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Old 02-26-2015, 01:01 PM   #1
txvueowner
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Default cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Hi all,

2007 Vue with 3.5 L engine. About 88,000 miles

First time I am posting. I am not very knowledgeable so usually rely on a mechanic or you guys. Y'all are very helpful.

Problem Description:

On cold weather starts (say below 40 F, car starts and runs. Very quickly (second or 2) dash lights flicker and power is lost to dash, power steering, radio - essentially all accessory power lost. Engine continues to run. Voltage goes very high - I've observed over 19 volts when this occurs. Also hear cough (noise like turning key too long on start up) when volts jump and power is lost. Noise seems to be next to Under Hood Fuse Box (UHFB) in vicinity of starter relay I think or maybe under master cylinder. Happens twice. On third start, car starts and runs normally. No problems rest of day (it probably warms to about 40 most days here). Happens next day if its cold. Has not happened on warm day yet. (South Texas so I know my cold and warm are different than most...)

What's been tried:

Problem first happened after check engine light and red battery problem light came on. Mechanic replaced generator and said codes pointed to generator but he experienced the problem one time after generator was replaced. I continue to experience the problem on cold days (below about 40 F). Anyway, went to auto zone which read codes P0621 and C0896.

Mechanic Checked grounds and connections, haven't found any that are bad.

Had advanced auto check battery, generator starter circuit. It check out ok - said battery needed charging. Battery replaced anyway. Same problem happened next (this) morning (about 32 F outside temp).

Other info:

Coolant level appears to be about 1 inch below the full cold mark. Filled it up to mark but it cam back down to about 1 inch below mark. Level doesn't seem to be dropping more. Possible leak at plastic tank? It's close to Under Hood Fuse Box (UHFB). could this be related?

Also, for about a month before all this start hear a sort of clunking noise under hood at stop signs or light on about the second stop after starting a trip. Seems to go away. Can't tell if its related to having brakes applies or not - does not occur when vehicle is moving.

Also tried to start vehicle with ABS fuse pulled (because of C0896 code mentioned above) - vehicle started but was third time so may not because fuse was pulled. Pulling fuse on not third start did not work this morning. Read the following codes after start with ABS fuse pulled (some are due to having fuse pulled so not sure any of these codes are of value):

c0276, c0241, p0621, u0121 ,u0140

Anyone have any ideas what it might be the problem(s)?

Thanks for reading my long post and any suggestions you may have.
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Old 02-26-2015, 02:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

I'd go to AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts and have the charging system checked again. It sounds like the voltage regulator (internal in the alternator) has failed if you're seeing 19 volts.

Just speculation: Maintenance free battery dried up causing the alternator to run full charge all the time, replaced alternator first causing new alternator to also run full charge and fail, then change battery. This is what I suspect happened to my Saturn SL but it's just speculation.

Best.
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Old 02-26-2015, 05:47 PM   #3
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Quote:
Originally Posted by txvueowner View Post
c0276, c0241, p0621, u0121 ,u0140

Anyone have any ideas what it might be the problem(s)?
I'd check condition of the smaller red cable leading from battery positive terminal to end of under-hood fuse box nearest strut tower. An intermittently bad connection - or cable - could cause some of conditions you mention.

Two of your codes (plus several IPC indications) could be related to chafing wires near the IP fuse box (next to front pax left foot). I've attached a service info sheet if interested.

Repost or send PM if the service doc refers to any other item(s) which might be useful.
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Old 02-26-2015, 08:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Topcat and FTG,

Thanks for the quick replies.

TC, I don't think its alternator but I will have circuit checked again tomorrow.

I did overheat the new battery this morning with 19 volts on start up - saw some acid being vented before shutting off - I thought I could do some trouble shooting with the high volts but probably not a good idea.

Vehicle started normal on third try and was OK rest of day...

FTG,

I had checked condition of red wire - as much as I can tell its good. Same voltage on inlet to UHFB as at battery. Shaking wire had no effect.

At your suggestion, I tried looking for chafing on aluminum bracket in center console fuse box. Hampered by not knowing exactly what I am looking for and difficulty seeing. But no wires appear to be rubbing on the aluminum bracket that is visible when cover is pulled off.

