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Old 11-29-2008, 03:08 PM   #1
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Strong Electrical drain problem! 1999 Porsche Boxster

Hi,

Still have not found the strong electrical drain on my battery. I have to disconnect battery if I let car sit longer than 3 hours! Alternator works great! New 850ca Bosche battery.

I have removed all fuses and still gets drained. I now have to disconnect my battery every night, or if I let the car sit for more than 3 hours.

I have not had any luck at pelican..

Does anyone have idea's left...

This is my only car that I rely on and drive everyday.

1999 Porsche Boxster 986 5 speed manual 101k miles all stock and original.

I have tried test's with a cheap Sears mulitimeter..
(so it says, but I think it is far short of a multimeter) and I have tried all the settings. The meter has on it: dcv, acv, dcma, dcua, temp, and there are 5 different dials to read from..

I just can't get anywhere with this problem. I have to disconnect my battery anytime I leave the car sit for more than 3 hours. It is a strong drain.
And it will also drain like this with all fuses removed from fuse box.

No lights on, no Ignition drain, key out always. No aftermarket completely stock.


Kevin
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Old 11-29-2008, 03:35 PM   #2
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You say you have to disconnect the battery to stop the power drain? Take your multi-meter and set it on DCV with a range of 0-50 or there abouts. With the negative cable removed take a reading from the post to the cable. With everything off and your fuses removed like you said, there should be "0" current draw on the meter. If there is, you have a short somewhere not fused. Look for a chafed wire...if your battery drains in 3 hours I'd say it a major short like in your positive cable going to your starter.

I read allot about the ignition switch giving us Boxster owner fits, I wonder if that could be it?

You also said it's a new battery, because the old one drained also? Or did this just show up? If it just showed up the battery might have an internal short. I don't know what you paid for a Bosch battery but a Duralast Gold from Autozone is about $95 and it's warrantied.

P.S. Paul (above) is absolutly right, draining a battery in 3 hours will heat up at the point of the short.
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Last edited by Jaxonalden; 11-29-2008 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 11-29-2008, 06:41 PM   #3
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Check the alternator and starter for current draw since they are among the things that still have power when the fuses are out. To drain the battery that fast, I would expect the offending part to be hot to the touch.
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Old 11-30-2008, 08:51 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radiodjkev
I have tried test's with a cheap Sears mulitimeter..
(so it says, but I think it is far short of a multimeter) and I have tried all the settings. The meter has on it: dcv, acv, dcma, dcua, temp, and there are 5 different dials to read from..

I just can't get anywhere with this problem. I have to disconnect my battery anytime I leave the car sit for more than 3 hours. It is a strong drain.
And it will also drain like this with all fuses removed from fuse box.

No lights on, no Ignition drain, key out always. No aftermarket completely stock.


Kevin
What you need to do is disconnect the + cable at the battery, set your multi meter to "milli amps" (mA) and connect it between the + cable and the battery. It will then read the current draw on the battery. You can then pull fuses and relays out, one at a time while watching the meter for a drop in the current draw. Replace each fuse/relay after each test, and by a process of elimination, you will eventually indentfy the circuit or circuits that are causing your problem............................
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Old 11-30-2008, 09:24 AM   #5
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A drain measured in milliamps (less than an amp) would not drain a good battery in 3 hours.

The drain in this case is high enough to possibly damage a multi meter set to milliamps.

Since the drain exists with all the fuses out, one must limit troubleshooting to those parts that are not fused.
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Old 11-30-2008, 01:16 PM   #6
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i have seen you posts regarding the problem over at pelican too. to say the least it is baffling...
so lets start with the basics.

cables on battery post stif and hard or flexible, and signs of corrosion? if so replace ends and clean cable and coat with protective slime (nonconductive grease etc)

test battery voltage disconnected should be around 13.xx+ volts, let it sit for a day and recheck; still 13.xxv? if not the battery is junk get it replaced on warranty. swap it into some other vehicle and see if it goes flat there, this would indicate the battery is bad, and lastly you can take it back to the supplier and have them do a load test to confirm the battery.

charging system check with alternator running, what does porsche say? id expect 14+ v at say 3500 rpm

if as you say you cannot see any milliamp or amp draw between the ground cable and the battery or the positive cable and the battery

what recent modifications have you made to the car or what service work has been done. i remember you claim no mods, but even service work if not done correctly can screw something up... so double check this and ensure you haven't got something a foul

the biggest draw item on a car is the starter, so now with the advanced age of your "B" its time to check the cable from the alternator to the battery and the starter. check the place were they go thru the "firewall" to the front of the car, is the rubber grommet still there? any chaffing on the plastic sleeve?

