Electronic Gremlins - Electrical Problems That Are Driving You Crazy

Kirstie_HKirstie_H Administrator Posts: 11,142
Got a short? Headlights flashing? Let's talk about your electrical maintenance and repair issues here.

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  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    When an auto battery fails, it may weaken over a period of days to provide some warning or it may fail suddenly without warning. It seems to me that "instant failures" are more likely than they were ten years ago. Is this so, or have I just had bad luck? Do others agree that paying to replace a battery that is getting weak, even if it occurs a few months before the warranty ends, is preferable to the inconvenience associated with a sudden failure?
  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134

    I have exactly the same dilemma right now. I have a '95 Camry that has 132,000km and I still have the original battery in it. The battery is ok so far since my car always start properly without any hesitation. The winter here in Toronto is a little bit on the nasty side (temp goes down to -20C sometimes). Now, since my battery is 6.5 years old, I am thinking of replacing it although it seems that there is really nothing wrong with the battery. I am more inclined to replace the battery since it is more than five years old but also at the same time I do not want to throw a good battery.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    I share your dilemma, Yrmac, but think it would be wise to go ahead with replacement. It seems to me that after about 125% of the warranty period, you are on "thin ice". Don't you agree that the cost of the hassle associated with a failed battery is likely to be greater than the ~$65 for a good replacement? Of course, if you have standard shift, and can thus bump-start the car, you are slightly less vulnerable than with an auto transmission.
  • eaglejimeaglejim Member Posts: 2
    My Explorer has an intermitant problem. The pwr windows, pwr moonroof, interior lights, & windshield wipers all stop working.Used to occur once a week, now 2-5 times per day. Sometimes, turning motor off & re-starting will fix problem. Sometimes, hitting a pot hole will fix. Dealer just charged me $85.00 to tighten the ground wire on the GEM mudule. Could the GEM module be bad? How about the key swich? I'm lost as to where to go. Not sure dealer knows how to fix.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    There is a list of part numbers for this TSB, if you want them, e-mail me. Click on my name and it will show my e-mail.
    One of the mentioned relays is likely the problem, whether it be the relay itself or the connector.

    Intermittent 4x4 System, Power Windows, Rear Wipers
    Article No.
    This TSB article is being republished in its entirety to correct the Service Procedure Steps.
    A flashing 4X4 lamp and/or a intermittent or loss of:
    ^ Power windows
    ^ Interior lights
    ^ Rear wiper (if equipped)
    ^ Moon roof (if equipped)
    ^ 4x4 system (if equipped)
    may occur on some vehicles. This may be caused by an intermittent Battery Saver, Accessory Delay or One-Touch-Down Relay operation and possible chafing of vehicle wire harness.
    Repair the affected circuit, and/or replace the Battery Saver, Accessory Delay, or One-Touch-Down Relay. Refer to the Diagnostic/Service Procedure for details before replacing any components.
  • eaglejimeaglejim Member Posts: 2
    I tried to email you for the part numbers for this TSB, but it would not go through. I really appreciate your help. My dealer told me there were no TSB's for this problem. I Have an appointment on Monday with a different dealer. I will show them your response to my problem. Hope they can fix before the snow starts to fly. Thanks Again. :)
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Ok, don't know why you couldn't send to my e-mail.

    The info is on another page and all you have to do is click here
  • mcaldron1mcaldron1 Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1986 Honda Accord with 257,000 miles on it. It has started to have intermittent electrical problems like:
    * Lights flicker when brakes are applied
    * Dashboard door open indicators activate randomly - no doors are open
    * Brake light failure indicator light comes on intermittently - all brake lights work fine

