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mjkiefer 01-18-2009 10:19 AM

Battery drain
Have an 06 Saturn Ion battery drain problem............battery checks out fine, alternator checks out fine but somehow the battery is draining after the car sits for about 8 hours on really cold days. NOTHING is left on........I have NOT installed any aftermarket equipment in/on the vehicle. I don't know what could be draining the battery. Any ideas?

Growser 01-18-2009 11:33 AM

Re: Battery drain
It's called a "parasitic load". Do a search on the topic and you'll see lots of potential causes and how to track it down using a digital volt meter (DVM).

bigbird 01-18-2009 11:37 AM

Re: Battery drain
[QUOTE=mjkiefer;1383571]Have an 06 Saturn Ion battery drain problem............battery checks out fine, alternator checks out fine but somehow the battery is draining after the car sits for about 8 hours on really cold days. NOTHING is left on........I have NOT installed any aftermarket equipment in/on the vehicle. I don't know what could be draining the battery. Any ideas?[/QUOTE]

First, check the trunk light. With the trunk slammed shut peek through a folded down rear seat.
If that's not the problem, get out your DC ammeter. Set it to at least 1 A. Pull each fuse in the fuse box and place the probes of the ammeter in series with the fuse terminals. Don't worry about polarity. You'll soon see which circuit is drawing the current. From there look for a short to ground somewhere in the circuit. If you can't do that, go to a shop that can, because that's exactly what they'll do at around $75-$100/hr.
Good luck and may the electrical force be with you.

mjkiefer 01-18-2009 11:44 AM

Re: Battery drain
Thanks for your replies! Just thought of this while in the shower (I do most of my "intelligent" pondering in there) driver's side window has not worked for quite some time. Is it possible that faulty wiring to the window could be draining my battery ever so slightly even when the ignition is off? It could be draining ever so slightly that it doesn't matter in warmer weather conditions, however, the problem is exacerbated in cooler temps. Just an intelligent thought from the shower. Thanks for any info.

Growser 01-18-2009 11:49 AM

Re: Battery drain
That could do it - it doesn't take much.

mjkiefer 01-18-2009 12:02 PM

Re: Battery drain
Crazy thing..............just went out to see if the car would start. It did (temps didn't drop below 30 overnight so I figured it would. At any rate, the faulty window that hasn't worked for 4+ months now works! Go figure. I wonder if the shop I took it to yesterday inadvertently fixed it when they load tested the battery and the alternator? I'm taking it to the dealership Tues to have them check out the wiring on that window. There may be some kind of short. I bet that's my culprit right there. BTW: It's not the trunk light and I do not have a glove box light or hood light. The window is my only logical explanation.

ssicarman 01-18-2009 01:39 PM

Re: Battery drain
2006. Are you still in warranty? 3 year 36,000 miles.

bigbird 01-18-2009 01:47 PM

Re: Battery drain
[QUOTE=mjkiefer;1383615]Just thought of this while in the shower (I do most of my "intelligent" pondering in there) driver's side window has not worked for quite some time. Is it possible that faulty wiring to the window could be draining my battery ever so slightly even when the ignition is off? [/QUOTE]

For those technicians out there, don't you just love those "oh by the way....".
As an electrician, while trying to troubleshoot someone's electrical problem, you ask them all the logical questions. Then after about an hour of getting nowhere, the customer gives you an "oh by the way". You then just shake your head when the "oh by the way" is the problem or it leads directly to the problem.
If you are getting service on anything, write down everything you can think of that affects the product or its operation. It will save you money!

fdryer 01-18-2009 03:01 PM

Re: Battery drain
I'd go with answering the warranty question first, asking Saturn service if there's an ignition switch problem (posted by many Ion owners when you have the chance to read Ion threads) second. If there's a weak/faulty battery, that would be next to check, in or out of Saturn warranty, then the battery cables.

The main question that may point in the right direction is; when turning the ignition key to START, is there absolute silence instead of hearing the starter turning the engine over? Dead silence suggests the ignition switch problems in freezing weather. Hearing the starter and engine turn over suggests something else......

