: Rough idle, dead battery....what's up?



Rolex
03-01-06, 05:25 PM
My 03 Lade has 54k on the clock, but remains fully covered under an extended warranty. Two weeks ago my battery went dead and I replaced it with one of the Optima Red Top batteries. That seemed to fix the problem until I tried to start my Lade last Friday morning and get the rapid clicking noise. I was able to get it started by using the wife's honda for a jump (the shame in it).

I'm inclined to believe I may have an alternator going bad. For almost a week now I've had no problem with it though. Still, when running the heater the engine idles very rough when the vehicle comes to a full stop. It's also worth mentioning that I've recently added an amp and subwoofer. Other than drawing more current I can't see how that would cause all of the above.

Anyone with similar experiences please fill me in. Thanks.

Rolex

Rolex
03-01-06, 06:59 PM
Further search turned up a dirty throttle body as the possible cause of the rough, low idle. So I'll pick up some TB cleaner tomorrow and give it a spray.

I'm continuing to search on the cause of the dead battery. If you guys can make it easy for me please do.

99escalademan
03-01-06, 07:00 PM
Clean the connections on the terminals. use coke and some tinfoil.

Rolex
03-01-06, 07:15 PM
Thanks. That seems to be what I keep coming up with on searches. I'm going to check all terminals and connections on the battery, starter, and alternator this weekend. I'm thinking of replacing the wire from the alternator to the battery with a larger guage to see of that will help keep the battery charged. I may have the alternator tested at the parts store, but I'm betting that it's ok based on the fact that I haven't had another problem with it since.

I just don't like the idea of ending up stranded somewhere. Thanks for the feedback.

slk230mb
03-01-06, 08:12 PM
Well everything I was going to suggest you either found via search or got from another post, so I'm not going to bother to repeat it. :)

danksontl
03-01-06, 09:33 PM
When the vehicle's computer loses power (dead battery or poor connection) it can cause a rough idle until the computer re-learns how to properly operate. It can take quite a few miles of continuous driving with a fully charged battery to reset the computer. Make sure the battery is charged and can maintain a charge, then drive it for a while and see if the idle improves.

You said that you had to be jump started. If the battery was truly dead (not just a poor connection), you could have damaged your alternator after starting and running the engine for a period of time. Alternators are made to maintain a state of charge on a battery, not recharge a dead battery. If the battery charge was that low, components inside the alternator could have been stressed. Many auto parts retailers test batteries and alternators for free. A properly functioning alternator should produce about 14V. Bear in mind that a battery can't be properly tested unless it's fully charged.

In the good ol days, you could disconnect a battery from a running engine to test an alternator. If the engine died, the alternator was bad. Don't let anyone talk you into doing this. Modern vehicles' electrical systems are very sophisticated and too sensitive (computers, theft deterent system, air bags, audio/video equipment etc) to allow that test. Have your components tested by someone who knows what they are doing. If you are still covered by a warranty, take advantage of it. Good luck.

Rolex
03-01-06, 09:40 PM
You said that you had to be jump started. If the battery was truly dead (not just a poor connection), you could have damaged your alternator after starting and running the engine for a period of time. Alternators are made to maintain a state of charge on a battery, not recharge a dead battery. If the battery charge was that low, components inside the alternator could have been stressed.

Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately when I'm on call jumping is the only option (always in a rush). I'll have to take your word about "stressing" an alternator by charging a dead battery because that would be the first I've ever heard of it. Frankly that doesn't make a lot of sense either, but what do I know.

SLK: I should have just saved the thread start and stuck to the search....I guess I got lazy. The good thing is that this place is a wealth of useful info. :thumbsup:

danksontl
03-01-06, 10:05 PM
The alternator has an internal voltage regulator that typically has a set of diodes that convert the alternator's AC to DC. If the battery is low, it causes the alternator to "work" harder, generating a lot of heat. This heat can cause the semiconductive material in the diodes and the coating on the alternators stationary windings to break down. It basically comes down to the alternator's inability to get rid of excessive heat due to continuous operation at maximum load.

I also was thinking of what you said about noticing the rough idle when the heater is on. If there is a heavy load on the alternator (rear defroster, fan motors, big amplifiers, etc) it can make the idle rough. The harder the alternator has to work, the harder it is for the engine to spin it. You probably wouldn't notice the difference any other time, just at idle. It is hard to diagnose without testing.

slk230mb
03-02-06, 08:16 AM
SLK: I should have just saved the thread start and stuck to the search....I guess I got lazy. The good thing is that this place is a wealth of useful info. :thumbsup:

Who cares, we all get lazy sometimes, and replying in this thread twice now helps me towards 3k posts...:rolleyes:

Rolex
03-02-06, 01:15 PM
The alternator has an internal voltage regulator that typically has a set of diodes that convert the alternator's AC to DC. If the battery is low, it causes the alternator to "work" harder, generating a lot of heat. This heat can cause the semiconductive material in the diodes and the coating on the alternators stationary windings to break down. It basically comes down to the alternator's inability to get rid of excessive heat due to continuous operation at maximum load.