The service bulletin you posted refers to a diagnostic and repair process to be followed. Is there a way to get that process?

Lastly, I think the noise I hear near start relay or under master cylinder is related to the problem. Could a faulty start or other relay or switch in that area cause the problem I described?

Thanks
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

ABS pump with EBCM is located under the power brake hardware.

I believe the EBCM and PCM dialog using CAN bus. I'll verify when I get back to PC with service manual.

My preferred method to locate loose connections or chafing wires is to set conditions of expected failure and vigorously shake candidate wiring.
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Old 02-27-2015, 10:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Hi all,

Thought I would post an update:

Problem re-occurred this morning with temp reading 39 F. Occurred three times on start up this morning but didn't start correctly even on third start. Because I needed to move vehicle out of way of other vehicles in driveway, I moved it without the power steering and accessories working. About 3 or 4 minutes passed and the problem slowly went away. I suspect the voltage slowly decayed to normal and when voltage came into range things started working correctly again. Used vehicle the rest of day without problem even though temperature stayed below 45F - had 4 or 5 starts without problem.

I did go to Advanced Auto (first stop in morning). Ran charging system check - everything came back ok but the problem did not manifest itself during the test.

The SES light did come on this morning while I was moving vehicle without power to accessories. It was off the rest of the day...

Advanced Auto read same codes as previously ; c0276 c0241 p0621 u0073 u0121 u0140

To me, these problems are intermittent but not random - they occur only on mornings when the overnight temperature has gone below about 40 F and the car has been sitting cold (not garaged).

To date, the problem has not occurred with the vehicle in motion - whether I hit a bump or not, etc.

I think these latter two points suggest that its not a loose wire since I think the problem would occur more randomly and perhaps more when vehicle is in motion hitting bumps, etc.

I believe the problem is either in the Voltage regulator system - I understand its computer controlled and a likely candidate is one of the control modules (not sure which one, could use some help here). Anything else in this system a likely candidate? CAN wiring? How is reference voltage determined, anyway? Could it be that?

or -perhaps wishful thinking - in the ignition or starter system. I only say this because it happens exclusively at this point after initial start up in the morning and I hear a noise like a bad starter right when the voltage goes high and the accessory power is lost. Is it worth just replacing the ignition? - just got a letter about replacements if keys are falling out... Could the starter relay stay closed too long and would that cause a high voltage?

Is there something in the auxiliary power circuit that cuts it out for protection when voltage is too high? I am wondering which is chicken and egg - fault in auxiliary system causing high voltage or high voltage causing auxiliary systems to shutdown. I think its the latter as the voltage is supposed to be regulated at about 14.3.

Another long post, sorry I get wordy...

Hope some of y'all will have some ideas.

Thanks
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Old 02-27-2015, 11:39 PM   #7
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Was original generator replaced with a quality rebuilt type?

I've attached PDF service manual extract describing how electrical system is supposed to operate and a thumbnail depicting key elements of charging system. (You would follow wires for L66).

Did you use a digital meter to determine generator output was over 19 volts?

Most of codes appear to be CAN related to me - do you have experience using ohmmeter to check continuity?

I can post diagrams if you're interested in checking CAN circuit for possible shorts to ground to perhaps high and low side shorting to each other.
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Old 02-28-2015, 10:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Where are you checking voltage when you measure 19V? Where is your negative meter lead connected? The generator is self regulating and references its ground to the engine block. If there is a break between the engine ground and body ground you may get unusual voltage readings depending on where your meter is grounded.

The next time you're reading 19v move your meter ground lead to the metal on the intake manifold to confirm its the same.

It looks like the only control the pcm has on the generator is off-on. The duty cycle signal is monitored by the pcm for fault detection only.

I wonder if a short on the white-red wire to the pcm or a faulty pcm grounding out the duty cycle signal could affect the regulator in the generator? You could disconnect the wire on pin 3 to check this theory.
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:23 AM   #9
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Hi FTG,

Thanks for the information.

Answers to your questions:

As far as I know it is a quality generator - though I do not believe it is GM. It came from XL auto parts in Pasadena TX. Mechanic said he "thought it was new not a rebuild".

