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?