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Thread: OT, Auto: Bubbles When Battery Is Charging

  1. #11
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    One of these is a handy tool for quickly diagnosing automotive charging and starting issues-

    https://www.amazon.com/GearWrench-24.../dp/B000RH38GE

    I've had alternators that were delivering the right voltage,but very low current.The meter just clips on the primary wire between the bat and the alternator.
    I just need one more tool,just one!

  2. #12
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    Put a voltmeter on the batter/alternator while running. Even at or near idle, you should see the voltage range mentioned by Paul above (13.8-14.4). If near the lower end, turn on the headlights or the A/C blower and check again. If the observed voltage stays in the normal range, your alternator is ok.

    From your description I'd suspect the battery may be alright since it runs all day after a charge. Bubbling in one cell (usually the one nearest the + terminal) was common on older technology prior to the developement of maintenance-free batteries and is not necessarily a sure sign of death today.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wierdscience View Post
    One of these is a handy tool for quickly diagnosing automotive charging and starting issues-

    https://www.amazon.com/GearWrench-24.../dp/B000RH38GE

    I've had alternators that were delivering the right voltage,but very low current.The meter just clips on the primary wire between the bat and the alternator.
    You're not suggesting that meant an alternator problem, are you? Those symptoms suggest a fully charged battery or a battery that
    won't take a charge due to a high internal resistance. If an alternator (or any electrical source) cannot deliver the required current, it
    cannot supply "the right voltage".

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Circlip View Post
    Had a "Lifetime guarantee" on battery in one car I had. This providing I kept the car, non transferrable, took car back cos struggle starting. Was told "Can't exchange because alternator is overcharging". Told deskstaff to get onto battery manufacturer and head office re Honouring "LTG". Someone who knew better, told dobbin to check fluid, little black speckles floating in fluid denoted battery coming to end of its life and anything over four years life is a bonus. Battery was six years old, they sheepishly replaced it for free but was told they didn't do this service any more so wouldn't replace again. It still had two years min left when I sold the car.

    Regards Ian.
    In my opinion "lifetime batteries" are a joke. Several years ago a company I worked for was selling "lifetime batteries". They made a big pitch to all their dealers and convinced them to buy hundreds of them. About a year after the big sales pitch the company announced the batteries previously sold to the dealers as "lifetime" models would no longer carry a lifetime guarantee. The batteries were outrageously expensive in the first place, and the only way the dealers could sell them was with the lifetime guarantee. With on such guarantee they were all but unsaleable.

    The dealers all got upset so the company changed their policy to allow them to continue to be sold as lifetime batteries. The caveat was that when they needed to be replaced the replacement battery would no longer carry the lifetime guarantee. This needless to say riled up all the retail customers. They spent big bucks buying what was sold as a premium product, only to have the warranty altered after the sale. The consumers brought a class action suit against the company. It took over 5 years to settle with the consumers winning outright, or so they thought. In reality the company had prolonged the suit long enough that over 90% of the batteries had been replaced with non-lifetime batteries. Even though there were still a few in service the company had in essence won in that there were so few left to replace they were money ahead.

  5. #15
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    One cannot diagnose a charging system without having a known good battery in place so eliminate the battery as a potential problem first. You do not need any fancy battery testers. Simply turn your headlights on when the battery is charged to the best of your abilities with your current battery charger overnight, and leave them on for better part of an hour. If the battery is good it will start the vehicle. Not the way I usually test a battery but I've seen a lot of folks forget to turn headlights off while doing lunch on a foggy afternoon and their cars always started without issue because they did have good batteries. The ones without a good battery, not so much. LOL

    When starting, under normal conditions, what is the voltage while cranking? Should be at about 10 volts or better, below that you have a bad battery. Once running voltage should be high 13's low 14's depending on ambient temperatures it could be higher when cold. A good inductive amp meter in conjunction with a voltage reading will confirm that the charging system is functioning correctly. I have seen batteries that show only the proper voltage but had nothing to back it up because the under-hood light would drop that voltage reading down to 3 when it came on upon lifting the hood open.

    Also while not a common failure mode I have on occasion seen the built-in ecm voltage regulator fail while the alternator itself functioned properly. This can get expensive since now the entire ecm must be replaced in order to replace the voltage regulator that is part of the ecm. Not common but it does happen.
    Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
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  6. #16
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    Some bubbling is normal during charging. But if it's bubbling quite heavily then that would suggest a problem with the one cell. The trick is knowing the difference between normal bubbling and heavy bubbling.

    As mentioned the standard confirmation for the alternator is to measure the battery voltage with the engine off then start it and check again. When off it'll be around 12 volts. And anywhere from 11.8 to 12.2 is pretty normal depending on the charge state of the battery. Although if it only gets up to around 11.8 even after a night of charging that suggests a problem. Higher in this case is gooder.

    Once you start the engine the voltage at the terminals should rise up to around 13.8 to 14.2. If it does not come up at all then your alternator or the wiring to it is bad.

    .... er.... you might want to pull the plug(s) on the alternator and just check that it's not corroded? Just a thought and potentially an easy fix. If it's badly corroded some contact cleaner and tweaking the sprung side of the contacts might restore good connections and normal operation.

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    Hydrogen and oxygen.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichR View Post
    You're not suggesting that meant an alternator problem, are you? Those symptoms suggest a fully charged battery or a battery that
    won't take a charge due to a high internal resistance. If an alternator (or any electrical source) cannot deliver the required current, it
    cannot supply "the right voltage".
    As in the internal regulator dropping in and out rapidly,they would read 13.8-14.1v on a VOM,but only deliver 5-8 amps intermittently under load (lights/AC,wipers and power window motors running) I eliminated the battery early on by swapping.This was on my fathers 02' Windstar van,the Delco branded aftermarket alternators apparently had a slew of faulty regs in them,we went through three under warranty.One lasted about two weeks,the next nearly a year and the final one about a month.The last one I replaced,the new one was Canadian,it was with the van when we sold it three years later,never an issue.
    I just need one more tool,just one!

  9. #19
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    Don Ho performed a song about this. I'm not sure if the secret is contained in the lyrics.

  10. #20
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    Test the alternator by starting the car, turning on as much electrical load as possible, then disconnecting the battery. If the car remains running, then the alternator is just fine. If the car immediately dies, then the alternator is bad.

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