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john -aka eauto
john -aka eauto, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Subaru
Satisfied Customers: 15064
Experience:  15 years as a auto tech
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On 2-26-16 I purchased a 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon.

Customer Question

On 2-26-16 I purchased a 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon. 131,000 miles. I bought it at a garage that specializes in oil changes. They usually have a couple used cars on hand for sale. A search of the VIN shows it is an ltd edition. It looked great inside and out. The guy who runs the garage assured me it was a nice car, but when he tried to start it, it wouldn't start. He had to put a booster on it. He insisted it had started ok a few hours earlier and that most likely one of the doors was not closed tight. Maybe I should have taken that as a warning, but my only other car died and I needed transportation. It started quickly and was very quiet running.
I bought it for $2,600. For the first day I started it every few hours to make sure the battery stayed charged. Then I let it set for a little over 24 hours without starting it. When I tried to start it, it would not start. It started ok with a boost. I took it to another garage and the alternator and battery checked out ok. I was told it could be a short.
For the next few days, as long as I started it every few hours, it started ok, but if it sat for a day, it would not start. I called the garage I bought it from and he sent someone here to give me a boost. Again the car started ok and ran ok. I drove it back to the garage where I bought it and he said he thought the battery terminals were very dirty, so cleaned them.
When I went out Saturday morning I noticed the "Check Engine" light was on. I did an internet search about that and found that Autozone will do a test when the "Check Engine" light comes on and I planned on taking the car to the local Autozone today.
This afternoon the car started, but not as easily as before. I shut it off until I was ready to go to Autozone and when I tried to start it again, it wouldn't do anything. Wouldn't even turn over. Before when what I presumed was the battery, there was a clicking when I tried to start it. Today when I turned the key, there was no sound at all.
Did I get sold a clunker? Have I lost $2,600?
I'm going to call the garage again tomorrow for another boost. He has insisted he will make good on the sale and make sure it is repaired. Hopefully his word is good.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Subaru
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 9 months ago.

did it start with a jump?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
When you ask, "Did it start with a jump?", I presume you mean when the battery was jumped, not did the car itself jump or jerk when started. In my original post, I mentioned it had started with a boost several times. Today when it didn't start, I didn't have anyway to boost it. The battery in my other car is pretty much drained. Tomorrow I'm going to call the garage where I bought it and hope he'll keep his word and send someone to give me a boost (jump). He has been good to date.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 9 months ago.

it sounds like a parasitic draw,,something is staying on draining the battery

A car battery is used to store electrical power in reserve to be used when the car engine is started. Several conditions can occur that will cause a battery to lose its charge overnight. There are several "live" electrical circuits that can draw electrical power from the battery when the key is in the off position

  • As a battery ages it loses its ability to hold a charge, as a rule of thumb a battery will last about three to four years. If the battery is fairly new you will need to start the engine by jump starting or charging the battery using a battery charger. Once the engine is running test the alternator in the charging system. If the alternator fails, replace it with a new or rebuilt unit and re-test system, if the alternator tests ok proceed to the next step.
  • This first test is simple but you would be surprised at how many people simply leave their headlights on overnight. If the battery is dead check the headlight control switch. If the switch is in the on position turn the switch off and jump start or charge the battery. The battery should re-gain its state of charge after about 15 minutes of driving and your problem will solved. If headlight switch is off proceed to next step.
    mechanism fails it can leave the interior light on draining the battery. If this is the case the interior light delay sentinel or Body Control Module will need to be replaced. If all tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the car stereo tape deck or CD player, sometimes a tape or CD will get stuck in the player either loading or ejecting causing the motor inside the tape deck to stop. This small motor can draw enough electrical power to drain the battery overnight. If a tape or CD is stuck in the player try using a small flat bladed screwdriver or small tweezers to remove the culprit. If the stuck tape or CD will not come out. Remove the player and disconnect the unit. Once the unit has been removed either replace the player or send it to a stereo repair shop and reinstall when repaired. If player tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the glove box illumination light, in most cases this light is controlled by a small pin switch. If this switch malfunctions or is misaligned it will allow the glove box light to stay on draining the battery down overnight. To check for this condition look for the light inside the glove box through the small cracks in the glove box door. If this light is illuminated when the glove box door is shut replace or readjust the switch to operate properly and recheck light operation. If it tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the car stereo tape deck or CD player, sometimes a tape or CD will get stuck in the player either loading or ejecting causing the motor inside the tape deck to stop. This small motor can draw enough electrical power to drain the battery overnight. If a tape or CD is stuck in the player try using a small flat bladed screwdriver or small tweezers to remove the culprit. If the stuck tape or CD will not come out. Remove the player and disconnect the unit. Once the unit has been removed either replace the player or send it to a stereo repair shop and reinstall when repaired. If player tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the glove box illumination light, in most cases this light is controlled by a small pin switch. If this switch malfunctions or is misaligned it will allow the glove box light to stay on draining the battery down overnight. To check for this condition look for the light inside the glove box through the small cracks in the glove box door. If this light is illuminated when the glove box door is shut replace or readjust the switch to operate properly and recheck light operation. If it tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the trunk illumination light, in most cases this light is controlled by a small pin or a mercury level switch. To test the trunk light operation observe the light as you close the trunk lid, the light should go off when the trunk lid is nearly shut. If the light doesn't go off replace or readjust the switch and recheck operation. If it tests ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the hood (covers the engine) illumination light, in most cases this light is controlled by a small pin or a mercury level switch. To test the hood light operation observe the light as you close the hood, the light should go off when the hood is nearly shut. If the light doesn't go off replace or readjust the switch and recheck operation. If it tests ok proceed to next step.
    debris that can cause an electrical draw like a penny or a gum wrapper. Anything that can cause an electrical draw will drain the battery power. If debris is found remove it with a small pair of tweezers. (Note: sometimes when inserting tweezers or removing debris from the cigarette lighter a fuse can blow, if so replace the fuse with new after the debris has been removed) If the lighter is ok proceed to next step.
  • Inspect the electric seat control switch, this switch can become sticky or weak allowing the switch to stay engaged forcing the seat motor to draw power from the battery until dead. To check for this condition observe the operation of the seat control switch if it does not return the neutral position or is sticking in one position replace the switch with new and recheck.
  • If no other electrical accessory is causing the battery to drain overnight a manual draw check of the electrical system will need to be performed. What this means is you will be checking the electrical draw the battery has on it when the car is locked up, with the key in the "off" position". First open the hood and disable the under hood illumination light, if equipped. Next, with the key off and the doors locked wait 15 minutes, then disconnect the battery cable on the negative side. (The 15 minute wait allows the computers to go into "sleep mode" and shuts down all electrical). Attach a test light between the negative battery cable end and the negative battery terminal. The test light should illuminate dimly or not at all. If the test light is on brightly there is a strong electrical draw in the system. To locate this electrical draw start removing fuses one at a time. When the test light goes out the circuit in question has been located. You will need a car repair manual to identify all accessories in a particular circuit, repair as needed and re-check
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
On the rear left window is a sticker stating the car is equipped with a Subaru security system and on the left side of the dash a rectangular area marked "Security" with a small red light that begins blinking as soon as the door is opened and continues blinking all while driving. I don't know how long it blinks after the car is shut off. I called a Subaru dealership and was told that wouldn't run the battery down, but I just spoke with someone at the front desk, not a technician. Could that security system run the battery down? I have no idea how to use the system.
Expert:  john -aka eauto replied 9 months ago.

no the security system will not be the cause...

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