I also was thinking of what you said about noticing the rough idle when the heater is on. If there is a heavy load on the alternator (rear defroster, fan motors, big amplifiers, etc) it can make the idle rough. The harder the alternator has to work, the harder it is for the engine to spin it. You probably wouldn't notice the difference any other time, just at idle. It is hard to diagnose without testing.

Thanks for the alternator 411. You seem like you know your stuff! :thumbsup:


Who cares, we all get lazy sometimes, and replying in this thread twice now helps me towards 3k posts...:rolleyes:

You, my friend, are a filthy post whore. :p

metalhead212
03-02-06, 02:11 PM
I know it has already been suggested, but that is exactly the same problem I am going through with mine. Two weeks ago I was at they gym with my GF and we jumped in the car to leave. She tried to turn it over and it immediately died and started clicking like a machine gun. I got out and fussed with the battery cables and told her to start it. It started right up no problem. When I got home I tightened them. The next day I went to work and cleaned the connections and then put a protectant coating on them. Two weeks go by and we are at the grocery store. I try to start it up...same thing. No start. Except this time it didn't click like crazy. I jumped out and again fussed with the cables. She cranked it and it started right up. I went home and tightened the cables one last time. The advice I got on the situation was to actually check the battery terminals to make sure that they haven't been damaged. They kept comming loose, after being tightened twice, wich caused the car to lose power which resulted in the car going temporarily crazy. Best case scenerio is you might need to replace the battery. Worst is most likely going to be something with the ALT.

Good luck

Rolex
03-02-06, 05:14 PM
UPDATE: So I did as advised and cleaned the throttle body. I warmed the engine up and then turned it back off. I stuffed an old rag behind the butterfly and beneath the throttle body to catch any drippage or debris. The throttle body was absolutely filthy BTW. I'm certain there was enough build up around the butterfly to prevent it from closing properly at idle. I even had to use a rag to scrub some of the tougher spots.

I also dumped some Sea Foam into the gas tank, the crankcase, and used the PCV vacuum to treat the engine. The PCV valve didn't look too bad and cleaned up nicely with the TB cleaner. I had a small amount of carbon build up in the engine, based on the black smoke emitted for several minutes after restarting the engine after adding Sea Foam down the PCV vacuum line.

The engine seems to idle much smoother and initially felt more responsive to acceleration. I'm optimistic that this will rid me of the rough idling problem. I also checked all connections from the battery to the starter, and alternator to starter. All electrical connections are tight and appear to be free of corrosion. If the battery problem happens again I will consider it worthy of a trip to the professionals for some diagnostics on the alternator and electrical system.

For future reference here is the location of the PCV valve on the Escalade :

http://gm-trucks.com/home/content/view/141/25/

This site may be a valuable resource in the future. :D

Steelhead Jess
03-02-06, 09:52 PM
Didn't I read somewhere that the 03 had a recall for draining the battery?

Synergetic
03-02-06, 10:28 PM
[NEVERMIND - I didn't read that you fixed it! My bad]
It maybe your SUB and AMP eating up the power. Hate to say it, but I don't have a big baller dual alternator setup, therefore its hard to power my sound system and I always get that rough idle. Like at night, you can see the headlights dimming in and out, and especially when i'm running the heater. Ive had times when my Escalade hasn't warmed up and I had the heater on and I come to an intersection and my RPM's drop completly and the truck shuts off.

With that said, what does everybody idle at? I idle around 400.

slk230mb
03-02-06, 10:45 PM
[NEVERMIND - I didn't read that you fixed it! My bad]
It maybe your SUB and AMP eating up the power. Hate to say it, but I don't have a big baller dual alternator setup, therefore its hard to power my sound system and I always get that rough idle. Like at night, you can see the headlights dimming in and out, and especially when i'm running the heater. Ive had times when my Escalade hasn't warmed up and I had the heater on and I come to an intersection and my RPM's drop completly and the truck shuts off.

With that said, what does everybody idle at? I idle around 400.

Yea, I idle around 900 when warmed up, about 1500 cold. When I had a dirty throttle body it was around 400.