    The car has been very reliable, and I would like to fix this somehow. Any suggestions? Thanks!!
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    257,000 miles? Probably cardiovascular problems associated with old age. Seriously, the door-open indicator-lamp is likely to be associated with one of the door switches that's worn or out of adjustment. With the engine running, crack each door open very slightly and see if one door causes the light to come on just as the door begins to open. The flickering when the brakes are applied could possibly be associated with a short in the brake/tail light assemblies. When it is dark, have someone activate the brakes, turn signals, and tail-lights while you watch carefully to see that they work OK and that each bulb has the same light intensity as its counterpart on the other side. If there are any right-to-left differences, a corroded bulb-socket is likely to be the problem. These ideas may not help but they are easy to do and could lead you to the problem source.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    sour grounds are often a point of failure that affect multiple systems. unfortunately, the ground point for systems F, Q, X, Y, and AA7 are often some distance away from any logical point the circuits would go to. fixing them is pretty easy, remove the nut and associated spade lugs and lock/toothed washers, clean up any oxidation or corrosion or reterminate the wire involved and replace the hardware, coat all parts lightly with grease, and reassemble tightly. finding them is not easy without a manual -- even the Haynes/Chilton series will often have enough of an electrical diagram to find the most likely grounding point. I really marked up and dirtied the manuals for my Mopars, Buick, and Ranger.
  • edchenedchen Member Posts: 31
    I have a 1988 Acura Integra LS. The brakes lights have shorted out or something and won't turn off. This is causing the battery to rundown very fast. I've the pulled the fuse and it uses less than 25ma so the brake light seems to be the only problem. Any ideas where I should go from here?
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Start by checking the brake light switch adjustment. It's usually on the brake pedal support bracket. The plunger should be fully depressed when the pedal's in the released position.
  • edchenedchen Member Posts: 31
    Hey, that was the cause of the problem. There were some broken plastic-like pieces lying around under the brake pedal. There is also a hole in the brake pedal where it would have made contact with the plunger. Is this piece easily replaceable and does it need to be adjusted to the correct position? Thanks a lot everyone.
  • ekalypseekalypse Member Posts: 1
    My 98 GS Eclipse has a weird problem. The brake lights turn on when the temp gets cold. When the car warms up after a day of driving.. the light turns off. I brought it to the dealer and he said I needed new brake pads. I changed the pads, the problem went away for a month and came back. The brake fluid is fine, emergency brake is not on, new pads.. What is the problem? My friend has a 97 Eclipse Spyder and he has the same problem. So I know it's more than a coincidence. I hate the dealerships and my car is out of warranty. Any suggestions?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    You mean the brake warning light on the dash, or the brake lights themselves?

    If it's the light on the dash, I would suspect the little level indicator on top of the master cylinder reservoir. It sounds like it's getting stuck. Other than that, maybe some wear sensor is misreading. You might try disconnecting the level sensor and see if the light goes out.
  • freebird7259freebird7259 Member Posts: 2
    I was trying to check my cigarette lighter with a cheap 'prod' tester when i accidently grounded it out. i heard a fuse snap (rather loud i thought). My radio,lights & horn went out, it would turn over but would not start. Some other electrics work ie. windshield wipers and interior lights, which i unfotunately left on over-night. now the battery is dead. i pulled most fuses for components that were not working, they checked-out ok.
    this is a '93 S-10 Blazer, 4X4,automatic.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Hmm....your truck may have a "fusible link" that runs in a circuit coming right off your positive terminal on your battery. It's been a while since I looked at an S-10 but maybe that's the problem. Also, there are sometimes additional in-line fuses on cars that don't run through the fuse box.

    Maybe one of the techs who drop in here can offer further suggestions.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    I agree that it sounds like one of your fusible links has burned out.
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518
    Here's a real puzzler. I have a *very* intermittent problem with my 1986 Pontiac Parisienne Safari which appears to be electrical in nature. It hasn't happened in months, but it seems like just when I think it's fixed itself, it happens again. The problem is this: When it's cold out (below 50 degrees, usually) and I start the car up for the first time in the morning after it's been sitting for at least 12 hours or so, it will seem to run fine at idle. But when I put it in Drive or Reverse and start moving, the engine speed will seem to drop way way down, the battery light will start flashing, and the car will stall out as soon as I give it gas. Sometimes it stalls almost immediately after I shift out of Park, other times it will seem fine until I give it gas trying to pull out of an intersection, and then it will do this power loss/battery light/stall routine. It will always restart immediately after the stall, but sometimes it will stall 2 or 3 times in a row. This absolutely only ever happens during the first two minutes of driving on cold mornings. Nothing like it has ever happened under any other circumstances. The distributor cap and plug wires are only a year old, and the plugs looked good last time I checked. The thing is, just before it stalls, the car behaves as though there is a fuel delivery problem (hesitation, no power), but the battery light coming on makes me think otherwise. This problem is so rare that I can never hope to be able to demonstrate it for my mechanic. Because it rarely ever happens, I'm not going to go nuts replacing parts to try and fix it, but if anyone has any brilliant ideas about this, I'd love to know what they are. Thanks!

    -Andrew L
  • ngprongpro Member Posts: 8
    The next thing to check on this is cheap. Check the alternator output when the car is stone cold. NOT JUST VOLTAGE! Load it up and check the amperage output. Sounds like not enough amps until alt warms up.

