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Truck Has Killed Three Batteries In One Year...


Vehicle: 2004 Silverado Ext. Cab 2WD 5.3 Auto., 48,500 miles.


I'm having a real hard time keeping batteries under the hood.


OE battery removed 8/2007 @ 42,400 miles, replaced with a battery from NAPA.

NAPA battery failed 6/2008 @ 48,250 miles, replaced with second battery from NAPA.

Second NAPA battery failed after 53 days and 575 miles, replaced with a third NAPA battery just a few days ago.


Had dealer check the electrical system in June, three days before first NAPA battery had failed. Was told that system was within spec. Dealer blamed my aftermarket radio for the problem, which has been in truck since I bought it. They claimed that XM radio was pulling 300 mA, and the draw "went away" when they unplugged the XM unit. A lame excuse, and I was dumb enough to accept it.


The local NAPA is upset with me for the number of batteries that I'm going through, and all that I can tell them is that the truck checks out fine according to the dealer.


Now that I'm on my third battery in a year, I'm digging a little on this problem myself. There are three aftermarket items on the truck, that draw power. The XM radio, a Tekonsha trailer brake controller, and a LED strip below the tailgate (brake/turn signals).


I unplugged the XM radio, and unplugged the trailer brake controller from the panel under the dash. I unhooked the negative cable from the battery, and put a test light between them. It lit up brightly. I grabbed my little $10 multimeter, set it to the 250mA scale, and used it, and it pegs the needle.


So, I'm pulling something over 250mA of parasitic draw, with the ignition off, and with the XM and trailer brake controller uplugged. I'm not sure what this means, but the test light has a "pulse" in it, that goes away when I pull the fuse on the radio. However, the brightness of the test light doesn't dim any from what I can tell.


What is considered an acceptable level of parastic draw for a truck like this? Whatever it is, I know I'm above it.


Any ideas as to where I should be looking? Start pulling fuses until I drop the level of draw?


Or should I simply take it back to the dealer, and ask them to start looking for the *real* reason.


I'm going to try and find someone with a meter that will go up to 10amps, so I can get a good measure as to the level of draw that I'm seeing, for future reference if necessary.

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First of all, I'm experiencing the same problem with my 2005 model year, manufactured in 2004.


Secondly, I've read of others having the same problem, and I'm only just beginning to research it.


Thirdly, I have the FACTORY XM Radio, and my radio and radio amp draw between 1.6 and 1.7 amps. Yep. You read that right. Between 1,590mA to 1,710mA, which is well over five times the load that the dealer measured your aftermarket XM Radio to be.


I think you are on the right track, getting a 10 amp fused DIGITAL VoltOhmAmp meter. GM says to use a Fluke 87 or equivalent.


Here is a report of some of my trials and tribulations in this process:


2.56 to 2.69 Amp draw after 3 days rest with no battery connected..


2.62 Amps continuous draw after meter/leads/my hands settled.


A GM technician said that the max parasitic load at rest should range between 80 and 250mA. My truck is running a fever at 2,690mA. That's 10 times the parasitic load the technician said was "within spec". I need to verify with multiple sources the acceptable parasitic drain for my truck with my specific options, but 2,690mA will drain a battery dry in less than 3 days. Ask my how I know.


2.51 Amps after LBEC #2 50Amp Maxi Fuse removed.


(Circuits protected by LBEC #2 are responsible for 110mA draw down continuous)



2.48 Amps after STUD #2 30Amp Maxi Fuse removed.


(Circuits protected by STUD #2 are responsible for 30mA draw down continuous)



1.88 Amps after RADIO AMP 30Amp mini fuse removed.


(RADIO AMP responsible for 600mA draw down continuous)



.89 Amps after RADIO 15AMP removed.


(Radio responsible for 990mA of draw down continuous)


600mA + 990 mA = 1.59 Amps that the radio alone is consuming.


