2002 Grand Caravan Sport electrical problem?

I've only owned this van for a couple of years, but have had one problem after another, beginning with the main wire harness melting together shortly after we bought it.
About a week ago, we had to have it towed to a repair shop, and the lights were left on, which drained the battery, and the guy working on it put it on the charger for us.
A few days after that, my wife had to have it jump started. After that, it was acting pretty weak each time it was started. So I took it to Checker to get the battery tested.
They came out and tested the battery and alternator. They said everything was fine, but the battery wasn't fully charged and something was drawing more than it should be.
I wanted a second opinion, so I took it a few miles up the road to another Checker, figuring it could use the charge time anyway. They, too, said that the battery needed some charging but everything else was OK. If anything was drawing more than expected it wasn't noticed.
So I went to Walmart and bought a "Black & Decker BCS25EB 25 Amp Simple Battery Charger with 75 Amp Engine Start" for $75. It's supposed to automatically charge the battery the right way, test the alternator, and also provide a jump start if needed.
I took it home and connected the charger. At first it said the battery needed to be replaced, but after reconnecting the cables, it started charging. The meter said the batter was already at 90%. I went to bed and came back a few hours later. It said it was done, so I turned it off and went back to bed.
The next morning (yesterday), the van started, but it still seemed weak. Last night when I got home, I hooked the charger up to it again, tested the alternator (it tested OK) and then started charging. Again, the charger said it was at 90% to start with. I went inside and came back out an hour or so later to check, and it was down to 20%, and the battery was hot and making noises.
I unplugged the charger and checked the water level (something I hadn't thought of doing before - I wasn't even sure I could open the battery but I found I could just pry off the rectangular plastic covers). The water was low enough in about half of the holes that I could see the plates, so I topped them off with some bottled water to match the others. I then let it cool overnight.
This morning, it was much cooler, but still warmer than it should have been. The van wouldn't start on its own, so I tried out the jump start feature, which did work.
I'm not sure what to do from here. Is it normal for it to heat up when charging? I don't remember it doing that the first night, nor the sizzling noise. I'm wondering if the problem to begin with was the low water, or if that was a result of charging. Was I supposed to have the covers off the water wells while charging? (The battery label actually claims that it's maintenance free, but it does have the removable covers. It's a 2006 Autolite 84). Should I drive the van around and let it's charging system do its job, or is it safe to try the B&D charger some more? Or do I just need a new battery?
Thanks, Trevor
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On Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:00:40 -0600, Trevor Holyoak

Midtronics tester, go to someone who does.
I'm betting your battery is "pooched"
Also, any battery charger (or anything else) with the Black and Decker name is suspect.
Get yourself an Interstate Megatron battery to fit.
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On Mar 18, 6:20pm, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

I think you're right. I tried charging it without the covers on, and I could see the water boiling. An hour of charging filled the garage with a very strong sulfur smell. I took that as my cue to give up, and went and bought a new battery.
Now that it will start reliably, I guess I'll go get the electrical system checked out at a garage just to be safe.
Thanks, Trevor
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On 3/19/2010 12:41 AM, Trevor wrote:

You test a battery with a load tester period. The battery is shot. Go to Walmart, Sam' Club, or Autozone and get a battery. They are all made by Johnson Controls who also makes most Interstates. Batteries are made by 3 companies and the same capacity is the same battery whether sold by x y or z and for $60 or $100.
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wrote:

otherwise OK a load tester cannot tell you that ONLY a Midtronics type transconductance? tester can totally analyse even a discharged battery.
As for being the same battery, it ain't so. Just because it is made by the same company, or even in the same plant, does not mean it is of the same quality.
Some are - some are not.
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On 3/19/2010 10:15 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

If you put a charger on a battery for a while and then hit it with a load tester and the needle drops like a stone, you don't need to search out somebody with a different tester.
Consumer Reports would disagree with your theory as their top rated batteries are all Johnson's but sold in warehouse clubs/chains. A Johnson employee on the lxforums would also disagree with you. With the exception of Sears and some Interstates almost everything else is just a label change.
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wrote:

of those exceptions.
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