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The victim: 1999 Impreza with 2.2 engine. Battery went dead and wouldn't hold a charge. Replaced it. Current symptoms (still): dome light, radio, and parking lights position don't work (which to me indicates a dead or shorted circuit). Fuses check OK. Clock goes to 1:00 everytime car is started (indicates to me a dead / broken circuit when key is off, but powered when key is on). Does anybody know of any tests to check for a low amperage short or broken circuit for these symptoms? Anybody got any ideas?

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So the car will start and the Battery is charging when the engine is running?

 

Have you checked both fuse boxes, the one in the engine bay and the one under dash?

 

Check the grounds in the engine bay, up on the drivers front corner and behind both struts. Battery terminals good and clean?

 

Has this been going on for awhile or did it just happen?

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I vote for the fuse box under the hood. Then check your battery cables to make sure they are clean and tight, both ends.

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Yep, first thing I did was clean battery connections and check all fuses, both under hood and by driver's leg. Even pulled the radio (it is an aftermarket installed a couple years ago) to see if any "obvious" loose wires. Checked electrical schematics to double and triple check fuses that seemed to be to those specific items. I have not checked grounds up by firewall (this isn't my car, so I don't have it full-time to doodle with). The battery did have a weak cell, which is why it was replaced. If everything had worked again that would have solved the problem, but the fact that those items mentioned do not work concerns me. I know a low amperage short can drain a battery slowly and not break a fuse (I had this happen once with an analog clock). The new battery will take a while to drain if that's the case, so I'm hoping for a broken circuit rather than a short. Just need help from you experienced folks on tracking the problem. Oh, and I'm not a young buck anymore, so crawling around under dashboards and hoods isn't the easy task it once was! :D

Oh, and it just came up out of nowhere - the part where the radio quit working and the dome light, etc. Car worked on Friday, but then got in Sunday morning and a groan followed by the "click, click" of a dead battery (and no radio, domes, etc. when good battery attached) I suspect the battery was dying before that (an Interstate, still two years left on the "warranty"), but it always started normally. I do believe the alternator is charging, starter good, etc. Everything works fine now that new battery in as far as mechanics go. Just not those items mentioned (and maybe others that I haven't noticed on same circuit or circuits)

Edited by sammich
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This may be two separate issues:

 

1. Make sure the charging system is good. It may still have a problem. If it were me, I would charge the battery, or jump start the motor, so you can drive the car. Then, I would take it to an auto parts store that tests the car's charging system at no cost. They will tell you if there is any issue with the battery or alternator. Be aware that even a new battery can be bad. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

 

2. If the charging system checks out good, then you know for sure that it is an electrical problem. If there is a bad short, then a fuse will blow. If you are not blowing fuses, then like you say check for broken wires or bad grounds. These to me are always a pain in the butt to find, but if you wiggle enough wires, or play with enough switches, the problem can usually be located.

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If you can put an amp meter in the circuit, start pulling fuses 1 by 1 and see where your draw is coming from.

 

Lots of lights share a comon ground so if you lost the ground the lights will not work.

 

On a 97 Impreza, some younger mechanics has cut the radio harness and saw 12vdc on one of the wires. They thought it was the power for the radio, when it was really the ground for all of the dash lights. The ground was provided by the radio or ash tray light.

 

Get the wire diagrams and see where the ground and power are for all the circuits you are concerned with. I bet there is a common wire.

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I "wiggled" some wires behind the struts today. They seemed pretty solid, and sealed as well. When I can get the car I'll take it to get the alternator and battery tested. I didn't put the radio in (done by "professionals" somewhere around Denver), but like I said, that was a couple of years ago and it has worked OK that whole time (everything has, in fact). The schematics that I've been able to see aren't totally clear to me, and when I look at the wire bundles I'm not sure where to start with a multi-meter (though they are color-coded to the schematic nicely)! I HATE electrical problems! I've even considered the ignition switch area (not sure how to get at that) due to the clock indicating total power loss every time the car is shut off, but starting up again (at 1:00, every time) each time the car is started. The dome lights stay off all the time, engine running or not, as do the parking and panel lights when switching parking lights on, and the radio.

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The slow blow fuses under the hood can be difficult to visibly verify if they are blown. Suggest you remove them and check each with a multimeter.

 

The clock is part of the instrument cluster, correct? That would mean the whole instrument cluster is losing power when the key is turned off.

The only thing I can see in the wire diagrams that might make sense, is blade fuse number 2 (should be 15A) in the under-hood panel might be blown, or may have a poor connection. Fuse number 2 provides power to the radio memory, the instrument cluster memory, and the interior/dome lights.

If the radio does not work at all, that could be related, depending on how the radio works internally, or how it was wired by the installer. Installers do not always use the correct harness power wires for memory and main power.

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Re-checked #2 fuse again. Still good (that was the first one I checked when getting started on this). All fuses still check good.

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Did you remove the fuse and check it with an ohmeter? Did you check the fuse connections for corrosion?

Did you check for voltage in the fuse panel? Specifically at the number 2 fuse.

 

Any other electric components not working? Blower fan, rear defrost, glove box lighting, horn, signal/hazard lights, gauges?

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