The electric window theory won'y fly unless the window relay has a sticking set of electrical contacts continuously powering the window motor. You'll have to have the wiring diagrams to understand how this works otherwise the window circuits are disabled when the ignition is turned off. Remember, you cannot open or close the electric windows unless the ignition key is turned to the ACC(essory) position. The ignition switch is the MAIN power switch to almost every electrical circuit. Please correct me if I'm wrong. :cool:

mjkiefer 01-18-2009 03:43 PM

Re: Battery drain
FDRYER: When the car wouldn't start there was "absolute silence" (other than the normal interior beeps for door ajar w/keys in ignition). I did find it odd that it seemed as if the battery was totally dead b/c the engine wouldn't even try to turn over, click or anything. Forgive my ignorance, but if this is an ignition switch problem, two questions arise:

1. Why is it only happening in cold weather?

2. How is hooking up jumper cables suddenly making the ignition switch work?

fdryer 01-18-2009 04:18 PM

Re: Battery drain
Using the booster cables may indicate a battery or battery cable related problem so it requires testing the battery thoroughly and examining the battery cables for any signs of corrosion before looking into ignition switch related problems.

READ the past Ion threads about cold weather ignition switch related problems. The original ones are packed too much with grease and most likely preventing electrical contact for the START signal to enable the start circuit. Added to this problem is that Ions aren't directly wired from ignition switch to the starter but sends this START signal to the body control module (BCM) that in turn enables the starter solenoid that powers up the starter motor. The silence is the giveaway to the ignition switch grease related problem and not a sign of a dead battery. It can be but not according to your description. This new wrinkle in wiring is basically a way to use less current through the ignition switch for the starter solenoid and send a low voltage signal, instead, to the BCM that can now switch a smaller relay that sends the larger current needed to power the starter solenoid, a few amps. The starter itself will use anywhere from 50-150+ amps of battery juice but the starter solenoid uses a few amps. Ion start wiring changed and the ignition switch is a 'faux pas' or slight misjudgement of GM engineering. Either insist Saturn replace it under warranty or do it yourself. You may have to perform a Passlock (factory anti-theft) re-learn though and is relatively easy to do. Search the threads for the instructions.

mjkiefer 01-18-2009 05:35 PM

Re: Battery drain
I bought the Saturn from the dealership used last year. It has under 36,000 but is more than 3 years. Would it still be under warranty?

kae 01-18-2009 06:04 PM

Re: Battery drain
[QUOTE=mjkiefer;1383808]I bought the Saturn from the dealership used last year. It has under 36,000 but is more than 3 years. Would it still be under warranty?[/QUOTE]

No. It's 3yrs/36k whichever comes first. Unless you purchased an extended warranty...

fdryer 01-18-2009 06:10 PM

Re: Battery drain
Not likely but it also depends on each Saturn dealership as to how they want to handle just-out-of-warranty issues. Some will go out of their way to resolve simple issues while others simply turn away unless you wave $$$ at them. You can have your battery/alternator system tested for free by almost any large auto chain store to at least have some idea of which way to go. Autozone, Advanced Auto, NAPA, Kragen, your local garage, etc..

Reading the first post again, if your battery, cables and alternator are fine then its most likely the ignition switch working intermittently. You can leave this as is, wish for the rest of the winter to be warm, schedule service with Saturn and take a chance if they will address this issue (for free or otherwise), or do it yourself. Its your call.

mjkiefer 01-18-2009 11:34 PM

Re: Battery drain if it is an ignition switch problem, is it hit or miss in cold weather as to when it's going to work? I guess I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the ignition switch issue when the car will start if jumper cables are utilized. Keep in mind, the battery and alternator both test fine. Are the jumper cables really what's starting my car b/c of a drained battery or is the ignition switch just getting around to working again between the time it takes me to hook up the cables and turn the key again on a fully charged battery?

fdryer 01-19-2009 12:38 AM

Re: Battery drain
The ignition switch issue occurs in very cold weather with two scenarios; 1)no sound from the starter and the security light comes on, disabling the starter circuit, 2) no sound from the starter.

Starting all over again and this time not assuming anything; measure the battery voltage - at least 12.5v engine off, 13.5v+ engine idling, 14.3v+ above idling. Was the battery 'load' tested, that is placed under a high electrical load to duplicate a large current draw similar to a starter that draws 50-150+ amps of current for over 30-seconds? At the end of this test the battery voltage is measured again to see how it holds up to draining power and its ability to recover. Who did the battery/alternator check? If the battery measures below 12.5v you have the problem originating at the battery.

