I own a 2001 Cadillac Catera with 4500 miles. While driving around yesterday
for the fourth time in the history of this car (on inspection) it would
appear that the battery simply failed. There was no warning of any kind the
previous few minutes to few days. But you drive to the grocery story, make a
5 minute stop, come back and the battery isn't even close to able to crank
The previous 3 times this happened my wife was driving and I was not able to
'play around with the car' before it got towed to the dealer (still under
and extended warranty). But this time it was me.
The battery had enough juice to run the lights and run all the electronics
(other than the ability to call out on Onstar for some reason). But the
headlights dimmed to nothing on cranking and the engine barely grunted on
turning the ignition on.
I am guessing that, once again, the dealer is going to give me a verdict of
battery failure but I can no longer accept this for two reasons.
1) I have never before run into a situation where a battery goes from
cranking just fine to no power what-so-ever without some kind of warning
like weak cranking.
2) I can't believe that Delco batteries are THAT bad (about to go on battery
#4 in 3 years).
Any thoughts on this?
ps. The towing guy first tried to jumpstart the car with some kind of
'standalone' jumper device that supposedly had enough power to start a dead
battery by itself. It was not able to do this prompting the towing guy to
say "wow, this battery is really dead". How in the world can you almost
totally discharge a battery in a few minutes without generating a goodly
amount of heat that I would think would be noticeable.
Thanks for the reply. Both seem like better answers than what I get from the
dealer, but a bad ground seems unlikely to be the culprit since it would
start when jumped and wouldn't start otherwise (unless the ground problem is
causing a slow battery drain). The excessive starter draw seems unlikely
because there couldn't have been more than 1 second of starter drawing
between 'OK' and dead.
Again thanks for the reply.
In principle this has been checked (and the service department appears to be
competent). But reality - not so sure. I really need to get a verdict on
this battery (is it OK or was the fluid way the heck down or whatever
happens to sealed batteries).
I bet that it's the starter or a battery cable. Your starter probably has a
where if it lands on just the right brush when it stops turning, it creates
a massive short.
Or maybe a loose screw or bolt is bouncing around inside of it. The
symptoms you describe aren't usually characteristic of a failed battery,
this has happened as much as you mentioned. What happens is then as
the car is towed to a garage, the rattling and bumping jars loose whatever
is goosed in the starter, and at the garage, they stick in a new battery
and it starts right up, so they assume it's the battery.
If it's a cable, it could be the cable is shorting to the frame, and is
around, occassionally the short goes into contact. But I would bet it's the
starter. I've seen them fail this way before.
What you need to do is take the old battery, stick it on a charger all day
it good and charged up, then let it sit, unconnected to anything, for
Then in the morning you load-test the battery with a battery load tester. I
the dealership is going to bother doing this, (or doing it the right way).
By dumping the power through the battery cables and starter. The heat
won't even be noticed, as the starter is usually already mounted near a hot
exhaust pipe, and the engine will sink away a lot of heat from the starter.
If the battery was dead-shorted, when the tow guy connected his jumper, you
would get a massive spark. But if the battery is merely dead, after a few
of charging it up from the jumper device, you should have been able to at
least turn over the car a little bit.
Thanks, Ted. The other factoid here is that the last time that this happened
they once again replaced the battery (diagnosis - failed battery). I went to
a local shop and had a better battery put in (also a Delco, but this one was
a six year battery). While the dealer might or might not do this, I suspect
that the shop that put the battery in will.
What about a bad cell in the battery? I had this problem with a delco
battery. Sometimes it would start fine and other times it would not
even crank over. I would try to start it really quick and sometimes it
would turn over and start.
fwiw, if it's still under warranty, can you threaten with lemon law type
stuff? Maybe then they'll actually find/fix the problem that's killing
the batteries? I doubt three new batteries would fail that fast. You
have some kind of short/draw/charging system problem that's killing
them. I suspect the dealer is just swapping batteries until the
Three new batteries may fail real quick if they are shelf worn.
What would the dealer have to gain by swapping batteries?
I strongly agree with "You have some kind of short/draw/charging system
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Actually, in this case I don't believe that this is what is going on. From
what I understand the factory pays the cost of the warranty work (have had
two items 'fixed' that I didn't complain about) and this is a very small
town and we are viewed as potential repeat customers by the dealership.
ok, but the dealership is doing themselves a disservice by not fixing it
properly. You're pissed. The car looks like a lemon. GM will probably
stop paying the dealer for the batteries soon because they're not
following proper diagnostic procedures. Then your warranty is going to
run out and you're going to be stuck with a huge bill by a real mechanic
while they figure out what is shorting and killing your battery. The
dealership may mean well - swap the battery and get you back on the road
quickly, but they're not fixing the root cause of problem.
One possibility is that you just aren't driving the vehicle enough to keep
the battery charged. 4500 miles on a 2001 isn't many miles. A constantly low
battery will sulphate and short the cells. If you have onstar, you probably
have all the other bells and whistles that require considerable current
draw. If you do drive it infrequently or only for short trips, It may pay
you to hook it up to a battery charger at least once a week. Or better yet,
buy a maintainer and leave it hooked up all the time.
Based on a short conversation today there is a tentative verdict. It would
appear that it is a cable problem (intermittent and never a complete open).
I'll have more details tomorrow when I pick up the car (amazingly enough,
replacing this cable is a multi-hour procedure).
Will post details when I have them but the folks here were so helpful and
prompt that I thought I'd post what I know when I know it.
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.