I have the Bose Navigation Touch Screen Navigation Radio, non-luxury. This unit does Not have a Class 2 amp, and does not have the Y91 options. This unit was however installed at the factory at the time the truck was built, not by me or anyone else after the fact. The radio is XM enabled, and currently subscribed. XM Nav Traffic is not now nor was ever available on GMT800 factory radios. There is a GPS antenna for the navigation portion of the radio. There is no remote CD player, factory or otherwise. There is no Rear Enterainment System, factory or otherwise. There are no chips, guages, dice, dodads, CB radios, Blueteeth, or aftermarket electronics, thumpers, kickers, or cribs installed in my truck. This truck is so bone stock, it is still runing on the original equipped tires. There is a Prodigy Trailer Brake controller using GM's supplied harness, as the truck was equipped the the heavy duty trailering option.



With all fuses in place, and the car at rest with no battery power having been connected for 3 days, I measured the current passing through two different meters between the negative post of the battery (with cable removed) and the grounding lug of the engine below the alternator, where the other end of the negative cable bolts to. The draw was 2.60 amps continuous!


The assumption here is that the inline amp meter (internally fused to 10 Amps) is taking the place of the negative cable. This way the meter can directly measure the current by circuit interruptus, rather than by way of inductance via a clamp amp meter.


GM says to use a Fluke 87 Digital VoltOhmAmp type meter. That is the type I used in my first test 3 years ago, where I measured between 2.53 and 2.55 amps continuous after 2 hours rest. And, it is the same type I used today, after 3 days rest with no battery connected. So I hooked up the Fluke 87 type meter as described above, and the current draw fluctuated from 2.56 to 2.69 amps, with steady state at an average of 2.60.


For the heck of it, I hooked up a Sperry analog meter with D'Arsenal type movement, just so I could watch the sweep of needle as the current rose and registered. Nothing. No matter what the range (although I didn't go below 500mA since I already knew that was way below minimum), there was no needle movement. Is this why GM dictates to only use a Fluke 87 type DVOM?


Anyway, I began pulling the Maxi fuses one by one. With ALL of the Maxi fuses pulled, the draw remained at a steady 2.49 Amps. That is with both rows of Maxi fuses completely empty!


I saw about 100mA drop in the load when the LBEC 50amp Maxi was pulled. (Left Bussed Electrical Center, Door Modules, Door Locks, Auxiliary Power outlet, Rear Cargo Area, Instrument Panel). So the meter was down to about 2.51 Amps. The last Maxi pulled was Stud #2 30 Amp, for the Accessory Power & Trailer Brake Wiring Feed. The current reading fell to 2.49 Amps, which is where it currently remains with no Maxi's present, but all other fuses in place.


The total draw with ALL the Maxi' fuses out AND the Radio fuse out AND the Radio Amp fuse out was 730mA.


To verify this I added BACK the Stud #2 Maxi (pink 30A) and observed a rise in current flow to 760mA, which confirms the .03A (30mA) draw contribution of that circuits protected by that Maxi.


Conitinuing, I aded BACK the LBEC #2 Maxi (red 50A) and observed a further rise in current flow 870mA, which confirms two things (1) the cirucuits protected by that Maxi contribute a .11A (110mA) draw down on the system, and (2) that I can't do math very well at 3 AM in the morning, when I calculated this draw at .09A (90mA) and reported the same in my earlier post this morning.


Whether 90mA or 110ma, the LBEC #2 draw is nothing compared to the radio and radio amp, up to a whopping 1,710 mA (1.7 battery bustin Amps) that the radio combination has been sucking out of my battery, when at rest, for the last 3 years! Minimum draw of the radio and radio amp has been about 1.6 amps (with the radio off, the engine off, and the battery disconnected for DAYS).


The latest big draw contributor I found was the IPC/DIC - Instrument Panel Cluster / Driver Information Center (10A red minifuse)... pulling it revealed a draw of about a 1/2 amp! 490mA (.49A).


Another culpable fuse was the TBC/BATT - Truck Body Controller Battery Feed (10A minifuse), responsible for almost a 1/4 Amp 180mA (.18A).


I am still in the process of measuring loads as I type this.


Process Observation:


Any fuse that protects a hard funtioning part, light, or electro-mechanical device, such as a window, parking light, headlight, courtesy light, relays for the same, or the starter, fuel pump, ignition switch, cig ligher, accessory port... none contributed squat to the current draw. These circuits are guilt free, and really do go to bed when they are told.


