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Hello, I'm new to this, and haven't really seen many posts related to this in the past five years, but here goes:

I drive an '01 ZX3 with the Zetec engine. I recently decided to get a new battery since I was having problems with the last one (it was small, didn't even take up the entire battery compartment). The battery would die after long times without starting the car (I'm a student, so I would go months without driving it. Recently, my dad was trying to sell it, and he had been starting it to show people, and it wasn't having problems). I've been reading about parasitic drains since my further problems occurred, and that may have been it. Anyway, I chose to bring the car with me to school. That's when I decided to get a new battery, so I had one less thing to worry about. I got the battery yesterday.

I buy the battery, and the guy at Advance Auto helped me install it. All is good. Then I put the key in, turn to accessory mode, dash lights turn on, gauges work, then I turn to ignition, and everything dies. The engine doesn't turn over, nothing. Dash lights and gauges died too. Even the ding from having the door open and key in ignition didn't work. It would try to start dinging, but not have enough power, so it would just click repeatedly.

We figure the battery was faulty, so we get another. He tested the old one; it was completely empty. He tested the new one; it was charged. The new battery had just been shipped in the week prior; he pulled it right off the pallet. We install it, and the same thing happens. He tells me it's my car, and there's nothing he can do about it. I ask if he can try jumping it, and he insists it won't work. I wasn't having that, so he gives me the portable jumper, we jump it, and it starts right up. He unplugs it, and I leave the car running for ~20 mins while I get info for a mechanic (just in case) and buy back my old battery.

I drive back to campus, and a block from my parking lot the orange/yellow exclamation point light on the left starts flickering. The car starts losing power, and it dies right on the hill. I rolled it backwards into another lot. Then, the same ding-clicking and lack of any ignition activity persisted (also, the fuel gauge was left at the reading it was at on the hill instead of going to empty as it normally does when the car is turned off - that's just a side note).

I got a friend of mine to jump my Focus with his truck. It started right up. I remove the negative cable, fine, then remove the positive cable, and the Focus dies. We jump it again, it starts, take off the positive first, and it dies again.

Today, I tried to jump it using my old battery. I set it all up, the dash lights and gauges all turned on (I forgot to test signals and headlights), and when I turn the key to ignition, I hear the ignition switch click, but nothing happens. No turn over, nothing.

So that's my story. My main question is, If my car entirely drained TWO new batteries, where the heck is that energy going? There weren't any sparks or heat/smoke anywhere in the car when I turned the key, so where did it go?

I'm hoping it's something simple like a faulty alternator, but if it's that, then why did the old battery start and work/charge just fine until I put a new one in?

Anyone, I'll take any suggestions, please.
 

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"and a block from my parking lot the orange/yellow exclamation point light on the left starts flickering"

This is your check transmission light, looks like a gear with cogs right? can you take it to autozone and have it checked for codes? or do you know someone with a code scanner?

"I remove the negative cable, fine, then remove the positive cable, and the Focus dies. We jump it again, it starts, take off the positive first, and it dies again"

BTW you shouldnt take the battery terminals off while the car is running. Can mess up your alternator and electronics.


How are the battery cables looking? I believe I read a couple things here about the zetec's melting alternator plugs, so maybe check that.
 

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You're fairly new to the game or you certainly wouldn't be removing main battery cables while the car is running. The alt sees the battery as load and adjusts for it at 12 volts, it can go to 75-100 volts with no load to relate to. A BIIIIIIIG mistake, and could care less what the 95 other experts you may list say otherwise about that. If the alt has fired diodes bad then the AC coming out of it then fries your PCM and other modules, the battery is an AC absorber and stupid (considering the action NOT the person!) to take it out of the loop.

'The battery would die after long times without starting the car (I'm a student, so I would go months without driving it.'

Normal. Do you really expect it to last forever when the PCM draws power all the time? The single biggest reason for people now having to change 2 year old batteries now, people failing to realize that and 3-4 times and battery is garbage. That alone has added another $25 to battery prices in the last 5 years. The warranty issues with people who don't get it. New cars now are sold with a switch that opens up battery circuit while car is being shipped, it then gets switched on when buyer wants it. If car sits you disconnect a terminal and all is well but you still have to keep it charged. Two months at a time sitting is simply ruining battery.

'I recently decided to get a new battery since I was having problems with the last one (it was small, didn't even take up the entire battery compartment).'