This problem occurred once prior to replacing alternator. It happened the morning after the battery and SES lights came on and before I took to mechanic who replaced alternator.

Alternator reads a steady 14.3 volts after everything lines out after start up. I have only monitored early morning start ups when I think problem will occur.

I used a digital voltmeter to read the voltage and have seen the voltage go above 19 on two occasions when problem appeared while I was checking voltage. Usually about 12.3 volts prior to cranking, dip to about 10.5 then rise to above 19 volts in short time. Voltage rise coincides with noise like starter sticking from vicinity of UHFB, starter relay or between them and firewall. Could this be something shorting?

On "good" starts I believe the rise is only to about 16.5 volts then it comes down and lines out steady at about 14.3 volts.

I am sure voltage is going high as battery has vented acid on bad starts the last 2 mornings. Once after only seconds while I was reading voltages and yesterday when I was moving vehicle while problem was occurring. I saw the acid after I popped the hood afterwards...

Voltmeter has capability to read resistance but I have no experience doing so. I think I could do it with your instruction.

I agree with your comment about codes pointing at CAN or control modules since they are important to voltage regulation.

One question I have is whether codes reflect cause or effect of problem. That is, is communication lost because power is cut off due to voltage being high (some sort of built in protection). I do not see anything like that in the info you sent so not likely.

Or is loss of communication causing voltage to go high. I am thinking this is the case since potentially no reference voltage for ECM/PCM if communication is lost? or is communication lost because one of the control modules is going bad? But why would it only manifest on cold starts?

Any other comments/suggestions are welcome.

Thanks
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Hi 3RL,

Thanks for jumping in,

I have been measuring voltage across battery terminals for the most part. Once to the in connection to the UHFB.

I'll try measuring the way you suggest and checking the wires you suggest.

I do believe the voltage is going high though (observed acid venting when reading high volts)...and when the voltage goes high shouldn't the Control system tell the alternator to turn off? or is the generator internal voltage regulator supposed to hold at 14.3 at all times once its started? If so, why does the the computer have on/off control? Only adds complexity with no benefit that I perceive?

Thanks
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Old 02-28-2015, 01:05 PM   #11
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

OK,

Just had the problem on first 2 starts this morning - on second start I was able to measure voltage as 3RL suggested. I did not get quite as high but it was reading the same as across battery terminals - it was bouncing between 17 and 18.5 volts in both locations.

Spewed quite a bit of acid out on first start as I was doing it myself and by the time I got from turning on to near battery it was already happening - I did wait a second to see if it went bad as it was 48 (it was colder overnight). I did not get good readings on first start as apparently one of the leads was not connected to voltmeter I guess - it was reading 0 across battery terminals and to engine block and I was rushing due to acid spewing out.

I saw 2 bolts missing - one on engine block near inlet manifold where I put negative lead.

The other right above the generator just to the left of the orange oil dip stick.

Not sure why these are missing - wondering if they are grounding points (at least the one near the generator) that are not connected?

Does anyone have schematics that show the grounding points? It would help me find them. Also where is the red/white wire and what the number 3 pin is - you are already getting beyond my very limited knowledge and I am not confident in my mechanical ability so hesitant to take things apart....

Thanks
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Old 02-28-2015, 02:12 PM   #12
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Quote:
Originally Posted by txvueowner View Post
OK,

Just had the problem on first 2 starts this morning - on second start I was able to measure voltage as 3RL suggested. I did not get quite as high but it was reading the same as across battery terminals - it was bouncing between 17 and 18.5 volts in both locations.

Spewed quite a bit of acid out on first start as I was doing it myself and by the time I got from turning on to near battery it was already happening - I did wait a second to see if it went bad as it was 48 (it was colder overnight). I did not get good readings on first start as apparently one of the leads was not connected to voltmeter I guess - it was reading 0 across battery terminals and to engine block and I was rushing due to acid spewing out.

I saw 2 bolts missing - one on engine block near inlet manifold where I put negative lead.

The other right above the generator just to the left of the orange oil dip stick.

Not sure why these are missing - wondering if they are grounding points (at least the one near the generator) that are not connected?

