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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Crazy battery.....super secret start mode..solenoid contacts

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91 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 08:59 AM

Ok.....I got a pretty funky story.

This first happened Christmas day/morning. A buddy and I were headed over to a friends' house. We decided to take my car. I get in, turn the key.....notta. Does nothing. I'm pretty puzzled....turn the key off....wait a second...try again. same thing.

Now here's where the weirdness kicks in....and I'm not sure how I remembered this, or where I learned it....I just remembered it. I turn on my driving lights for a second.....and turned them off. Try to start the car, it starts to turn over....then stops. I turn key off....Turn driving lights on, leave them on for a few seconds longer. Then try and start the car. Car starts just like normal.

Meanwhile....my buddy is sittin in the car....who is not really car literate.....he's wondering.....what the hell am I doing.....

Well I'll explain to you how I explained it to him. Again....not sure where I picked this up....or if it was just one of those osmosis things from all the surround info in the air. When batteries get really cold they tend not to perform as well when they are warm or normal temps. Turning on something like the lights draws current through the battery, and in turn "warms" things up...or something like that, and battery functions normally. I'm not sure if this is the proper way to describe this....but it's the only way I can think of.

The battery is the same Optima Yellow top battery I've had for a while now. I know this is definitely not the coldest weather it has seen, it had much colder times up in the North East compared to texas.

The only thing I can think of is I read somewhere that the yellow top should be put on a trickle charger every month or so, just make sure it's "topped off" I would assume the car's charging system would take care of things, but because it is a deep cylce battery, maybe it's different.

I think I'm goin to call Optima and see if they have anything to say. This has happened like 3 or 4 times now. Happened this morning. All times have been cold....not real cold compared to other places, but cold for normal houston people. Like 33 or something.....and it was high humidity today.....if that matters.

Comments, suggestions, recommended loonybins.....

#2 Guest_tolikmolik_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 09:50 AM

I had very similar experience with Justy here in Atlanta. Never a problem at colder and dryer mornings (like 25-30F), but at 33F with 100% humidity I had it several times. I traced it to a very fine film of "stuff" forming between a post and a terminal. When you start there is a huge inrush of current required to spin the starter and this film is enough to prevent it. I solved it the same way as you did: running the lights for a while, seems to help to "dissolve" the film. Couple of times it was so bad that even the lights would not turn on! I had to clean posts and terminals. However, it would return once in awhile on a near freezing mornings. Tired of cleaning posts and terminals every month when they look clean I just replaced the cables and never had this problem anymore. I've seen awfully corroded terminals on friends' cars and they never experienced any problems like that and never bothered to clean it even when I suggested to do so.

#3 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 10:43 AM

Very very very freakin interesting!!!!

I just got off the phone with an optima rep.....he said take it to have the battery checked. if the battery was good it was an electrical problem with the car.

He seemed very quick to blame the car....and I think a little too confident in his dianosis. However for posterities sake, I will probably go have the battery and electrical system checked out, "just to make sure" Once I have that confirmed I will probably pull the cables off, clean everything, and spray the posts and cables with this red corrosion inhibitor spray.

I've actually added additional cables to both the positive lead goin to the alternator, and negative lead going to the car chassis & starter.

So replacing the cables was the cure for you.....did you replace both positive and negative.....or what did you do...?

#4 Guest_st2eelpot_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 12:51 PM

That idea of turning on the lights to warm the battery was shared on this board- it was from a Russian (or was it USSR) car manual for driving in cold weather.


#5 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 01:40 PM


Obviously, something happened when you turned the lights on. I too have read of doing this to warm up the battery. However, I've read of it in a "myths" section. The point made was that you are draining off valuable electrical juice (running the headlights) in an attempt to gain electrical juice (improved chemical action at higher temperatures). It's a crap shoot as to whether you will come out ahead or not. The author of the article I read was of the opinion that you'll end up with a net loss if you do this.

The prior post might be onto something. You may have a poor connection that showed up in the cold weather. Running the headlights could have somehow have improved the "connection". I don't know.

You are now in Texas, right? The sealed batteries are not the best for warm climates. I've read that several times. One has no way to replace lost water. I realize that the Optima is a AGM style of battery, but they can still give off gases. There is no way to replenish. This is one of the things that I noted about the Exide Orbital deep cycle battery I put in my wife's van. It has some sort of gas recombinant system in it. (The Optima may have this too, I'm not sure.) The Orbital can still vent if too much pressue builds up, but it tries to capture and 'recycle' the gases first. I wasn't too concerned since I live in Ontario Canada. We don't get that much really hot weather.

Somewhere in my travels, I thought I read about doing periodic separate charges on deep cycle batteries. That is, with a charger as opposed to the vehicles system. That might have only been for the dedicated deep cycle batteries as opposed to the Yellow Top which is a deemed as a deep cycle / suitable for starting too battery.

<a href="http://www.uuhome.de/william.darden/" target="top">Here</a> is some pretty extensive FAQ's on batteries that I bookmarked some time ago. Maybe you'll find something in there.

