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Old 08-05-2015, 02:59 PM   #1
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Really odd and dangerous issue...

Hey everyone, hoping you guys could help me diagnose this gremlin sounding issue.

Car:
2002 svt 3 door

What it is:
I will be driving down the road, and i notice my stereo cut out (music stops, sub pops, stereo resets). Look down at gauges thinking the engine stalled but the engine is running fine.
I notice my abs light and ebrake light flickering (at the same time, like dash lights would appear if key was in acc position but in flickering intensity).
While this is going on, ill hear what sounds like a relay switching at random intervals in the left hand area of the steering wheel (think ac vent, trunk relase, headlight switch, etc).

Extra info:
- Relay will switch both with the flickering dash lights and also by itself (no lights)
- frequency of occurence holds seemingly no relationship to engine or vehicle speed

History:
- this previously happened before in mid june. When this happened, the car would actually shut off sometimes and this would happen at city speeds as well as highway speeds (thus dangerous).

How i fixed it previously:
- disconnected both battery terminals for 15 minutes, and voila never had an issue again until today.

Recent changes:
- while changing my oil monday evening, i noticed some corrosion on my terminals. Disconnected both terminals, wire brushed it all clean, the added grease when i put it back together.

Possible causes:
- bad bank 1 oxygen sensor. It works (kind of) but i would imagine a new one couldnt hurt.



Has anyone else had issues similar to this? Possible fixes? Thoughts?
I wanna preserve this situation to try to find the root cause before I try any fixes like disconnecting the battery again.


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Old 08-05-2015, 03:43 PM   #2
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Prolly the same thing again. A bad connection can be deeper than a visual inspection would find. The crimp point (cable to terminal lug) sometimes gets corrosion inside the strands of wire (ref pic below). Often bad enuf that requires cutting off the terminal lugs and install new ones. Same thing for the battery ground located on drivers side wheel well.

See pic and red circle



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Old 08-05-2015, 03:59 PM   #3
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That makes sense, however seems unlikely to me. In late april/early may i either put new terminals on each battery connection or ran new wires altogether (big 3 upgrade with 1/0 welding wire). I made really solid connections using flux, solder, marine copper lugs (zinc coated copper), and some pretty thick heat shrink.
I didnt see any issues with those connections, but it very well could be the fender grounding points because ive had issues with those before.
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Old 08-05-2015, 04:18 PM   #4
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Did not know you did a big-3. Prolly no problems there. That cable sounds big-nuff, but you coulda gone bigger...



Yeah, clean those drivers side fender connections real good, all of them.
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Old 08-05-2015, 05:20 PM   #5
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Im carrying electricity, not building a bridge

Ill clean up those fender connections.
Anyone else have thoughts?
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Old 08-05-2015, 07:29 PM   #6
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My sister's car was having trouble with her electronics, some would work, some wouldn't, we think it might have been from her sound system, she has 2 like 18 inch subs in her car, the subs were draining it
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Old 08-05-2015, 08:05 PM   #7
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I'd put money on it being your alternator. I don't have a zetec but my alternator goes out religiously every 60k and does EXACTLY that every time. Radio dies out first, followed shortly by all the gauges and the blinking dash lights. Sometimes a battery light but most of time no battery light and if the battery drops below about 9v when all that happens the car will shut off while driving. I've had that happen on the interstate doing about 80, it's a very violent experience in an auto trans.

I'm on my 5th alternator now, well same alternator but I've rebuilt it 4 times and it's always the same.

After enough run time or miles the brushes are too short for the spring to push it into the commutator with enough force to make a good connection. It's still there but it's a poor connection internal to the alternator and it's intermittent.

The battery light will sometimes illuminate but most of the time it will either come on and go back off pretty quickly or not come on at all until it's even more worn. The reason being the battery light is controlled by voltage not amperage. So even with a weak connection at the brushes it usually can still pass enough voltage to not kick the light on but can't pass enough amps to properly charge the battery.

So you end up actually driving around hardly charging your battery at all and over time while driving it drops and drops until it can't run the car anymore, and the battery light could not come on until the cars shuts off because it is simply looking for a difference in battery voltage to regulator output voltage. Or another way to say it is the light is looking for voltage output from the voltage regulator, not amps. And since the voltage regulator is fine, and it's output directly depends on battery voltage, it can continue to "charge" and not turn the battery light on even though it's not really charging.

Obviously you need to double check your power and ground connections, check the battery itself and make sure it is fully charged and can hold that charge. Also check the output wire from the alternator to the battery for any signs of corrosion or damage, you could even disconnect it and test it's resistance if you wanted to. Also check the wires and connector for the voltage regulator for damage. But I'm still thinking alternator, I've been through those symptoms many times.
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Old 08-06-2015, 01:07 PM   #8
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That's a lot of alternators. I've replaced one alternator ever, in two Zetecs that covered over 350 000 miles between them. That said, test it (and the battery) and find out for sure.

I can't imagine the oxygen sensor causing electrical issues like that, but you'll save some gas and improve performance if you replace it.

I'll add my vote for cleaning up the grounds. Easy and cheap, and it'll either fix it or you'll know that's not the problem.
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Old 09-05-2015, 02:00 AM   #9
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Agreed with the last post. Zx3s don-t 'go through' alternators. I've had 3 zx3s. 2 of them past 200k. Never needed an alternator on any of them. And I have 2 18s also. ;)

The problem you are experiencing is probably either the battery is toast, or the battery cables.
Our cars do 'go through'batteries every couple-3 years and will exhibit those problems.

Pull the two positives from the batt out of their loom that keeps the together. They might be melted together inside the loom or the little tiny super small ground wire (not the larger one) that comes off of the negative batt terminal broke. When that little tiny ground wire breaks, it will make you lose a bunch of stuff. Sometimes the car won't run at all. I've had all those symptoms due to that. Also, check where the positive wire that comes off of the alt's post isn't corroded and about to break. That will keep the batt from charging.

Only thing on our alts that really fails historically is the pigtail that plugs into the alt, but I've never had that problem after 500k with zx3s.

Good luck! 👍
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Old 09-05-2015, 02:13 AM   #10
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Oh yeah, I read about some zx3s having a wire that will break running between the bosy to a door or to the hatch. The tag lights wire going to the hatch can short circuit the car when it breaks if it touches any metal.

If you have an aftermarket radio, pull it out and make sure no wire is being shorted. Your symptoms very much sound like a short if the batt, batt cables, etc test to be good.
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