Since it takes (me) about five minutes of tool enabled wrangling [/i]per fuse[/i] just to pull one, plus another five minutes of note taking, WTF'ing, and remeasuring (meter is unhooked between each fuse pull to avoid any instaneous fault that would "freak the meter" and blow it's fuse, which might represent a whole 'nuther journey to locate and replace, with 2 weeks wait time delay for mail order).... I'm being selective with what fuses I pull.


I'm prioritizing fuses that control things in the truck that have a "brain"... as it seems that the brainless components follow orders to sleep and the ones with brains are STILL thinking about it.



Next Moves:


I'm about 3/4's the way done with the UHEC (underhood electrical center) panel, but I'm stopping there and moving inside to the driver's side fuse panel, to get at more of the TBC type circuits.


I'm down to the last 40 milliamps of current contribution. It is SOO much nicer to touch the contacts now without feeling like I'm striking an arc with 6011 rod and a red tombstone buzz box.

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FYI - Mine was manufactured 4/04.


I'm getting afraid that whatever I'm dealing with, it is getting worse, since the last battery only lasted 53 days.


There will be a battery charger on the truck when it is in the garage, until this gets figured out.

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mrsilv04 and 5Alive posted "words words words"


Wow that is a whole lot of post. I'll post a big one of my own.

First off throw away that ten dollar ampmeter and please do not ever use a low impedance meter on any circuit connected to anything electronic ever. That goes for every transister you come in contact with be it the computers in your car or your house. That is a big no no. The fluke 87 that 5Alive refers to is the recommended but any good high impedance meter will do the trick (your not going to find one for ten bucks). DIGITAL is not the key, high impedance is but you will not find a high impedance non digital meter.


Secondly, alot of people even a fair amount of technicians have a hard time checking draw on todays vehicles. Many times techs will start chasing a high draw that looks like it is there but isn't till they have been burnt by it a few times, myself included. It can take a very long time for all of the modules to power down, so long so that alot of meters will power down due to inactivity before the test is complete. If you disconnect the battery for three days everything should be powerd down right? Wrong, well sort of, everything is powered down but then you install the ampmeter inline and guess what happens, everything powers up because you have just completed the circuit. There is a special tool to make everything power down but I don't think you'll find it at napa. It looks like THIS. Basically the tool makes it possible to keep the circuit completed at all times so nothing powers up after complete power down. You hook this tool inline on the negative side and connect ampmeter leads to both ends, power everything down and wait for atleast 20 minutes. Then with ampmeter turned on you turn the knob which disconnects battery power through the tool and sends it through the meter but the switch is instant so you are not powering up modules. Any interruption in the circuit will power up modules.


Onstar will greatly increase the time that you might think every thing should power down. Key off onstar should draw about 50 to 60 mA for 20 minutes, then it goes into standby for 48 hours and this should draw about 13mA. After that it should draw 1mA. This is if the onstar module is installed, it makes no difference weather you have it enabled or not, if the equipment is there the draw is there.


I have a feeling you are both hooking the meter in and checking what is there right away, it will be off the charts. That is expected and not a problem. For mrsilv04 you are flat out using a bad meter, for 5Alive if you are checking after power down my appologies. Try hooking your meter inline and follow these steps that I do. Trust me I have worked next to alot of techs wasting alot of time looking for draws the wrong way. Again I appologize if you are doing it the right way but if I'm not looking over your shoulder I can't verify your doing it right.

  • Get a high impedance meter


  • roll down the windows


  • shut the doors and key off

    What I usually do on an 04 or 05 is open all of the doors and use a screwdriver to close the latches so I can access anything inside the vehicle (pillar fuse pannels and modules etc.) after key off to fool the vehicle into thinking we turned the key off then opened and closed the doors. Older vehicles have the ajar switches in the door openings but these have them in the latch, if the latch is closed as far as the truck knows the door is.


  • disconnect negative battery cable


  • disconnect hood lamp

    If you have an aftermarket alarm this should be disconnected at this time because you are going to have the hood open so the module will stay alive looking for a hood switch input. Also to anyone else watching newer models have a switch in the hood latch to disable remote start, that needs to be disconnected.


