85' 300D starting problems

Hello, I thought I'd throw this problem into this group to see if someone might be able to steer me in the right direction. So here's the problem: Several days ago I went out to the car (1985 300D in great
shape) to leave for work. This car normally starts right up. This day it did not start. It made a buzzing noise from the dash area every time I tried to start it up. The lights, radio, and other electric items worked (but clearly with less power). When trying to start the car the there was clicking sound but no attempt to turn over. So at this point I figure the battery is too low to start the car. So a friend in her small two door nissan and I tried to jump the battery. After precharging my battery for 5 mintues and with her reving her engine I tried to start the 300D. It attempted to turn over but could not make it. So I called AAA who sent out a truck. With this attempt my car started right up with no hesitation. So it is the battery I presume. So I drive home, park, shut off the car and immediatly try to restart. Nothing! Not even an attempt to turn over. The next day I check the voltage differential between the + and - of the battery. 11.9 Volts. So last night I called AAA's battery truck who will come out for free and check the battery. They came out and tested the battery and told me it is in great shape. They do not feel I need a new one. So they got the started by attatching a portable battery. The car started easily. I drove it around for 15 minutes to charge up my battery. The guy had told me that he thinks it is the cold weather (46 F last night when he came by). He recommends that I get a block heater or park in the garage. I understand diesels have trouble in the cold and I have read in this user group that a block heater is a good idea but I thought when people talked about cold they were talking about 30 F or below. Now if it was not starting because of the cold then after driving around for 15 minutes the car should have been warm enough to start. Well the car did not start after if was well warmed. Immediatly after driving all I could hear when trying to start was that clicking noise. Not even an attempt to turn over.
sorry for the long post. At this point I am curious. Is there an easy and safe method for checking the alternator? I feel maybe the battery is not charging (even though I do read close to 12V on the battery). What else could be going on? Should I drive around for an hour next time to charge the battery?
Thanks for any ideas that might help me trouble shoot this problem. Cable
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You do know you should leave the ignition on for like 15 seconds before started to get the glow plugs hot, right? Richrd

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A block heater won't solve the problem that you describe which is clearly an electrical one.
There are a few suspects: battery, ignition switch, starter solenoid and starter.
If the battery is more than three years old it's #1 suspect.
The next most likely suspect is the starter. It can be "checked" oddly enough by hitting it with a 2 x 4 or tapping it with a hammer the next no start instance. Its brushes are worn and probably not making full contact with its armature - less than full battery voltage, due to the cold, push it past the point of operating.
If you determine that the starter is worn out then replace it with a Bosch, not an over the counter brand X starter for the brand X will not last 19 years as did the Bosch.
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Check your alternator. With engine running you should have 14.2V-14.8V. If less than 14V your alternator is bad. JEC
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You need at least 13.5V to charge battery... 14 can only be attained with engine at higher RPM than idle.
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Hello Cable! I get a feeling you have some contact problem, first loose the battery terminals and clean all contact surfaces until they shine then try again. If that don't work check the minus pole ground connection ( follow the lead from the battery to chassis clean oxide) Also check the ground connection from chassis to engine (clean it) You should also get a proper charge of the battery or it will be destroyed soon. Good luck!!
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could be a bad cell in the batt. if it jumps off with the AAA truck with no problem and your not beating the starter with the board its <the starter> probably ok.
as for the little car not been able to jump it the cables were cheap ones. you can't go by how thick they are as there size really does not tell you what WIRE GAGE they are. also there little ALT does not have the reserve power to top off your batt as fast.
the 3 year rule for batt life is correct. if in dought get a new one!
my 82 240D & 2<82 &84> 300SDs started fine in 10F temps with one cycle of the GLOW PLUGS. also another thing to have checked for winter. my 82 needed a relay box, glow plugs though.
the case, minus a few cans!
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WHat he said. Skinny cables will not alays start a diesel.

Eh. 5 years for a good battery (Interstate, Optima)
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Unfortunately I was unable to figure this one out myself. The local shop found the problem quickly. It was a bad voltage regulator. I didn't even know my car had a voltage regulator. Well I do now after $160 parts and labor. Ouch! Thanks for all the suggestions.
Cable
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