This seems to imply the battery physical size was changed. If so, you should know that Focus batteries are tightly enclosed, practically anything bigger you put in will move points in space to make post(s) hit the hood and possible worse if you moved post locations. Why the plastic cover. No big short if only barely touching but dead battery in a few minutes. The car jumps readily because hood is open at that time. I'd be looking for contact on hood, seems like your problem crops up every time you close it. Also, moving a Focus positive terminal can of itself mess them up, they are not robust and known for going bad inside the cable to produce major issues. That if the post location changed. If the terminal is well cleaned then they fit loose even if you twist the bolts off clamp. Grab terminal and see if you can turn it by hand, garbage if you can.

A proper size SMALL Focus battery (490 amp!, whopping for a four cylinder) will crank and run car all day long but you simply cannot leave it for two months at a time, that ain't gonna work but guess you know that now.......

'I ask if he (Advance Auto) can try jumping it, and he insists it won't work. I wasn't having that,...'

He's smarter than you, he already sees a major issue there that can now destroy HIS equipment, what they are trained to do. BTDT, but I would not have caved in.

'Today, I tried to jump it using my old battery. I set it all up, the dash lights and gauges all turned on (I forgot to test signals and headlights), and when I turn the key to ignition, I hear the ignition switch click, but nothing happens. No turn over, nothing.'

LOL, you do have to charge it back up FULLY and loadtest since you early on decided it was bad. What part of that did you miss? Old battery may still even be good but not like that.

I see plenty of car owner self created grief here.................no insult intended at all but somebody has to say it...............
 

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Sitting a car can and will drain the battery over time, even disconnected battery's will discharge over time, very slowly but it is still happening (why do you think there is a market for battery maintainers).


In regards to the size of the battery, what group did you put in there, if it is anything besides a 40R (Bigger then 96R lengthwise) or a 96R (The 2 listed as fitting, though the 96R is stock on the DOHC and doesn't completely fill the tray, i have one in my car :p), it is the wrong size battery and could also be causing issues (putting stress on the cables, or shorting for example).

To look at why it wasn't starting, again the first battery might have been a Dud, but the second is likely good, the issue sounds more like a wiring (ie the cables) issue. ZETEC models are rather l known for the issues of the cables even coming off of the terminals or moving even after being secured (have had mine loosen itself enough to watch it like a hawk), it is possible then when jumping the car you shifted the cable back into place, if the positive terminal wire is damaged or doing this the random cutting out would also make sense(just my 2cents). On this note, the grounds in the engine bay are also known to cause a long list of electrical gremlins if they are not grounding correctly (gotten corroded for example), so those are always worth checking up on/cleaning for good measure.

A volt meter would be useful for voltage numbers (ie what is the current battery voltage/if it is running what is the voltage then), and would help narrow this down as it would give a better idea of the cars battery and charge system state. Not continuing to run could very well be a alt issue, but its far cheaper to multimeter things first before throwing money at the issue. If the battery is low, charge it then try this as if the alt is dead, the car will start, but the volt meter should see the voltage at the battery dropping rather then going up (to the 13-14 volt rage that the alternator outputs). For instructions see Here


When you say you removed the cables (+ve and -ve) were you talking about the booster cables or the battery terminals? It isn't clear and as AMC pointed out, one of the 2 is a big no no. This must be asked because people really do unhook the battery terminals on a running car to preform a rather bogus alternator test... you know, because a volt meter is such an expensive item[?|]
 

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Yeah, like ten bucks is too much....

I have a car that sits months at a time, I charge battery maybe once every two months, with cable disconnected it leaks down quite a bit slower, maybe half the amount. Slow enough you can stay on top of it but you DO have to.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
BTW you shouldnt take the battery terminals off while the car is running. Can mess up your alternator and electronics.
And to amc49 as well, I'm not removing the terminals, I'm removing the jumper cables. Believe it or not, I'm not an idiot. I don't have much experience, but I'm not that dumb.

I don't have time to read the rest of the replies right now, but I just wanted to clear that up. Sorry if it was worded incorrectly.
 

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You're fairly new to the game or you certainly wouldn't be removing main battery cables while the car is running. The alt sees the battery as load and adjusts for it at 12 volts, it can go to 75-100 volts with no load to relate to. A BIIIIIIIG mistake, and could care less what the 95 other experts you may list say otherwise about that. If the alt has fired diodes bad then the AC coming out of it then fries your PCM and other modules, the battery is an AC absorber and stupid (considering the action NOT the person!) to take it out of the loop.

'The battery would die after long times without starting the car (I'm a student, so I would go months without driving it.'

Normal. Do you really expect it to last forever when the PCM draws power all the time? The single biggest reason for people now having to change 2 year old batteries now, people failing to realize that and 3-4 times and battery is garbage. That alone has added another $25 to battery prices in the last 5 years. The warranty issues with people who don't get it. New cars now are sold with a switch that opens up battery circuit while car is being shipped, it then gets switched on when buyer wants it. If car sits you disconnect a terminal and all is well but you still have to keep it charged. Two months at a time sitting is simply ruining battery.

