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Davo, Master technician
Category: Chevy
Satisfied Customers: 3253
Experience:  ASE Master Technician also L1 Advanced Engine Performance Specialist
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2003 Astro: with 200,000 on the way home..10 minutes later

Customer Question

I have a 2003 Astro with 200,000 miles. A week ago I stopped at the bank on the way home. I went in and came out 10 minutes later. When I got in the van I put the key in the ignition and placed my foot on the brake. The brake pedal went to the floor. When I turned the key it would not start. When I placed a digital multi meter on the battery I had .5 VDC. I went and got a new battery and returned. While attempting to install the new battery the positive battery cable arced very badly. Every time I touched it to the positive terminal on the battery it continuously arced. I finally tightened it on to the battery and tried to start it. The van felt like it was "cold" it was misfiring badly. I immediately unhooked the battery as I was concerned about frying the VCM or computer. After 15 minutes of scratching my head in confusion, I was asked to roll my van backwards about 2 feet so a mechanic could have room to get under neath. He looked around underneath and found nothing. We decided to try connecting the battery cable again and this time arc. We tightened down the cable and I drove away. That was exactly 1 week and 850 miles ago today Sep 29 2006. Today the exact same scenario happened. I drove around town all day, stopped at a store, went in and came out 10 minutes later and tried to start the van. This time the brake pedal went to the floor but it started. I started to smell plastic or rubber burning. I shut the van off and raised the hood. I couldn't find anything under the hood or where the smell was coming from. I started the van again and this time same thing. I shut it off and did not restart it. I checked the new battery with the DMM and got 1 VDC. After 2 hours of searching under the car looking for a possible frayed wire or melted wire, I gave up. I used a portable charger to charge the battery. When the battery was charged I started the van after fighting some serious arcing while hooking up the positive battey cable. The van ran the way that it did a week ago, it sounded like it was missing badly. I immediately shut it off and ran to the front to disconnect the battey cable due to concern of a fire. I called a flat bed tow truck to pick me up and take me home and drop the astro in the driveway. After the van was ROLLED BACKWARDS off the flatbed I gave it one last ditch effort and tried hooking up the battery cable...This time no arc and the van started right up no problem. The only 2 things that are the same from last week and this week was that even after installing a brand new battery, the van didn't start until being rolled backwards, and the brake pedal went to the floor both times. Is there a sensor or something in the wheels that is shorting and correcting itself when the van is rolled? Could an electrical connection going to my ABS be cut and causing a short ???

Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Chevy
Expert:  Davo replied 10 years ago.
I would start by checking the fusible link and positive battery cable at the starter and where they go up through to the battery.If you can get it to happen again take your voltmeter and set it up for an amp reading.Then place the meter leads from the battey terminal to the battery cable.Then pull fuses until the amp reading drops a good bit.You will need to open the doors and trip the latches to avoid a false reading from the dome light.You will also have to wait up to ten minutes for the BCM to power down before taking a reading.If pulling fuses doesn't drop the reading you will need to unplug the alternator to see if it's causing the short.It's not the abs sensors at the wheels.There is no voltage going to them they produce a small voltage signal to the abs module.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Davo's Post: I am liking your answer and think I will ACCEPT it however, why do the brakes come in to play each time this happens?
Expert:  Davo replied 10 years ago.
The abs may be malfunctioning because of the drain on the system.Low battery voltage while driving will sometimes kick on the abs light before the battery light.That is an example not your specific case.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Davo's Post: Davo, I am heading down to advance auto parts now to have a diagnostic check, and the alternator & voltage regulator checked. I will reply again when I return. You are the only one helping me so obviously you will get my "accept".

Expert:  Davo replied 10 years ago.
Okay but just so you know I leave for work at 1:30 pm est.If I am not busy I can still reply the boss set me up an account to use for the slow times.Lol.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Davo's Post: OK, I checked the voltage regulator, the starter, the battery, the alternator, and did a diagnostic on the computer. All of these came back good. I then did ANOTHER physical check under the van to see if there were any cut wires. I followed my negative battery cable from the battery to the engine block and found a 3 inch long, 1/2 inch wide by 1/4 inch deep gouge in the cable under the van. the cut was burnt and a little melted. Could a cut in a ground cable cause this problem? Wouldn't this cause a short and put resistance on the ground?

Expert:  Davo replied 10 years ago.
The cut in the ground cable won't hurt anything if it touches another ground source.If it touches battey voltage somewhere it will cause problems and kill the battery real quick.I would insulate the ground cable or replace it just to be safe.Can you tell how it got burned?If there is nothing obvious it may have high resistance and need replaced.
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Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Davo's Post: Well I am replacing the ground cable and hoping that this fixes the problem. I noticed that just underneath this cut there is some liquid on part of the chassis. If this was dripping or running across that cut I thought that might cause a short, hence causing my problem.

Expert:  Davo replied 10 years ago.
If the liquid is in the wire of the cable it could cause a problem depending on where it ends up.Liquid will travel inside the wiring insulation.