    Good Luck!
  • ngprongpro Member Posts: 8
    Yes guys this one drove us nuts at first too. If you have mystery intermittant signals and all of the usual suspects check out ok the hazard switch is bad. Thats right kids. The signals are wired through the hazard switch. Take it to the dealer if you are in or close to warranty . If not far out of warranty and the dealer balks at warrantying the repair ask him for the # for cust assist. 'cause you feel this is a safety issue that GM should take care of. ALWAYS BE NICE! Remember, your car is out of warranty and they dont have to do anything for you! And don't expect help if your car is WAY out of warranty, especially if you've not spent dime one in this service dept.

    Good Luck!
  • freebird7259freebird7259 Member Posts: 2
    is there anybody who knows if i can find wiring schematics on the inter net? thanks.
  • irevoiceuirevoiceu Member Posts: 6
    I hope you remember me....I have a different name now! NGPRO already gave me some xlnt advice and I'd like to get yours, too, before I head for the dealer on Monday. Over a year ago, you fixed my 99 Isuzu Trooper! Now it has yet another electrical thing that no dealer can find. A week ago, I put the cell phone charger in the cig. lighter, and it made an electrical crackling sound, and (this is weird) while it was in there, the same noise happened when I applied the brakes! I took out the adaptor and the noise did quit. But now, if I turn the heater on, the car dies in traffic. Now the transmission diagram light has gone out. I took it to the dealer who ran diagnostics on it and couldn't find anything. The cell phone adaptor, by the way, works fine in another car. After several dead batteries, I put in a new one. The battery still dies if I miss a day of driving.....the Auto Club has had to start me 3X since then. NGPRO said it might be a loose connection between the alternator/ battery, or I might need new alternator. I have 36,000 miles on this car! I'd like to gather all Info I can, like last time.....and watch their little jaws drop at the dealer when I KNOW things! That's the only way it got fixed last time.....I took all your advice in there and waved it at them! Thanks again, friend.
  • gregb882gregb882 Member Posts: 75
    I have a 97 Jeep GC Laredo, 4X4, 4 spd auto, 4.0L with about 87,000 miles on it. This past week the ‘lamp out’ indicator panel indicated a problem with the taillights. It comes on one the vehicle is put into reverse, but I can’t find a problem with any of the lights (center stop, stop, taillights, turn signal, back-up). I haven’t had any electrical problems before (just the usual brake rotor and axle issues). Has anyone run across a similar problem that could provide some insight? Thanks
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    More than likley, a wire melted in the fuse panel.
    It is the only common denominator.