Rolex
03-02-06, 10:59 PM
Damnit I typed a long post and it got lost. :mad:

In short...if the battery continues to come up dead I figure I'll have the alternator tested (the Optima red top is only 1 week old). It occured to me that the amp could be draining the battery and exceeding the alternator's ability to keep it fully charged, especially while running things like the heater and sterao at the same time. If that's the case do you guysthink a high output alternator would help out?

slk230mb
03-03-06, 12:25 AM
Damnit I typed a long post and it got lost. :mad:

In short...if the battery continues to come up dead I figure I'll have the alternator tested (the Optima red top is only 1 week old). It occured to me that the amp could be draining the battery and exceeding the alternator's ability to keep it fully charged, especially while running things like the heater and sterao at the same time. If that's the case do you guysthink a high output alternator would help out?

That or maybe a *I can't remember the name of it now* thing that stores some power for the amp.

Edit - is the amp hooked up to a switched power source?

Sta11ion
03-03-06, 11:57 AM
All guesses, you need to do a avr test also check if there is a paristic draw disconnect the negavitive battery and connect in to a volt meter it should not past .3volts or use a test light it should not light up just a little if any. If good check the resistant of the wire from the positive of the starter to the battery. Then the negative of the terminal of the battery to the ground ther should barely be any resistant. That will tell you your answer.

mikeee
03-03-06, 01:01 PM
I idle at 650. Thanks for updating the thread with results ROLEX!

Rolex
03-03-06, 02:04 PM
That or maybe a *I can't remember the name of it now* thing that stores some power for the amp.

Edit - is the amp hooked up to a switched power source?

You're talking about a capacitor I assume. I think I'd rather invest in the HO alternator or a second battery setup rather than a capacitor (frankly I dislike the idea of the stereo guy doing anything else to my vehicle). The amplifier is hooked up to the red accesory battery box just to the driver's side of the engine. It has to be triggered by the ignition switch to power up, so I assume that means it is in fact attached to a switched source!?? :hmm:


I idle at 650. Thanks for updating the thread with results ROLEX!

Hopefully I can contribute something positive around here once in awhile (other than a sarchastic ense of humor). :thumbsup:

slk230mb
03-03-06, 02:25 PM
Rolex, that lead is hot all the time. When I had my hands free kit for my cellphone installed, I had it wired up there, and it was always on. I can see your point about the stereo installer and a capacitor (yea, that's what I meant). If the HO alternator can keep the battery charged and power all the extras, go for it. Now I just remembered something - don't Optima batteries have to be taken out of the car and bench charged at least once a year to maintain their life expectancy? If so, how long was yours sitting before you bought it?

Rolex
03-03-06, 04:26 PM
Rolex, that lead is hot all the time. When I had my hands free kit for my cellphone installed, I had it wired up there, and it was always on. I can see your point about the stereo installer and a capacitor (yea, that's what I meant). If the HO alternator can keep the battery charged and power all the extras, go for it. Now I just remembered something - don't Optima batteries have to be taken out of the car and bench charged at least once a year to maintain their life expectancy? If so, how long was yours sitting before you bought it?

From what I read about them before buying, they can sit in a vehicle or on a shelf for up to a year without boost charging. They will absorb almost 100% of the charge from the alternator and are very slow to give up their charge. I did not find anything on the website that indicated they needed to be removed and specifically charged outside the vehicle.

There's no way to know how long this battery sat in the store, but it's entirely posible that it could have been low on charge and the Escalades "toys" drew enough current to zap it out. Couple that with the very low (300-400) rpm rough idling I had going, and it may not have been getting enough juice to maintain a charge capable of turning over the engine. The volt meter would regularly fall to 11-12 during all the rough idling. At any rate, whatever the problem was has not re-occured. After the thorough cleaning of the intake, PCV system, injectors, and a carbon clean it's idling smoothly at 600 rpm...and the volt meter reads 14 at idle.

For now I'm taking the sit back and see what happens / if it ain't broken don't fix it approach.

ETA: the power light on the amplifier will not come on until the ignition is switched on.

slk230mb
03-03-06, 07:05 PM
I'm pretty sure I saw the info about the batteries needing to be bench charged when I was looking up their warranty info. And for that being an switched source - it sounds like GM's infinite wisdom hard at work.

Rolex
03-03-06, 07:16 PM
And for that being an switched source - it sounds like GM's infinite wisdom hard at work.

I don't believe it is a switched source....but I'm a complete idiot when it comes to wiring sound systems. My air horns are powered by the same box and they work without the key on.

danksontl
03-04-06, 08:44 AM
As was posted earlier, the parasitic draw test will tell you if you have a continuous drain. I would like to add that you can isolate the circuit that is guilty of a drain by pulling fuses and repeating the test. Note: circuits like courtesy lights and the clock will draw some power.