  • connect ampmeter inline on the negative side


  • turn the meter on and wait at least 20 minutes

    That's AT LEAST 20 minutes I have seen vehicles with modules that stay alive over an hour. I wouldn't condemn anything that powers down in less than an hour and a half.


Try checking them out this way and lets see what you get then. The readings you are posting are something I would expect before complete power down. After we have the power down and draw test done correctly we can figure out where your draws are. There really are no short cuts here.


Oh and something I always forget, I have had several customers with single CD players that for whatever reason eject a CD and leave it in the slot. Disregaurd this if you do not do that but it is a bad idea. If you leave a CD in the slot not fully in and not fully out the radio will never go to sleep, it just keeps looking to see what the CD wants to do.


Good luck folks, keep us posted.


EDIT: I don't know how but on initial read I missed this part

Since it takes (me) about five minutes of tool enabled wrangling [/i]per fuse[/i] just to pull one, plus another five minutes of note taking, WTF'ing, and remeasuring (meter is unhooked between each fuse pull to avoid any instaneous fault that would "freak the meter" and blow it's fuse, which might represent a whole 'nuther journey to locate and replace, with 2 weeks wait time delay for mail order).... I'm being selective with what fuses I pull.
. You are going to chase yourself forever and will do alot more WTF'ing, please start over, and do not disegaurd any circuits that you think are ok, restart the whole thing. Fortunately after complete power down is achieved you will be able to just go through and pull fuses without waiting five minutes and WTF'ing inbetween.

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Well, I may not know much, but I know good advice when I read it. And that right thar was some good advice. Thanks MIKE (sparkstech) ! With explanations like that, there should be 5 or 6 wrenches under your user name!


I know it is good advice, because it echoes what another nice tech tried to explain to me on another forum, only he didn't lay it out as plainly and as specifically as you did, so I didn't quite get what he was talking about. Since your comments amplify and reinforce some of what the other tech said, all your "words! words! words!" really helped me get beyond the extraneous WTF'ing, and I very much appreciate the quality time you took in crafting that explanation together.


MrSilv04, this is as good as it gets. We couldn't ask for better directions. I'm hooking everything back up and starting over.


I might see if I can rent that Kent Moore Parasitic drain tester somewhere, but in the meantime, I'm testing my DVOM tonight to see if it will stay alive all night without going to sleep.


We still have a problem, as evidenced by the dead battery syndrom... It is unreasonable to have to jump start a vehicle that is only 3 years old, having a battery that is only 53 days old. But we need better, more exacting evidence to zero in on the root problem. I can now more clearly see the flaws in my methodolgy, however painstaking.


My radio always has a DVD inside... for the Navigation. I'm going to power up and remove that, and see if the initial load is different. Then I'll leave the meter connection unbroken for the 2 hours it might take for the radio to go back to sleep.


Thanks again Mike... really, that was well written, well aimed, and well fired. I'm sure MrSilv04 will benefit as much as I have.

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Thank you for the nice comments. I'm pretty sure if you have the fluke 87 that it will power down in about 25 minutes so if you could get your hands on that drain tool it would be recommended. Also I realize you both may have a significant draw and this will kill batteries if completely drained over and over. I would also check and double check the charging system for under or overcharging. Over charging will significantly lower life expectancy due to all that extra heat. Check for A/C voltage at the alternator also (engine running checked at the alternator not the battery), you should have very little.

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Thanks sparkstech. I appreciate your time and assistance.


I'm not hoping to fix the problem, I'm just wanting to isolate it to the point where I can prove beyond a doubt to my service advisor that there's a problem, and to be able to accurately repeat the process after they tell that they've solved the problem, to be able to verify that the issue has indeed been resolved. The truck is under warranty, even though I'm willing to spend some time to troubleshoot this (to satisfy my own curiousity), it will be the dealer's responsibility to fix it.


I never expected my little multimeter to do much here. I knew that I'd have to get something better, I just didn't know what I needed to buy. Now I know.


I'm glad that my truck doesn't have OnStar, or even an underhood light. It's just a nicely equipped LS. Less to have to deal with when troubleshooting like this.


Thanks again. You're an asset to this site.

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