    First thing the need to do is to do a draw test. Find out what is drawing the battery down. I think that once the draw on the battery is determined, the rest of the problem should be obvious.
    To check for a draw, you disconnect the Negative battery cable, attach one end of a voltmeter or teslight to the battery terminal and the other to the battery post. If the light illuminates or the voltmeter shows voltage, there is a draw. Then it is just a matter of pulling fuses or disconnecting circuits until the light goes out to find the circuit that is the draw.
    Once the circuit is determined as to what is the problem, then it is a matter of locating where the wire is shorting or what unit is causing the problem.
    Off hand, I am suspecting that either the power plug(cig lighter outlet) or the wires in the back of the fuse panel are the culprits.
  • irevoiceuirevoiceu Member Posts: 6
    I will take this information with me to the dealer the day after Xmas. You have no idea how you have helped me.....both in the past, and now. It's very mind-boggling to me that one can't turn a vehicle in to a dealer and rely on it being fixed. Instead, the only place it seems one can get real help is through this forum. Don't the manufacturers insist that their mechanics train to repair their own products? Anyway, I can't thank you enough, and have very merry holidays!
  • gregb882gregb882 Member Posts: 75
    Oops! Found it. Neglected to check license plate lamp. Thanks
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Well, at the risk of getting blasted from those who are pro dealers, they teach their mechanics to be parts replacers. See, independant shop mechanics don't have that luxury. They have to diagnose the problem and find out what the cause is to fix it.
    Dealers, the mechanics get paid a flat rate for warranty work, so if the manufacturer will pay warranty for throwing parts at it, then that's what they do.
    I'm not saying ALL dealer mechanics are like that, but that is what they push for. I walked into a dealer once to have them check out a warranty deal on a truck that was making a noise out of the water pump. The bearing in the water pump went, I knew it, but the truck only had 18,000 miles on it and I had to keep from laughing when the mechanic brought out the scanner to hook up to the computer. An obvious problem and the mechanic (oops! that's tech) had no clue where to start. Now that gives you confidence, don't it?
    Ok, I feel much better now. LOL!
  • irevoiceuirevoiceu Member Posts: 6
    Merry Christmas, All! I wish everyone the best, in this wonderful season of rebirth and renewal. And Opatience, that makes sense about the dealer/mechanics. The vehicles are so sophisticated and complicated now...and expensive! To have constant trouble when you buy one and not be able to get it fixed, is a real frustrating, anger-inducing experience. In my case, when I had all the wiring trouble last time, I was about to take the dealer to court. I was constantly being put in harm's way, with the vehicle shutting down on me. Nothing like having no brakes or power steering on icy mountain roads or busy freeways to make one's heart start! If this forum didn't exist, I don't know what I would have done, other than walk away from the car I just purchased and go through the credit hassle that would be sure to follow. It made such a difference when I was able to hand the mechanic a list, and say, "Here. Forget your computer scanner. It's the wiring. FIX it, or we've got a BIG problem." They sure weren't happy campers, but it DID finally get fixed......and the problem was EXACTLY what you said. I thank you, Opatience and NGpro......so very much. I truly don't know what I would have done without you!
  • asafariasafari Member Posts: 1
    My 98 Pontiac Grand AM cigarette lighter, blinkers and brakes lights are giving me problems. The lighter won't light. The blinkers stop working when I step on the brakes. The reverse lights come on when I step on the brakes...HELP!!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Hmm...methinks....maybe a burned out wire or set of wires behind the fuse box or somewhere in the harness. Some of these things might in fact route through the 4-way flasher, too, so you might want to check out wiring to that device or the flasher itself.
  • muletrainmuletrain Member Posts: 2
    I got a 2002 GLX V6 Passat Wagon at the end of Sept. Within a week I starting having a problem with the horn blowing intermitantly - sometimes longer than others, sometimes when turning, sometimes on straight road. So far I have been able to stop it by blowing the horn myself. Does anyone have a clue about what is going on?
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Unless the Passat circuitry is different from that of most cars, your problem is a short to ground somewhere between the steering wheel button and the horn relay. Since you can sometimes deactivate the horn by pushing the horn button, the evidence is very strong that the problem is a failure of the button/switch within the steering wheel. Removal of the steering wheel will probably reveal just what's wrong. Good luck. This should be a simple procedure for the dealer.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I would agree with that diagnosis. Something in the hub or steering post is grounding the circuit, just as it would ground when you touch the horn button. A loose or misdirected wire, or a piece of insulating material fallen away within the horn contact is my guess.
  • catkinscatkins Member Posts: 2
    1 of 2 No digital display in sound system and cigar lighter not working on
    1999 Mercury Mountaineer by catkins Jan 20, 2002 (01:01 pm)

    I bought a 99 Mercury Mountaineer new. At a little over 2 years, the digital display
    for the sound system went out. You can't tell time or what station or function you
    are using with Mach One audio system. However, the radio, cd and tape deck work.
    Also, the cigar lighter next to the sound system quit working. The accessory input
    (2nd lighter) located on the lower right side
    (passenger side) of center dash continues to work. All fuses are in tact. Dealer
    refuses to address since vehicle is over 50,000 miles. I have been told that this is
    not an uncommon problem with 1999 Explorers and Mountaineers. Has anyone else
    experienced this problem, and what, if anything did you do, or do you suggest
  • hgsihgsi Member Posts: 1
    My wifes truck began having an electrical problem on Saturday. While driving down
    the road the courtesy lights in the cab came on for no reason, and would not go off.
    They finally went off after the 40 min relay timer took them off. On Monday the
    odometer would not show up, and the cargo lamp on message came up in the
    message center. The dealer had it for two days and could not find the problem. I am
    thinking a loose ground, but I would have thought the dealer would have found that. I
    have noticed that both daytime running lamps are out. Could this be related? Any
    help would be appreciated.

