Boat transporter has an issue, car people

My faithful truck has developed a starting problem. This started with cold weather. It doesn’t have enough juice to crank after a cold night. If I put it on the slow charger it will crank after a few hours.
To me that means either the battery is shot or something is bleeding it.
I took it to Advanced Auto. The battery, starter, and alternator checked good .
Where to check next?

Battery cables, grounds, belt may slip at higher RPM


Take it to a local generator or truck repair shop. The auto parts places are not set up (nor are their personnel trained) to do a full work up on auto electrical troubles. I worked in the office of my long-ago ex’s foreign car repair shop – though he was a pretty good mechanic and had a lot of diagnostic tools he would always send cars (our own or customer’s) to a nearby generator shop for quick answers and repairs. Trying to nail down an auto electrical fault is a pain (and I say that despite having been an electrician for 40 years)

Though I admit my first thought would be that you need new cables, especially if the weather has been cold AND damp. How old is the battery? If you drove to Advanced Auto you would have a fresh charge on it so they would not get the results you would after having it sit all night.

1 Like

That suggests you have something using electricity even when idle, as you wondered. Anything you installed after market?

Test for abnormal draw when everything is off.

1 Like

I had a similar issue, it was a corroded grounding strap from the engine to the chassis. Should be easy to check and fix if necessary, car was 16 yrs old at the time.

1 Like

If the battery is 5 years old or so just replace it. The auto parts store would tell you if the alternator wasn’t charging like 14v. That test is not rocket science. If once you trickle charge it and starts and you run it and warm it up and try again and it starts right up it is a super high probability the battery is not shot but close enough that it will work in the summer and not in the winter. It is then time for a new battery or carry a jumper cable with you.

We live up on the Great Lakes and 99% of the batteries I have replaced were right around this time of year. I just put one in the tractor a couple weeks ago. It was acting just like yours.

1 Like

I always carry jumper cables and have only needed them for other people. I’ll check that corrosion with a little baking soda help.
Not a bubble from the baking soda and water mixture.

If you jumped it and drove it to the store, it would probably test just fine. I had one that was dead every morning, but would test ok. I would run it to charge it up, take it out and let it sit overnight then load test it to isolate the battery from the vehicle. Seems like batteries only last 3 to 4 years anymore if you live anywhere that has extreme heat or cold.

The plates inside the battery slowly dissolve and the space at the bottom fills up with this sludge stuff. Once it reaches the plates they begin to short and lose charge over night. A cold engine is harder to turn over and all this combines to make a no start.

My dad used to turn the battery over and flush it out add new acid and get another year out of them. That was 50 years ago. Now you trade it in and you are done.

1 Like

This battery is less than 3 yo. We have summers in the 90+ range. Our winters are mild.
Bad battery is looking more like the cause.

That’s an excellent suggestion. I had an older car with a bad ground somewhere (never did find it) and the battery would drain even with new batteries. I ended up putting a quick disconnect clamp on the battery terminals but had to remember to disconnect and reconnect each time I stopped the car for more than an hour or so. Pain in the neck and lost all my radio presets but the repair shop said it would be an expensive electrical diagnostic test/search otherwise.

  1. I’ve had a few batteries that died much earlier than their rated lives. Only one of them was defective. The other ones just didn’t get driven the “normal” frequency that most people do. Even if jump-started (from the dead) or slow-charged (before too much drain has happened), repeated incidents of drawing way down seem to result in holding a charge a shorter time. Now I know it probably means time to get a new one.

Read about what sulfation does to a lead-acid battery, even the expensive AGM type.

  1. IMPORTANT: Batteries lose charge FAST in a hot environment. Batteries in places like Phoenix are notoriously short-lived. In a cold climate, you can remove a fully-charged battery from a vehicle that is not driven for long periods and it will hold that charge (stored off the floor or ground, kept dry) for a long time. Supposedly in a hot environment, even sitting out of the vehicle a battery drains fairly fast.

I do believe SC might fall into the hot category.

  1. If the car is anything built since the early ‘00s, the electronic always-on monitoring gizmos means that vehicle cannot sit unused for weeks, like the old ones can.

  2. I switched from the inexpensive, simple battery maintainer to a large, fancy “smart” one that works very well. Unlike the basic trickle chargers, this one adjusts the charge rate, depending on the size, type, and purpose of the battery. After hooking it up, it evaluates the charge state and starts with a higher charge rate (if necessary), decreasing that after the initial phase. Once the battery is fully charged, it drops down to a maintenance state and can be left connected.

If you can stomach the initial higher price of such a unit, it might be something to consider if you don’t use the vehicle frequently. My truck is used frequently enough much of the year, but in winter it might sit unused for a few weeks at a time.

Advanced Auto recently bought DieHard batteries my old Advance Auto battery died after 3 months and they replaced it with a new Die Hard now keeping my fingers crossed

1 Like

A weak battery is the number one reason for slow/no starting when the weather gets cold. Get a $10 multimeter and test your battery first thing in the morning before starting it. If it reads under 12v, it’s time to replace the battery.

Storing a battery off the ground does nothing. It’s doesn’t ground out to the floor. Putting wood below it does nothing.

1 Like

Schumacher battery maintainer is 100 times better than Deltran battery tender. Schumacher gives you read out on you battery and will analyze and tell you if it’s bad and percent of charge. They are 40 bucks and last.
Remove battery terminals clean and put them back. Make sure they are not stretched to much.

CTA Tools 3125 Battery Terminal Spreader and Cleaner

Schumacher SP1297 Fully Automatic Battery Charger, Maintainer, and Auto Desulfator - 3 Amp, 12V - For Cars, Motorcycles, Lawn Tractors, Power Sports, Marine Batteries

Thank goodness there’s no batteries in kayak’s like cars and boats.

Small solar panel inside on your dash will keep battery’s maintained if not used much. Plug into you accessories plug leave exposed to sun not in the shade.

It is much easier to prevent the battery from excessive cold if it is stored above ground or floor. Most people don’t store auto batteries on their bedroom or living room floors but in a basement or garage, which might not be heated.

I was not recommending a specific brand of maintainer over Deltran, but it wasn’t Schumacher anyway.

I have a clue: for the first time in 3 days, it cranked immediately. It was a mild night but I have an after market back up camera that was partially unplugged. I made sure it was unplugged last night.
The hunt continues. Colder weather due Monday.

I recommend Schumacher.