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1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
03-06-2014, 06:58 PM
Post: #1
1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
1991 buick regal 3.1. 34,000 original miles. Chicago - lots of snow

Car started and died. no response when turning key. Assumed battery dead. Tried to jump but there was arcing when trying to hook up jumper cables. Placed a battery charger on battery would not take a charge. Took battery to be tested. Store recharged battery said it was good. Re-installed battery and had major arc when connecting battery. Friend suggested replace alternator. Did so and again in reconnecting battery get major sparking . What do i check next. friend said try replacing starter.

Is friend on right track before i spend another couple of hours outside working on vehicle?
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03-06-2014, 10:22 PM (This post was last modified: 03-06-2014 10:24 PM by Garner.)
Post: #2
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Check for obvious things that are turned on first like the headlights, ignition switch, stereo, door open and lighting the dome light, etc.. If something is on, that will make the arching when trying to hook up the battery. If you don't find anything that is on then I would find out what is causing the problem rather than just replacing things. (that can get expensive) If you suspect the starter, pull the wire off of it, make sure that it isn't touching anything, & then try to hook up the battery. If the arching isn't there you now know that the starter is the culprit and; as a bonus, you already have part of the job done because the wire is already off. If the arching is still there, you have to keep hunting. You could unhook the wire to the alternator to check it. You can pull fuses and relays to check other things. Keep in mind that small arching is normal due to things like the PCM and other electronics that are always on. Also think safety while working around a battery. Safety glasses would be in order at the least. A battery releases hydrogen gas (think, Hindenburg) and those sparks can ignite it. A face full of acid would not be nice but the glasses could at least save your sight.

Please let us know what you find.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

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03-06-2014, 10:47 PM
Post: #3
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
(03-06-2014 10:22 PM)Garner Wrote:  Check for obvious things that are turned on first like the headlights, ignition switch, stereo, door open and lighting the dome light, etc.. If something is on, that will make the arching when trying to hook up the battery. If you don't find anything that is on then I would find out what is causing the problem rather than just replacing things. (that can get expensive) If you suspect the starter, pull the wire off of it, make sure that it isn't touching anything, & then try to hook up the battery. If the arching isn't there you now know that the starter is the culprit and; as a bonus, you already have part of the job done because the wire is already off. If the arching is still there, you have to keep hunting. You could unhook the wire to the alternator to check it. You can pull fuses and relays to check other things. Keep in mind that small arching is normal due to things like the PCM and other electronics that are always on. Also think safety while working around a battery. Safety glasses would be in order at the least. A battery releases hydrogen gas (think, Hindenburg) and those sparks can ignite it. A face full of acid would not be nice but the glasses could at least save your sight.

Please let us know what you find.


Thank you for the reply. I did make sure all electrical draws were off including everything you mentioned. Even went so far as pulling a few fuses but severe arcing was still present when I tried to connect the battery. I do appreciate your confirming that a small spark might happen due to the hood light or something small still drawing power. Again this is a major arc. Terminals are clean. Battery is a 2012 and is secured with locking hub so it is not grounding itself. The battery cables do not have any wear that I can see.

I really appreciate the thought to pull the wire off the starter & then try to hook up the battery. You are right just replacing parts on a 23 year old car is not a wise investment. I replaced the alternator at friends suggestion and because it made a very slight grinding noise when spun, with the serpentine belt removed.

If the arcing is still present with the starter disconnected do you have any other thoughts?
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03-07-2014, 01:03 AM
Post: #4
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Follow the positive battery cable. It could be chaffed and shorted to ground, especially on an older vehicle where worn motor mounts and such can have things shifting around when you least expect it. Same goes for that BIG wire on the alternator. Follow the harness to look for anything metled or burned. Whatever it is it already drained the battery once so it's got to be a fairly heavy draw.

BTW, I recently had a Chevy van with a stuck blower relay that drained the battery. Since the high speed can draw near 20 amps (and give a pretty good spark) without melting anything you might try pulling the wire off the blower motor. There will still be a slight draw but if that makes a difference then you at least have a direction to work with.

Let us know what you find and we can chat more if necessary.
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03-07-2014, 02:53 AM
Post: #5
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Here’s another little tip that could save you from trying to hook the battery up each time you unhook something for testing. Put the positive battery terminal on the battery. Put a test light between the negative battery post and the negative cable. If there is a heavy draw the light will be pretty bright. If you unhook something that is a big draw the bulb will get dim and you know that you found something. Don’t be afraid to try the alternator wire again. “Different” or “New” alternator doesn’t always mean “Good.” I have gotten more than one bad one. If you are checking wires; as Rupe suggested, and pull a shorted one away from the ground the light will dim and let you know you’re in the right place.

Please let us know what you find.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

Interested in Mining? Look here: Coal Mining, PA
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03-08-2014, 05:49 PM
Post: #6
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Pulled the wires off the starter. Not easy in the snow under this car with the plastic cover and air deflector and no flex in the wires. Wires were very corroded and one wire had been spliced by someone at some time. Reconnected battery no big spark. Friend suggested hooking battery charger directly to starter and "jumping the starter". Starter spun. Turns out the corroded wires along with the spliced wire were the problem.

Car now starts and runs. I appreciate your thoughts and advice.
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03-08-2014, 06:39 PM
Post: #7
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Thanks for the follow up. I'm sure others reading here will pick up a pointer or two from your experience!
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03-09-2014, 01:51 AM
Post: #8
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Unless I'm missing something, corroded & spliced wires shouldn't have been causing a draw to cause sparks at the battery. It almost sounds like the starter solenoid may have been stuck in until you used the battery charger to test it. I would guess that the zap from the charger shook it loose. A stuck solenoid would explain the dead battery, the arching while trying to jump it, and why the battery wouldn't charge with the charger while it was in the car but it did out of the car. If it happens again I think that I would just replace the starter. Each time a starter solenoid sticks it burns the contacts, heats up the windings in the starter, and puts a hurtin' on the battery.

As Rupe said, Thanks for the follow up. Stop by again some time.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

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03-10-2014, 07:13 PM
Post: #9
RE: 1991 buick regal 3.1 severe arcing battery
Based on your thoughts and not wanting young daughter stuck somewhere. And now that it is 50 in Chicago, I think I will go ahead and replace the starter. Easier to work on in my drive vs anywhere else.

Thank you all very much.
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