Does anyone have schematics that show the grounding points? It would help me find them. Also where is the red/white wire and what the number 3 pin is - you are already getting beyond my very limited knowledge and I am not confident in my mechanical ability so hesitant to take things apart....

Thanks
Can you post photo of area where you note "spewing acid"?

And photo's of suspected missing bolts would be helpful.

I've attached service manual extract with battery, generator and grounding cables. The first thumbnail is poor quality but has index to help locate hardware. The second thumbnail is larger view but you'll need to refer back to index on first thumbnail.

By the way - index 3 (G105) is ground cable between battery and chassis - you'll need to remove battery to inspect.

Index 5 (G103) is ground cable from battery to engine ground point.

Both grounds must be present with good cable and clean and tight connections.

See the electrical diagram included with post # 7 to locate white/red wire routed between PCM and generator FIELD terminal (3).

Also - did you have chance to read charging system description in same post as electrical diagram?
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:08 PM   #13
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

I have attached some of the photos requested. I apologize for not having descriptive names on them.


image 2709 shows the "empty" threads located above the Generator to left of the oil dip stick when facing the vehicle - I don't know if something is supposed to be attached or not?

image 2710 shows where the battery vented or spewed from when it gets too high a voltage - one can see the vent (protrudence) on top of the battery and can see on the hoses where some of the acid (electrolyte) landed - it went past the hoses and some landed on the siemens whatever it is (bright blue circle in photo). The is another similar vent on the opposite end of the battery which vented onto windshield cleaner reservoir.

I know the battery is nominally a "sealed battery" but I am thinking these vents are there to keep the battery from exploding should it become overheated and boil the electrolyte by providing a path to relieve pressure. The guy who ran the charging system test at Advanced auto told me that their batteries are plugged at these locations. That would defeat what I think they are there for...

Image 2712 is of the ground G105 to the chassis. It looks like its in good condition to me. I have not taken out the battery to look more at it but looks tight with no signs of corrosion.

With the vehicle running well I did take voltage reading with the negative lead from the voltmeter on the engine block near the air inlet manifold, on the negative battery terminal and on this ground location. All of the readings were the same a rock steady 14.25 volts.

I still need to look for the other ground location (G103). I did not have time to look this afternoon.

I owe you an image of the threads with nothing attached on top of the engine block near the air intake - maybe its supposed to be that way just seems strange to me.

I have read the description F2G posted of the charging system - several times. I'll post my thoughts separately...

Thanks
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:39 PM   #14
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Photo of empty threads on top of engine block will not upload. I'll try again tomorrow with a new photo..
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Old 03-01-2015, 12:01 PM   #15
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Quote:
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Photo of empty threads on top of engine block will not upload. I'll try again tomorrow with a new photo..
txvueowner ... you may be close to a solution but I'm concerned for your safety.

The fact that battery is actually venting liquid from ports is scary ... its an indication the battery is either defective or has been / and continues to be over-charged.

It is possible the battery could explode if over-charging continues!

I've worked on vehicles for well over 50 years and only way I'd mess with yours would be after suiting-up with protective face-mask, clothing, gloves, etc.

I suggest you turn the job over to a knowledgeable electrical troubleshooter before you do damage to yourself or further damage to vehicle.
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Old 03-01-2015, 05:58 PM   #16
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

F2G,

I don't think I'm close to solution at all...or to even knowing what is wrong. But I think you are right its time for a professional.

Its scary to hear about your concern for my safety. I am very careful to have someone shutdown the vehicle as quickly as possible when I see the venting. But I guess the battery could blow at any time...

To add even more concern, when I popped the hood this morning it appeared the battery vented overnight even though the vehicle had not been started! Is that possible? Photo attached. It did rain heavily here this morning but I don't think water would get under hood near battery - it wasn't anywhere else.

Though I normally go to a knowledgeable professional as you suggest, I usually use this forum to get ideas and to be informed enough to know if they are on the right track or not. and I thought it would be low risk to take some voltage readings. The battery venting is a new phenomenon over the last 4 days...at least I think it is... and it coincides with getting a new battery...and also cold weather.