'I recently decided to get a new battery since I was having problems with the last one (it was small, didn't even take up the entire battery compartment).'

This seems to imply the battery physical size was changed. If so, you should know that Focus batteries are tightly enclosed, practically anything bigger you put in will move points in space to make post(s) hit the hood and possible worse if you moved post locations. Why the plastic cover. No big short if only barely touching but dead battery in a few minutes. The car jumps readily because hood is open at that time. I'd be looking for contact on hood, seems like your problem crops up every time you close it. Also, moving a Focus positive terminal can of itself mess them up, they are not robust and known for going bad inside the cable to produce major issues. That if the post location changed. If the terminal is well cleaned then they fit loose even if you twist the bolts off clamp. Grab terminal and see if you can turn it by hand, garbage if you can.

A proper size SMALL Focus battery (490 amp!, whopping for a four cylinder) will crank and run car all day long but you simply cannot leave it for two months at a time, that ain't gonna work but guess you know that now.......

'I ask if he (Advance Auto) can try jumping it, and he insists it won't work. I wasn't having that,...'

He's smarter than you, he already sees a major issue there that can now destroy HIS equipment, what they are trained to do. BTDT, but I would not have caved in.

'Today, I tried to jump it using my old battery. I set it all up, the dash lights and gauges all turned on (I forgot to test signals and headlights), and when I turn the key to ignition, I hear the ignition switch click, but nothing happens. No turn over, nothing.'

LOL, you do have to charge it back up FULLY and loadtest since you early on decided it was bad. What part of that did you miss? Old battery may still even be good but not like that.

I see plenty of car owner self created grief here.................no insult intended at all but somebody has to say it...............
Ouch...but I see where you're coming from.

To reinforce, I didn't disconnect the terminals, I was talking about the jumper cables.

I do understand it's going to die after leaving it for months. However, during the summer I drove it daily. If I went 2 days without driving, it would have a little trouble starting. Pretty much a longer turn over before actually starting up. Not sure if that's related.

With regard to battery size, the previous one was the same height, just not as long. I don't have the plastic cover over the battery (car didn't have one when I bought it). Contact with the hood shouldn't be an issue, since the problems began at the auto parts store before I ever closed the hood. Still, I'll check it out.

The positive terminal was pretty corroded around the old battery (the Auto Parts guy used a mallet to loosen it). He looked to tighten it pretty hard, but I didn't test to see if it rotated around. The terminal cables don't look to be in great condition, so maybe that's the problem.

Trying to jump it without a charge was stupid. I'm going to get the batteries charged sometime soon (it's midterm week, so I'm a little busy, plus I need a wrench long enough to remove the bolt at the bottom of the battery compartment).

Thanks for your suggestions; I'll be sure to post back with updates.
 

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Luck............2 days only to have starting issues is NOT right.

I say again, watch that hood, the ONLY way you could discharge a battery that quick. It simply cannot happen on two in a row any other way. But if checking volts through the terminals, I say again, they can be bolt-twist-in-two tight and be loose enough to fall off. GRAB THEM AND TWIST BY HAND, the ONLY test there.
 

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The 2000-04 Foci were known for bad battery cables, with a nice little twist that they would look okay but if you peeled back the insulation they were a melted mess inside. Perhaps this is what's going on, and your battery just can't push enough power through to get it where it needs to go. Worth a look.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Luck............2 days only to have starting issues is NOT right.

I say again, watch that hood, the ONLY way you could discharge a battery that quick. It simply cannot happen on two in a row any other way. But if checking volts through the terminals, I say again, they can be bolt-twist-in-two tight and be loose enough to fall off. GRAB THEM AND TWIST BY HAND, the ONLY test there.
The hood isn't the problem. We drained two brand new batteries before we ever closed the hood. I haven't twisted the terminals yet (and I don't know what you mean by "bolt-twist-in-two tight").

Last night I had it towed from the lot it was in to the lot I needed it to be in. The driver attached his jumper-pack, and it started right up again. We left the jumper on (didn't leave the car on) while the car sat and while I drove it onto the truck, towed it the two blocks to the other lot, and drove it off the truck. When he took the pack off, the car stayed on (since the battery had enough charge). I turned it off quickly to preserve any charge the battery now has.

Side note: Both the tow truck driver and I were really confused why the car had died on the hill in the first place since it's manual transmission. My guess is it has to do with the same system that requires the keys to be chipped.

While I still have no idea what could have drained the batteries to begin with, there's almost no doubt I need a new alternator, but I can't be certain until I get a voltmeter.