thats all i can think off

i had the battery in my r1100 die over winter, if the bike sat for anymore than 1 day, the battery didn't have enough juice to start the bike, and had the same with a 2 yr old battery in a 2 yr old car, sometime you get a lemon, i know it s hard to believe but it can happen.

best of hunting and hope this is of some help


ps

ground straps, can come loose and the battery may have the juice to light the bulbs, but not to spin the starter, ive also seen the grounds straps totally corroded away, and with no ground strap no ground path no go, so this would mean checking the ground strap at the battery and down under the engine and also by the starter if there is one...
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Old 12-06-2008, 11:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul
A drain measured in milliamps (less than an amp) would not drain a good battery in 3 hours.

Actually, yes it can. We have seen several cars with this type of issue in our shop that had current draws less than one amp that killed a battery in an hour or two.....


The drain in this case is high enough to possibly damage a multi meter set to milliamps.

Not necessarilly as most meters are fused to protect themselves if excessive current flow takes place, and nearly all digital meters "autorange" and will switch to a suitable range by themselves.

.................................................. ...
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Old 12-06-2008, 12:47 PM   #8
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A new, fully charged, and warm battery in our cars should be able to provide at least 60 amp hours. To drain such a battery in 3 hours would take a 20 amp load.

A one amp load would take 60 hours.

A 20 amp load could even damage the leads of a multimeter.
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Old 12-06-2008, 12:54 PM   #9
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Also a 20 amp load at 12v will generate 816 BTUs of heat
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Old 12-06-2008, 04:46 PM   #10
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Amen Paul, I'd love to hear what the "We have seen several cars with this type of issue in our shop that had current draws less than one amp that killed a battery in an hour or two..." fix was. Less that an amp and killing a 800+ amp hour battery? Are they kidding? The math simply doesn't support that statement... and they run a shop?
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Old 12-12-2008, 09:26 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jaxonalden
Amen Paul, I'd love to hear what the "We have seen several cars with this type of issue in our shop that had current draws less than one amp that killed a battery in an hour or two..." fix was. Less that an amp and killing a 800+ amp hour battery? Are they kidding? The math simply doesn't support that statement... and they run a shop?
Yes, we do run a very successful shop; and in the Northeast, where weather often goes into negative numbers, a battery with a couple of years of service on it can be pulled down enough by a low amperage drain to not be able to turn over a cold engine after a couple of hours in the cold.

While you are "checking your math", go to the BCI (Battery Council International) and check on how amp hour ratings tests are done and their actual relationship to and real-world problems effecting cold cranking performance. I would also suggest you consult Vinal's fourth edition of Storage Batteries which has an excellent discussion on issues that impact the amp hour output efficiency in lead-acid storage batteries, paying particular attention to effects of aging and temperature...............

As for the fix, we isolated the problems circuit(s) using a digital multi meter and either repaired the problem, or if requested by the owner, disconnected the problem circuit, usually by leaving out the fuse.

Have a nice day………………….

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Old 12-12-2008, 01:25 PM   #12
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Quote;

"Still have not found the strong electrical drain on my battery. I have to disconnect battery if I let car sit longer than 3 hours! Alternator works great! New 850ca Bosche battery."

It's a new battery (old probably drained also), and the guy lives in Southern Cali. I know all too well about old battery’s and cold weather, they lose their capacity, I grew up in northern Wisconsin. This guy’s situation is different; he has a major short plain and simple. If it's the battery the chances of it affecting both are too great. You said you isolated the problem circuit(s) with a repair or pulled the fuse. What was the problem with the circuit? A short? What was the amp rating on the fuses? A short that didn't blow a fuse yet drained a battery in a couple of hours?

I'm still with Paul on this one.
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Old 12-13-2008, 08:46 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaxonalden
Quote;

"Still have not found the strong electrical drain on my battery. I have to disconnect battery if I let car sit longer than 3 hours! Alternator works great! New 850ca Bosche battery."

It's a new battery (old probably drained also), and the guy lives in Southern Cali. I know all too well about old battery’s and cold weather, they lose their capacity, I grew up in northern Wisconsin. This guy’s situation is different; he has a major short plain and simple. If it's the battery the chances of it affecting both are too great. You said you isolated the problem circuit(s) with a repair or pulled the fuse. What was the problem with the circuit? A short? What was the amp rating on the fuses? A short that didn't blow a fuse yet drained a battery in a couple of hours?

