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Discussion Starter #1
Wife comes out after work yesterday and van won't start. Gets it jumped by coworker. Runs fine. Later at home, won't start again so I jump it with another van. Runs fine. Get where I am going 30 minutes later, turn it off and immediately try to restart and it turns over briefly and then just clicks. Jump it again and runs fine. Today, charged it on a charger for 2 hours. It wouldn't start on the battery so I start it off the charger. Run it for more than two hours and shut it off. Won't start again. Lights don't ever dim. Everything seems to work fine but clock resets every time.

I took it to get checked today at a couple of auto parts stores with various diagnoses:

One store told me a bad battery, maybe bad alternator. He jumped it but it died when he disconnected the negative battery terminal (which I didn't know he was going to do or I would have stopped him). He said it should keep running if you disconnect the battery.

Another store told me the battery was bad or maybe weak. He didn't disconnect it but said it should keep running if it was disconnected because alternator runs it while engine is on. He tried to jump it with a 1000 amp power pack and it wouldn't start. Connected two 1000 amp powerpacks and started right up. He then tested the alternator and said it was putting out 14.1 volts (a little low he said). He said an ASE certified mechanic in the store said it is the starter if 2000 amps would start it but 1000 wouldn't.

I don't want to take the starter off for obvious reasons unless I am pretty sure that is the cause.

Any testing I can do? Any ideas on fixing this?
 

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If you have a voltmeter, start testing.

To me, you just have a loose or corroded battery clamp.

Test voltage between battery posts (not between battery clamps). If it check ok (over,12 volts), now check voltage between battery clamps, it should be similar to previous reading.

If everything checks ok, now check voltage between batter cables (just after battery clamps). It should be around same as the other two test.

Never, ever disconnect a battery cable with engine running, you can fry something very expensive.

It was ok on vehicles manufactured back on the 70's, but not on newer vehicles with electronic ignition.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, I switched the battery from my other van and it started right up. So I took it back to the store who tested the old battery and said it had 16 CCA instead of 730. They also said the starter tested fine and the alternator was putting out 14.7 volts. So after all that run around, it was apparently the battery after all.

Levy, Thanks for your suggestions. I was going to stop and get a battery for my voltmeter today on the way back to do your steps, but I don't need to apparently. I might do it anyway just to see, but it starts and runs fine now. May the cold snap pushed a weak battery over the edge.
 

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Sounds like you had your vehicle looked at by a bunch of yahoos. :)

Take note if there is a battery drain during shut down.

Battery should last about 5 years. Has it been run down frequently. that's hard on the battery.

Battery voltages:
WHAT IS THE IDEAL CAR BATTERY VOLTAGE YOU CAN HAVE?
Measuring your car battery’s voltage can be a great way to determine how charged your battery might be. The ideal car battery voltage range will provide you with a relevant interval according to which you can measure precisely what the voltage says about the battery’s current charge. A perfect voltage with the engine running is between 13.7 and 14.7V. With the engine off, you should get a reading of 12.6 volts. If the battery isn’t fully charged, it will diminish to 12.4V at 75%, 12V when it’s only operating at 25%, and down to 11.9V when it’s completely discharged. This data and the way it relates to the design of your battery should provide you with some useful insight into the functioning capacity of your car battery.
 
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