Like I said before, I'm really busy with midterms week, so I haven't been able to take a good look into it. On Friday I plan on spending all day testing things - getting a voltmeter, checking fuses, checking contact with the hood, twisting the terminals, and getting both batteries (new and old) charged.
 

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Before this thread goes on too much longer, you need to properly verify that the alternator is charging the battery. It could be many things, but you better start with the obvious. If the car starts on a new battery and dies while driving, my first checks would be good cables, good connections, and 13.5-15ish volts at the battery terminals while running.
 

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Going back to the first post, clamping onto the positive battery terminal is tightening it enough to make it work.

amc's comment on "bolt twist in two tight" refers to how the stock battery terminal clamps work. They'll only close to a certain size hole no matter how tight the bolt, tightened as much as possible they can easily still be loose on the posts.

Can't tell from here if there is a connection problem elsewhere, pulling on the cable could actually be tightening a loose connection at the starter for all we know instead of tightening it at the battery. Look at the easiest first, right at the battery.

P.S. - CAN'T drain a battery that fast without starting a fire. Battery was bad from another cause or it actually wasn't, just assumed so from your connection problem.
 

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Before this thread goes on too much longer, you need to properly verify that the alternator is charging the battery. It could be many things, but you better start with the obvious. If the car starts on a new battery and dies while driving, my first checks would be good cables, good connections, and 13.5-15ish volts at the battery terminals while running.
Roger; will-do. Like I said, I still need to get the voltmeter.
 

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Going back to the first post, clamping onto the positive battery terminal is tightening it enough to make it work.

amc's comment on "bolt twist in two tight" refers to how the stock battery terminal clamps work. They'll only close to a certain size hole no matter how tight the bolt, tightened as much as possible they can easily still be loose on the posts.

Can't tell from here if there is a connection problem elsewhere, pulling on the cable could actually be tightening a loose connection at the starter for all we know instead of tightening it at the battery. Look at the easiest first, right at the battery.

P.S. - CAN'T drain a battery that fast without starting a fire. Battery was bad from another cause or it actually wasn't, just assumed so from your connection problem.
I'm going to test the connections and everything soon.

That's exactly what my dad said when I called him. There was no smoke, heat, or sparks, so where the hell did all the power go? That part still baffles me as well. The Advance guy didn't test the first battery beforehand. After, he did test it, and said when it was supposed to read ~700 Amp-hours (I think that was the unit, please be gentle), it read 4. He tested the next one before putting it in, and it was charged. Then it didn't start the car. That's where it could have just been the connection issue.

As stated before, I'm really busy, but I'll get out there ASAP to perform these tests.
 

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If battery right inside it can short fractionally then open up inside to make no power, you would have no fire but should have some short evidence externally if the load was done like that. It might be minimal.

I tested batteries that showed full 12+ volts and they would pass lower CCA testing but put on the correct number and they would fold up almost instantly and then maybe show 2 volt on them. Let sit an hour and back to 12 volt again. Weird stuff.
 

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@thebensho - Can you verify if your Focus is equipped with a smart charging configuration ? If yes, smart charging systems have specific requirements and troubleshooting procedures. Please read -

http://www.petercoopercarrepairs.co.uk/ford_focus_alternator_smart_charging.htm
http://www.valeoservice.com/data/master/webfile/2945759434DDE6E8714173.pdf?rnd=113

Assuming that you have a conventional system (alternator with built-in voltage regulator and no PCM inputs), one thing that I believe you failed to mention is the status of the Charging Warning Lamp on the instrument panel cluster. With the battery connected and no jump leads, does the red charging light come on ? If the charging light is the only light that doesn't come on then you must have a break in the electrical path between the alternator and the battery. For a conventional charging system, you need to keep in mind 2 things -

i) The charging warning lamp is serially connected between the ignition switch and the voltage regulator. If no light comes on (even due to a faulty lamp, which is rare), then the regulator is isolated.

ii) The voltage regulator is responsible to supply the initial current to the field winding in the alternator in order to create a magnetic field. The source of this current is the battery and therefore an isolated / malfunctioning regulator will shutdown your charging system.

I am personally inclined to believe that you have a smart charging system. If not, then the next thing that I will address is the alternator as I suspect that the regulator could be at fault. When you say that with only the positive jump lead connected, all is OK, to my mind this can only mean one of two things -

i) Either as Sailor said that the crocodile clamp is binding everything together

ii) Or the regulator is using the positive path as a potential difference reference, in which case I suggest that you also check your Earth terminations.

Hope it will work out for you.

Good Luck.
 

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Yes the cars are PCM pulse width modulation controlled.............should charge around 14.0 minimum at idle, anything less is evidence of a failed diode on these.
 
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