I'm still with Paul on this one.
OK, let’s look at your questions in the order you stated:

1. “New battery” is a relative term. Assuming the battery has a design capacity, say 800 amps; that level of output only exists when the unit is first put into service (read that as the first time it sees any level of discharge). The reason is that batteries live (and die) by what the battery industry calls “cycles”, which is defined as any level of discharge followed by any level of recharge equaling one “cycle”. All lead-acid batteries have a defined number of cycles in their life expectancy; it has been that way since Gaston Plante invented batteries as we know them in 1859. Simply put, the battery will live through so many cycles, and that is it (more on this in a bit). The lead-acid “SLI” (starting, lighting, & ignition) batteries used in cars (regardless of design) use metallic lead frames that are filled with lead oxide paste. The lead metal frames are only there to conduct electricity and take no part in generating current, which is done by a chemical process between the lead oxide paste and the sulfuric acid solution surrounding it. The lead oxide reacts with the acid to form lead sulfate, releasing electrical current, which provides the juice to run the cars systems. When recharged, either by an external charger or the car’s alternator, the lead sulfate is converted back into lead oxide. The problem is that the chemistry is not perfect, and some of the lead sulfate is not converted back to the oxide form and over time the level of unconverted sulfate continues to grow, which does three bad things: The output capacity of the battery is reduced by some level, the batteries life is reduced, and the internal resistance inside the battery rises (which is why really weak batteries take a long time to charge, get very warm, and still do not put out much power). A couple of more points about the oxide/sulfate conversion problem is that the deeper the level of discharge from total remaining capacity per cycle, the worse the sulfating per cycle becomes, and the harder the battery is to recharge. Add in the environment and the problems are compounded further: In the cold, the electrochemical process that generates the power is reduced, regardless of the batteries state of condition (this is why otherwise fine batteries suddenly die on the first cold morning). Batteries exposed to higher temperatures do just the opposite, they tend to generate more power faster, but in the process sulfate more, which is not converted back to the oxide form, and their lives are shortened accordingly. This is one of the reasons many cars locate the battery close to the front grill to get it away from as much engine heat as possible, and batteries used in very hot climates die sooner. So, it is entirely possible to have a relatively “new” battery that demonstrates reduced current output levels, often 25% or more below the “design” level when subjected to load testing. This is also why using a proper load testing procedure is the only true method of determining a battery’s operating condition.

2. In the cases we have seen, the source of the problems varied. All cars have constant low level current draws caused by everything from the ECU memory to the radio station pre-sets, navigation systems, alarms, immobilizers, remote entry systems, and keeping the clock accurate. This is why a brand new Porsche, depending upon how it is equipped from the factory, can kill an otherwise good battery when parked for a relatively short time frame, and why Porsche (and others) offer battery maintainers. These draw sources are on multiple circuits; but the important point is that their impact on the battery is cumulative. Even a cell phone charger left plugged in to the cig lighter causes some level of discharge, even when the phone isn’t attached. In our experience, we have found excessive current draws caused by everything from a faulty CD changer (ever wonder how a CD change can eject the disc cartridge with out the key in the ignition? Simple, there is power to the unit when the car is off, and if the unit goes bad, the draw rises, adding to the load on the battery), to seat heater relays, and quite often aftermarket add-ons. One of our favorites was a couple of year old, but immaculate second owner turbo with a new replacement battery that went dead after only a couple of days in relatively mild weather. We traced the problem to three aftermarket electronics power supplies that were installed (and very well hidden) that were tapped into multiple “always hot’ circuits like the cig lighter and relay panel circuits. Each charger demonstrated a low individual draw, but whey combined with all the other “native” or active aftermarket draws and the battery had a problem. We also load tested the battery and found it to be well below what you would expect for its age (probably due to the constant multiple low current draws), so we got it replaced under warranty for the client. We also moved some of his after market power taps to “switched” circuits as they really didn’t need to always be hot. The customer’s problem has not returned, even in very cold weather.

I hope this addresses your questions…………………

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Old 12-13-2008, 10:02 PM   #14
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Well now, I see the teacher has cracked me a across the knuckles with the ruler. You know you could have saved yourself premature carpal tunnel but just saying the rule of thumb is 2% capacity loss per month from activation. I did enjoy the chemistry lesson though.