  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134
    I have a 95 Camry 4cyl. with 140,000Km. Recently, this car developed a bug in its electrical system by blowing a 40amp fuse in its power windows/power door locks system. I took the car to a local Toyota dealership and they replaced one of the power window motor and the master relay board to the tune of $1500.00 saying that those two items were the culprit. However after few weeks, the 40amp fuse blew itself again.I took the car back to the dealership however, they refused to look at the problem again unless I pay them for labor. Typical toyota dealership. So, right now , I am still stumped with this problem. Can anyone provide me with some technical advise on how to approach this electrical problem?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    So this fuse blew when one particular window was operated, or would it blow when any window was operated? Can you recall?
  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134
    The fuse as I recall, blew initially after I used the power lock switch(the one beside the driver). After the dealership changed those components that I mentioned before, the 40amp fuse got knocked out again AFTER I used either the power lock switch or the power window switch, I can't really remember which one. However, what I noticed is that the blown fuse occurred after I used these components...not during use.
  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134
    Mr. Shift_Right,
    Just replaced that 30A fuse(It was a 30A Fuse and not a 40A) this weekend. I exclusively used the power window and did not use the power door locks just to find out if the window's circuit is the one that's giving this problem. The power window unit worked for two days, however just this morning when I was about to open the driver side window, the power is gone again. Just to reiterate what I said before, this occured not during any operation of the windows but either during before or after using the windows. Many thanks for your help....

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Hmm...so the power windows and door locks are on the same circuit? Do you know that for sure, for certain? That's a big fuse to blow, 30 amps. Since all items are functioning while the fuse is intact, I'd have to wonder if the problem is behind or in the fuse box itself. These things can be very difficult to track down.
  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134
    Mr. Shiftright,
    You are right , this bug will probably be hard to track down and eventually will cost me more big bucks and headaches in the process. Yes, the power windows and power door locks are in the same circuit and sharing this 30amp fuse(I've checked it myself on the Chilton Manual). I will give your advice a try and check the fuse box itself, maybe this is the culprit to the problem. I will keep you posted. Thanks again for your help...
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    If they use solid state relays for the window motors I'd check them out. They can be real evil devices with sneaky problems.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    Also, check to see that the harness hasn't become damaged with age where it goes through the door hinge area. Could be that the flexing of the harness is causing a short. Does the Camry use positive or negative logic on its locks and windows? On positive logic, the switches supply the voltage. On negative logic, the switches provide the ground. Negative logic is the one that can bite you as the voltage is always present, and a ground fault between the voltage source and the motor/solenoid will blow a really big fuse very quickly without operating the switch. Just a thought...

  • yrmacyrmac Member Posts: 134
    I am not sure if Toyota uses a positive logic or a negative logic but your theory might be also the answer to this problem. As I recall, this problem occured when the mentioned components are not in use and as you said, a ground fault might be causing this problem.

    M. Avery
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Ah, yes, good thinking, but the question is WHERE is the ground fault?

    The door entry for the harness is a good place to look.
  • mab91862mab91862 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 92 Ford Aerostar that currently has no working horn, or cruise control. Also, the airbag indicator light flashes a "32". I have been able to find that the FC "32" appears to be "Driver Side Airbag high resistance or open" message. These symptoms seem to indicate a single point failure for all three items. This appears to be a bad connection or module somewhere. Any one have any ideas?
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    if there are multiple issues, and fuses aren't blown, the most common cause is a bad ground connection. the mystical part in this is that while most of the ground connections are to a stud on a big piece of the car's metal someplace, lots of these stinkers are remotely located (at least, Ford likes to do stupid stuff like run grounds out to near where the load is.) it makes perfect sense from an electrical standpoint but none from a servicing standpoint.

    a wiring manual is a major league help in finding them.

    nowadays, however, there ARE a number of "general purpose" modules scattered around the place... the GEM in recent Fords controls stuff like the front and rear wipers, blower motor, etc.. and basically all that is really there is probably connection blocks and SCRs.

    danger - airbag warning. yes, always, drop the battery ground lead before hinking around with anything that might in any way be connected with an airbag system. just because.

    airbag stuff tends to be set alone and handled with greater care, since an airbag system is basically selected small explosives that stuff a punching bag in your face just before your face would knock the steering wheel off the column. if there are airbag problems and ANYthing else acting up at the same time, I bet on ground problems. find the common ground point to all the bad actors, take it apart, clean it up and replace bad crimp terminals if needed, reassemble with lots of internal/external toothed lockwashers and everything lightly coated with No-Ox-Id or grease, and try again.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Airbag systems have a reserve power supply to ensure the system will work in the event of a frontal impact which damages the battery. The next person who disconnects a battery and then gets a face full of airbag won't be the first. SRS system repair should not be attempted by anyone other than a trained pro, dealer or body shop.
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