Interestingly, the vehicle started this morning without incident. Voltage went to about 16.4 before lining out at 14.3 volts with no lose of accessories. Temperature was 69 F. I presume you would advise not to drive even if it starts normally as its dangerous either to me or the health of the vehicle. Correct?

That being said, could I ask a few more questions and show you a couple more photos of the ground 103:

Based on your experience, do you think its the generator (bad internal regulator) or in the CAN or control modules? or no way to tell with the info so far?

Would you suggest taking to chevy dealer who does saturn work, there is one close by or a shop that specializes in auto electrical also some close by?

I am attaching a photo of the ground 103. It appears that there may be some discoloration. Do you agree? Do you think this is as a result of the high voltages or could it be a cause?

What about the locations where there are threads but nothing connected? Is that how its supposed to be? I am attaching photo of "empty" threads on top of engine block.

Thanks for your help, advise and concern!
txvue owner
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Old 03-01-2015, 07:25 PM   #17
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

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F2G,

I don't think I'm close to solution at all...or to even knowing what is wrong. But I think you are right its time for a professional.

Its scary to hear about your concern for my safety. I am very careful to have someone shutdown the vehicle as quickly as possible when I see the venting. But I guess the battery could blow at any time...

To add even more concern, when I popped the hood this morning it appeared the battery vented overnight even though the vehicle had not been started! Is that possible? Photo attached. It did rain heavily here this morning but I don't think water would get under hood near battery - it wasn't anywhere else.

Though I normally go to a knowledgeable professional as you suggest, I usually use this forum to get ideas and to be informed enough to know if they are on the right track or not. and I thought it would be low risk to take some voltage readings. The battery venting is a new phenomenon over the last 4 days...at least I think it is... and it coincides with getting a new battery...and also cold weather.

Interestingly, the vehicle started this morning without incident. Voltage went to about 16.4 before lining out at 14.3 volts with no lose of accessories. Temperature was 69 F. I presume you would advise not to drive even if it starts normally as its dangerous either to me or the health of the vehicle. Correct?

That being said, could I ask a few more questions and show you a couple more photos of the ground 103:

Based on your experience, do you think its the generator (bad internal regulator) or in the CAN or control modules? or no way to tell with the info so far?

Would you suggest taking to chevy dealer who does saturn work, there is one close by or a shop that specializes in auto electrical also some close by?

I am attaching a photo of the ground 103. It appears that there may be some discoloration. Do you agree? Do you think this is as a result of the high voltages or could it be a cause?

What about the locations where there are threads but nothing connected? Is that how its supposed to be? I am attaching photo of "empty" threads on top of engine block.

Thanks for your help, advise and concern!
txvue owner
I checked my 2007 3.5 Vue and engine ground (G103) is same as yours so I don't see problem.

I've attached a pix of chassis ground G105 - just visible between the washer reservoir and coolant expansion tank.

There's no hardware in threaded hole on intake - near throttle body.

I do have a bolt in hole near the oil dipstick. In fact - near as I can tell the bolt holds the upper generator support bracket.

I suppose your mechanic could have added a different generator - I'd hate to think he "forgot" the upper support.

It also appear the upper support is key to hold generator wiring harness in-place. I'm sure if lack of this restraint would let wiring contact exhaust manifold - it might be worth looking into.

I'm a fan of using independent shops for the things I can't do - but I insist they use quality parts and I expect a warranty.
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Old 03-01-2015, 07:45 PM   #18
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

Its too late to edit post # 17 but I left word NOT out of next to last sentence. It should read as follows:

I'm NOT sure if lack of this restraint would let wiring contact exhaust manifold - it might be worth looking into.
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Old 03-01-2015, 08:09 PM   #19
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

txvueowner ... you mention noise coming from near under-hood fuse block.

I'd also take a look at accessory drive belt end of engine - if the generator isn't mounted properly it might be causing drive belt (also turns AC compressor) to make strange noises.
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Old 03-01-2015, 09:59 PM   #20
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Default Re: cold weather starts, lose power to accessories, high volts

If you had come into my shop back in the day I would start looking at the alternator immediately. That's the only thing capable of creating the high voltages that your seeing. An internal corroded connection would be my first bet.

You've said temp, but what about humidity? (I'm betting you're in the Houston area.
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