About the drain I agree, if someone installs a bunch of aftermarket add on's and uses Jethro Bodine as their installer yes, your going to have problems by not properly wiring the circuits. I do not agree with you when you say the reason Porsche sells a battery maintainer is because of all the electrical gizmo's they have. I believe the reason is because a majority of these cars are driven sparingly. Only on sunny days when its not too hot and never in the winter. Those cars that are daily drivers I bet have the same reliability as any other ride out there.

Good discussion
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Old 12-14-2008, 05:18 AM   #15
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This particular problem went away when the battery wire to the starter solenoid was disconnected.
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Old 12-14-2008, 06:49 AM   #16
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About the drain I agree, if someone installs a bunch of aftermarket add on's and uses Jethro Bodine as their installer yes, your going to have problems by not properly wiring the circuits. I do not agree with you when you say the reason Porsche sells a battery maintainer is because of all the electrical gizmo's they have. I believe the reason is because a majority of these cars are driven sparingly. Only on sunny days when its not too hot and never in the winter. Those cars that are daily drivers I bet have the same reliability as any other ride out there.

Good discussion
While you are correct about daily usage, if you don't want to believe me about the level of current draw in a totally OEM car, I’d suggest you examine at the following:

1. For years, the owner’s manual for the car has contained language concerning problems with batteries dying if the cars are left to sit for a period of time (usually not defined), and some model years even brought up the use of a maintainer to prevent the problem.

2. There have been postings on several Porsche related websites concerning relatively new (often 2 years old and less) cars with premature battery failures that Porsche would not provide even prorated warranty coverage for the battery replacement because the cars were not driven regularly or stored with a maintainer connected as this behavior was contrary to the instructions contained in the manual.

3. Porsche is not the only marquee that suffers from this issue; examples of Nissan, BMW and others turn up in a quick web search.

4. If you were to simply disconnect your positive terminal on your car, and place a multi meter set on current between the cable and battery terminal, you would see a constant drain, the level of which is directly dependant upon the amount of OEM electronics (GPS, CD changers, audio equipment, cell phone, Bluetooth, alarm/immobilizer systems, remote entry, etc. etc.) the car is equipped with; you could also do the same experiment on any totally OEM vehicle produced since 1996 and would again find some level of current draw. You can also pull individual circuit fuses one at a time to see the contribution of each individual system. The more equipment, the higher the total draw………….like death and taxes.

5. Not everyone purchased these cars for daily transportation. Porsche recognized that and provides an available optional solution, a maintainer, as do most other OEM’s.

6. Talk to your personal mechanic, I’m sure he will confirm that this is a well known issue.
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Old 12-14-2008, 07:01 AM   #17
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This particular problem went away when the battery wire to the starter solenoid was disconnected.
Suggest looking at two potential problem areas:

1. Check the starter relay, they are known to develop internal voltage leaks between the high amperage side to the ground and other circuits inside the relay itself. You can test the relay by pulling it and using a multi meter if you have access to the relay's pin diagram layout. The relay is also easy to swap out.

2. Check the ignition switch, which is a perennial "weak link" in these cars. The electrical section of the switch is prone to failure, but fortunately costs about $10 and is an easy swap out. Problems with this switch are so pervasive that we normally carry spares in stock. You can obtain a replacement from several sources as the unit is also used in Audi’s and VW’s. May want to look up “********************************” in AZ, they usually have them in stock and reasonably priced. Do not go to the dealer for this, they are both wildly over priced and have started to sell the electrical switch section only with the entire steering wheel locking mechanicals.
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Old 12-14-2008, 01:56 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by JFP in PA
Suggest looking at two potential problem areas:

1. Check the starter relay, they are known to develop internal voltage leaks between the high amperage side to the ground and other circuits inside the relay itself. You can test the relay by pulling it and using a multi meter if you have access to the relay's pin diagram layout. The relay is also easy to swap out.

2. Check the ignition switch, which is a perennial "weak link" in these cars. The electrical section of the switch is prone to failure, but fortunately costs about $10 and is an easy swap out. Problems with this switch are so pervasive that we normally carry spares in stock. You can obtain a replacement from several sources as the unit is also used in Audi’s and VW’s. May want to look up “********************************” in AZ, they usually have them in stock and reasonably priced. Do not go to the dealer for this, they are both wildly over priced and have started to sell the electrical switch section only with the entire steering wheel locking mechanicals.

Gee, I think I made that comment over two weeks ago. Paul called the actual fix at the same time, good one Paul!

BTW, I did talk to my personal mechanic and we got into a pretty heated argument, allot of name calling and accusations were thrown around. Then I realized I was talking to myself! About the battery maintainers, you obviously didn't read my post.
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