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Electrical problem for a noob.

 
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Old 04-18-2010, 04:17 PM
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Electrical problem for a noob.

Hey everyone - I need to preface this post by saying that I know verrrry little about cars. I'm trying my first ever diy fix and it's going very poorly. After removing the vtec solenoid due to an oil leak and before installing the new gasket, I decided it would be a good idea to degrease the engine (as the thing looks like it had more gunk than metal). Of course, being the moron that I am, I didn't cover any electronics (woo hoo me). I realize now that this might end up being a fairly costly mistake....

Anyway - After degreasing it, I let it sit for a day. Then after trying to reinstall everything, my check engine light and battery light both come on. I drive it for about 30 seconds, then kill it. After realizing the solenoid fix didn't do much, i let it sit for another day due to sheer discouragement. Went out yesterday to try to look at the problem again and the battery is dead. Not just a little dead but to the point where the security system isn't on and nothing is even trying to fire.

So now this is the main problem. I use a voltmeter to check the battery (it was still hooked up) and got the great reading of .1V --- not good. So I unhoooked the cables, did a test of connectivity and apparently the lines from the positive to the negative are connected - there's a short somewhere. After unhooking the battery, it goes back up slowly and stops around 3.5 volts. But any time I even tap the cables to complete the circuit it drops right back down.

I checked the fuse box and it seems that they're all still alive and well. But I have absolutely no idea how to hunt down a short circuit - how can I find where this problem is? And what could I have gotten wet to cause this? I'm pretty baffled, so I was hoping someone here could save my ass.

Thanks so much,
-Ritter

tl;dr - Need to learn how to diagnose a short circuit after dousing my car w/o covering electronics. What steps should I take and what system is most likely the culprit?
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Old 04-19-2010, 09:24 AM
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Re: Electrical problem for a noob.

well for beginners, the things you might have screwed up under the engine bay are:

alternator
fuse box
distributor
and of course any wiring (less likely as it would have dried in time, and engine bays are designed to get a little wet)

now for your problem, i would have the battery checked by a shop. (autozone does this)
get the alternator checked (autozone does this too)

if both are good then charge the battery back and reinstall the alt.

check the under the hood fuse box and check all fuses seeing if any are blown and check for water (hair dryer to dry anything that is wet that you can not get to)

then if there is a bad fuse, try to track where the problem could be on that specific fuse (this can get complicated to type for each fuse, so i wont)

if fuse box looks good, then check all connectors, check the ground cables on the battery. another thing to do it to get a little light bulb with 2 wires, and put it between the battery and the ground. if it lights up, there is current draw from the battery. if it does not light up there is none..

on to the check engine light and the vtec solenoid.. check your CEL and see what it is. search for how to check it, its quite easy. after doing all of this, post what you figure out and we will go from there.
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Old 04-19-2010, 03:09 PM
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Re: Electrical problem for a noob.

Using your multimeter trace back the short.
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Old 04-27-2010, 10:21 PM
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Re: Electrical problem for a noob.

Well thanks for the help all around so far -

I'm good on the solenoid now - no more oil leak and it looks nice and fixed. I also traced the short back to the alternator - took it to autozone, it was dead and then some so I bought a new one and installed it. Happy days. Charged the battery on a trickle charger - reinstalled, all good right?

Wrong. My battery is now playing weird games again. I'm praying it's not my alternator- how the hell can I test this without taking it out of the car? Is there any way I might have overtightened the belt? Or is there some other typical screw up in installing the alternator?

Or could this be the battery that's the problem? I put it on a trickle charge for a while - voltage read just short of 12V. Plugged it in the car, stayed at 12V. It turned over just fine and I got to drive for about 10 minutes (woo hooo) and then it died (boo). Wouldn't turn back over - got a friend to come jump it - got it on, then it died again rather quickly. Got it back to my house - opened the hood and it was at just short of 10V - and climbing. I turned the car to try to see if I was getting anything and the battery instantly dropped to 6V - when I turned it off it moved back to 8.5 and started climbing again.... not sure what any of this means - just hoping someone can help out...

Guess I'm going to take the battery out and take it to auto zone tomorrow to test it somehow - what are they testing anyway? That I can't do with a multimeter...?

Thanks for any help you can offer,
-Ritter
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Old 05-04-2010, 04:46 PM
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Re: Electrical problem for a noob.

Still sounds like a short.
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