Keep us informed.


#6 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 03:07 PM

I'll do some more research and testing.........

The exide orbital battery is actually still a little different then the optima one.......but I'll keep an eye on things and keep ya updated

#7 Guest_97svx_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 03:42 PM

I have heard a similar story from a VW diesel owner who in very cold weather would turn on the interior light to draw some current from the battery and "warm" it up before cranking the starter. He swore by the results.


#8 Guest_kelowna kid_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 05:41 PM

It is not a myth.
I think the Russians know what they are talking about.
Check the first paragraph of the operating instructions in this Niva manual.

#9 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 06:46 PM

<blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>At an ambient temperature below minus 25"C prior to starting give the engine crankshaft several revolutions with the starting crank to facilitate starting. With the same aim in view, switch on the headlights for a few seconds to warm up the storage battery electrolyte. Then depress the clutch pedal, pull the choke knob all the way out and switch on the starter.[/quote]

I'll be damned........I don't know if my issue is the same thing......however it might be......

#10 Guest_kelowna kid_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 07:47 PM

Not at 33 degrees F.

#11 Guest_dgerard_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 08:05 PM

What has likely happened is that your extra load has caused enough arcing and "welding" in the battery post/terminal connection that it lowered the resistance enough to permit the large loads required to flow during the cranking of the engine.

#12 Guest_meep424_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 08:41 PM

Exide orbital and Optima are of the same manufacturer. Actually, the batteries are a joint venture between the two companies. I was told this by the two fellows who own a local battery warehouse. Both also use recombinant chemistry to recycle gassing.

AGM batteries are the Cadillac of lead acid storage. They also have the lowest self discharge rate of the family, minimizing the need for a trickle charger (this is a characteristic of AGM rather than Optima -- if Optima says differently then who knows what they did).

It would take a lot of current to heat the electrolyte, along with all of the lead in a cold battery. Drawing 10 amps over 10 seconds is hardly enough demist the back window; in my opinion laughable to think that it would provide any measurable heat to a 50 pound battery.

I agree with the study mentioned above -- you would significantly discharge the battery in order to provide any significant change in temperature, countering the ability to have power available to crank the starter.

At 32 degrees, and I do not remember the exact figures, but the battery loses about 60 percent of its usable capacity. Therefore, it still has 40 percent remaining -- adequate to start the car.

I would start looking up the secondary wiring (the 18 ga. stuff) for bad connections, starting under the hood where the temperatures are the most extreme.

Josh -- why is it that you get all of the weird stuff??? :-)


#13 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 03 January 2003 - 11:36 PM


Not meaning to doubt you, but do you have anything to back up the joint venture aspect of the Optima and Orbital?

I thought Optima was it's own company that got bought up by Johnson Controls (who makes a lot of batteries under different names). The Orbital is by Exide. It's been a year since I researched all of the stuff about these batteries. Perhaps I missed something. The batteries are <strong>very</strong> similar, that is for sure. I just figured that Exide was copying the Optima.

Just curious, since I can see that people might think they are both coming out of the same factory since they both use the spiral cell design and even look similar (that 6 pack of cans look).

Btw... -25 degrees C is -13 degrees F. In other words... frickin' cold!!


#14 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 12:15 AM

I don't know what the hell is goin on.......I'm just goin to clean the battery posts up, and all the connections and spray some of that corrosion resistant stuff on everything. I've even added extra lines from battery to alternator, battery to starter ground point, and battery to chassis ground point. This wire is 4 gauge wire.

I'm going to do the easy stuff first, and have the battery & charging system checked, just so I can rule it out. I personally don't see how faulty wiring or anything can be causing this......however I could be wrong......I don't know.

Just my luck......I get all the freaky....and completely weird stuff. I can fix all the normal stuff......

As for exide bein part of optima......I haven't heard anythin like that either.

As far as I know they are separate........I would assume there would be somethin on their sites


#15 Guest_dmplatt_*

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 02:01 AM

So a new optima, and the right conditions, and I won't need that new alarm after all!! Sweet!

#16 Guest_meep424_*

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 11:19 AM


I trust the guys (co-owners) of a local battery warehouse who told me it was a joint venture with only small variations on the same design. I've done a bit of business with them and they certainly gained my respect as gearheads.

I missed the NEGATIVE 25 degrees. But I was off on my 60% guesstimate too (I checked your link). They do show a capacity vs temp graph which gives better data to the statement I made. Great Link!

I still disagree that a 10 amp draw over even 60s would add any useful heat to a -25 degree batt, especially w/ lessened capacity. I'm thinking its a temp-related mechanical/connection problem.

Good Luck, Josh!


#17 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 05 January 2003 - 09:51 PM

I cleaned the terminals on saturday, so we shall see what happens. I haven't taken it to get the electrical system checked.....beeen a very busy weekend.

Who knows....