Next are the battery cables; have you actually removed them, negative cable first then positive cable, for a visual inspection of any corrosion in and under the RED positive cable? Not taking the time to do this thoroughly is making a big assumption if running down the wrong path and it turns out to be cable related. Be absolutely sure its neither the battery nor the battery cables and their connections to ground and the starter. Don't assume anything. Its your car and you ultimately are responsible for any misinterpretations and assumptions as well as describing incorrect assessments, for anyone to provide assistance. Carefully going over the basics like the battery and battery cables with the aid of free battery testing from Autozone or someplace similar will help isolate and eliminate mistakes. Sometimes another pair of eyes may point out something you missed.

An intermittent starting problem will usually begin with the battery for supplying power, the battery cables for distributing the battery power, and the starting circuit that seems to be intermittent. You need to figure out if this is a battery problem, a battery cable(s) problem, the connections related to these two parts as the primary circuits, and/or if its the secondary circuit where the ignition switch uses the electrical system to start the engine. Either you have the ability to follow this or should consider turning to a garage or Saturn for professional help. Having the wiring diagrams and understanding electrical distribution for power may help here.

mjkiefer 01-19-2009 02:20 PM

Re: Battery drain
I've got an appt with the Saturn dealership tomorrow to check everything out. Not surprisingly, they acted like they were unaware of an inordinate amount of ignition switch problems on the Ions. I told them if they ruled out everything else (good battery/cables, alternator, no voltage drain anywhere) and concluded it has to be a faulty ignition switch then I would simply pay for the part and install it myself. I'm not going to pay $200+ for a faulty part THEY should pay to fix themselves. The mechanic, still wanting my $, asked how I would know how to program the switch if I did the install myself. I told him I already know how to work the three cycles. He seemed astonished I would be privy to such information. At any rate.............are the new switches better or will I be having similar problems next year?

fdryer 01-19-2009 06:09 PM

Re: Battery drain
I cannot answer that as my recollection, following the threads here, is that one member posted this question to his dealer that replaced the ignition switch using a 'new and improved' one. You'll have to search the past threads from as far as last year or more to find this post. My best guess on this (and not to be taken as factual unless I can have one in my possession for disassembly) is that the grease interferes with the low voltage signal connecting across a set of standard contacts. The grease (slower acting in winter temps) prevents (possibly) light spring loaded contacts to 'make' or 'close', preventing the START signal from being received by the body control module (BCM) so silence results. Jiggling or heating the key allows transferring some of the heat into the lock cylinder but not the switch internals that are physically separate from the lock cylinder, with mixed results. The few members here with confidence simply did what was necessary to remove as much of the grease from the switch with no further problems. The grease problem in the Ion ignition switches runs parallel to some wiper motors that fail intermittently in freezing weather until owners took it upon themselves to disassemble their wiper mechanisms and removed/replaced the transmission grease, resulting in a perfectly working wiper motor running correctly in freezing temperatures. Go figure..................:cool:

There are many dealers/service people oblivious to Saturnfans and the ability to reach across the country to share immediate problems with a community willing to share solutions. GM/Saturn is well aware of us. :usa:

mjkiefer 01-20-2009 08:07 AM

Re: Battery drain
Thanks for all your posts-you've been most helpful throughout this ordeal. What about disabling the Passlock system? Aside from the fact that your car is more vulnerable to theft, are their any other negatives?

fdryer 01-20-2009 08:59 AM

Re: Battery drain
The factory Passlock anti-theft system cannot be disabled [I]entirely[/I] when using your remote to Lock/Unlock as the system is keyed into the remote system. However, you can have your system sort of disabled by simply not using the remote; manually use the doorlock switches to Lock and key to Unlock. This should allow the Passlock system to stay disabled as you're not [I]remotely[/I] enabling/disabling Passlock while simultaneously locking/unlocking the doors. If you understand this then you can pick the days when you're expecting problems and leave the anti-theft system off while choosing when and where to use it when temps rise or parking with a sunny view to keep the interior warm. This should be a good alternative work around.

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