables and grind down to bright shiny metal at block, frame, and firewall and tighten securely. Neglected grounds cause all sorts of problems. Starters draw enormous amounts of current, so there’s no way to tell if there’s an issue except by “voltage drop” testing under load. A quick field expedient is to turn on the headlights and then crank over the starter. Normally, in a healthy system and battery, the lights will dim somewhat, but not much. If the headlights drop out at the moment of cranking, then that points to bad connections, loose or corroded cables assuming a good battery. Bum starters will present nearly a short circuit as well, but as that has been replaced it is probably not the problem. Remanufactured starters are not specifically too good these days.

Another thing to try, is banging on the starter case itself a few times with a hammer, fairly hard. Oftentimes this will get a starter going a few times more in a pinch. But it’s proof it needs replacing or rebuilding.

I’d like more info on this. Do you have a cite?

It’s been a while but I’m pretty sure my Jeep had the same symptom when I needed a new ignition actuator.

And you can check this by jumping the negative terminal to the engine to give it additional contact. If the van starts then you have a grounding problem.

The possibilities so far are:

-voltage below 12.6 = battery bad
-poor engine ground
-poor positive connection to relay
-poor relay connection to starter
-bad starter relay
-engine binding up - could be accessory going bad

Yep. Car and Deep Cycle Battery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section 4

Scroll down to “State of charge” tables. To reiterate to folks, sometimes we’ll hear people say “But the battery reads 12 volts!”; but that doesn’t tell us enough. Car batteries should really be called 13 volt batteries, they are closer to that when fully charged. And those tenths matter a great deal, a battery that reads an actual 12.0 volts may well not start the car, depending, especially in cold weather. To get a true voltage reading, a digital voltmeter should be used capable of displaying tenths.

Batteries should be allowed to sit overnight after charging to get a true state of charge, as they will hold a “surface charge” immediately after use in a vehicle. An alternative is to turn the headlights on for five minutes (engine off) and then wait ten minutes and measure.

BatteryFaq.org, one of my favorites, probably the definitive site for all things automotive battery, and a sure cure for insomnia.

So far as MY battery goes…

If it reads 12.5, 12.6, 12.7, 12.8… I am not concerned.

But if I see 11.9, 11.5, 11, 10.[something], then I figure the battery is not being charged and I check out the alternator/charging system.