#18 Guest_who1981_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 01:56 AM

I’ve had random freaky problems starting various vehicles with just a touch of corrosion on the terminals (or at the connection to the starter, or ground)
In a Honda Prelude, for instance, all the lights would work and the stereo, but when I would try the starter it would just click once, and all the power would “fade” (lights would dim and the “your door is ajar” beep would sound demonic. :evil: ) then everything would slowwwlllly return to what looked like full power.
But to get it started I either had to get out open the hood and wiggle the connections or just bump start it. So I cleaned the terminals and it helped for 6 months, then it started doing the same thing again. I tried to clean the terminals again, but broke the end of one battery cables. I replaced it with the clamp-on kind, and used some heavy grease on the terminals (The old’boy equivalent of anti-corrosion spray).. Worked great..
I have since had similar problems on other vehicles and traced it to the same cause, corrosion.. The important thing to remember when cleaning the terminals is to get then SHINY (as mirror like as the lead will get.), then treat the terminals (grease works great). And be sure to tighten the connections down TIGHT..

Just My 2 Bits

#19 Guest_TinyClark_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 02:09 AM

I have to agree with dgerard, probably slight corrosion and the larger current draw of the lights arced and provided a path for the start circuit.

A battery warmer is as good as gold in subfreezing temps.

Even with very expensive C130 aircraft batteries, we are supposed to remove and keep them in a warm area if the temp gets below a certain point.

#20 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 08:25 AM

Like I said I cleaned everything up.

This morning was very humid, like 100%, however not so cold, 47 or something.

I went to start it, it seemed to do the same thing......however it was more like it hesitated to start, then did.

I probably need to pull all the connections off, and sand and goop them up. It's just a nussiance.

#21 Guest_st2eelpot_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 04:57 PM

Well, if you want to know about heating the battery, let's throw around some numbers.

First off, the specific heat of lead is amazingly low, at 0.16J/Cg. The specific heat of water is, by comparison, 4.186J/Cg. You can see the drastic difference.

Now if we run a 10 amp draw for 60 seconds at 12 volts, that's roughly 120 watts for 60 seconds, or 120 joules per second for 60 seconds, 7200 joules.

50lbs of lead ='s roughly 22 500g of lead. 22 500 * 0.16J/Cg = 3600J/C. So, for 50lbs of lead, with a 10 amp draw at 12 volts, we just warmed the 50lbs of lead 2 degrees Centigrade, or roughly 4 degrees F.

The water won't warm as quickly (4% the speed of lead) though the theory was for warming purely the electorlytes (hope I spelled that right) in the battery. So, that may be only a portion of the mass to be warmed (the liquid solution primarly). However, since roughly 50lbs of lead takes the same amount of energy to warm one degree as roughly 2lbs of water take to warm one degree and the solution is mainly comprised of H2O, I am willing to say the temperature change will be about the same (at the most) as calculated.

So, you run the headlights before starting the battery will increase the battery temp by no more than 4F/min.

I didn't bother to look up the equilibrium constant of the lead-acid battery chemical reaction to calculate it's relation with cold (as all of these chemical reactions will be affected by the cold), so I can't tell you the real difference 4 F will make on the battery. That, also, may not be a linear function, thus you might need to know the temp of the battery to begin with anyway.

These calculations would be most useful if cross-referenced with that calculation chart, or if I had some rough 'cold-cranking amp' numbers to throw around. I don't have any in front of me.


#22 Guest_meep424_*

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Posted 06 January 2003 - 08:16 PM

from Exide:

80 F --- 100% capacity
32 F --- 65%
-20 F -- 25%

assuming linear (which it's not, but for approximation), at 32 F, a 4 F increase yields 2.9% capacity gain.


#23 Guest_DIGGER_*

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 06:40 PM

My opinion, the batteries toast. When batteries start to loose effectiveness, they have a tendency for the lead plates to sulphate up. When this happens the battery won't conduct efficiently at all. By applying a load when it is cold some of the sulphate is knocked off of the plates and the battery will begin to conduct. Once it sits for a while the sulphates precipitate out onto the plates again, and so on. One way to test the effectiveness of the battery is to charge it fully, then crank the engine over for about 30 seconds or so with the coil wire disconnected. Stop and let the battery recover for a minute or so. Crank the engine again, with the coil wire disconnected and measure the voltage across the posts. It should remain at least at 80% of its fully charged value. Any less indicates a set or two of faulty cells within the battery.

#24 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 10:36 PM

Would a load test performed on the battery show this?

The optima battery uses a sealed design with coils & and a gell electrolyte, so I'm not sure if they will do a similar thing.....

#25 Guest_pmonro_*

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 10:45 PM

For one who comes from a climate where the temperature never falls below freezing it is interesting to hear the problems you have.
Some years ago I was engaged on testing diesel generators that were required to start in temperature of 20C below zero. These were fitted with special low temperature batteries that cost about two or three times the price of normal.
I was interested to hear of the problem with the terminals. Could this be from ice expanding and forcing the terminal from the post? The solution then would be to clean the post and use an oil based paste to exclude moisture.

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