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86 Cutlass Supreme electrical problem? :(

01-13-2004, 10:45 PM
Hey guys. Ok so I own a 1986 Olds Cutlass Supreme. One day the battery started dying. Well over the next few weeks it got worse, until about a week ago it got so bad, that I could have a completely charged battery in my car......and as soon as I start the car the "Charge" light comes on, and three miles down the road the the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on and they both stay on. It's clear that something is not charging and the car is running straight off of the battery while at the same time the battery is not charging. We've used 2 different batteries, BOTH which we've had no problems using in my dads truck, and 4 alternators. They were all used but still worked. We're thinking that this alternator might be the problem.....BUT the one before this did it too. Now it gets funnier too...when the dome light fuse is in......the parking lights come on......when the fuse is out, the dome lights come on. They stay on while the door is open ONLY with the lights on. When the lights are on and the door closes, the dome light goes out. If the lights are not on, then the dome light does not come on at all. Also, the cig lighter...yeah if you plug ANYTHING into it, it shorts out the radio fuse. The funny thing with that is, there's two fuses for the radio. There's an individual radio fuse, and then there's a Clock/Cig fuse. The clock part acts as the Radio part. How do I know this? I took out the Clock/Cig fuse and the radio doesn't turn on or work at all. Umm what else....OH! When the positive battery wire is unhooked, and the negative one is still hooked in....we took a tester (the ones that look like screw drivers that light up) and hooked it to that free positive cable and then stuck it in the positive battery connector and it did NOT light. Then we kept it hooked to that positive battery cable and touched it to the hooked up negative cable and it lit up. Now it seems as obvious as the alternator, BUT if by some chance it's not......what could it be? We're STUMPED! Just to mention...the voltage regulator is built right into the alternator....for anyone who wasn't sure. Thank you so much for the help in advance. It's greatly appreciated.

01-14-2004, 02:50 AM
Based on what I am reading and not being there to troubleshoot the problem I would say that you have a number of fuses that are open and the voltage to the lights you mentioned have found an alternate path for current to flow i.e., through other fuses. I would check every fuse in the fuse compartment and then carefully inspect the fuse "legend" or pictoral diagram, making sure that all fuses are plugged into the proper place and that the current ratings are correct for each fuse. The battery problem points to the alternator for sure but with all of the electrical issue you have mentioned, and after all you have already done, I would start tracing wires and ohming them out, especially those that go to the alternator. Take a visual of the wiring first, looking for wires that are rubbing metal or laying against a hot part of the engine. If you don't see anything you are going to have to break out the VOM (volt ohm meter) or the VTVM (multimeter) and do some tracing. Likely you are going to find a damaged wire. Ignore the test you performed when you took the positive cable off of the battery. This would only cause the light to light up if something was drawing current. Ofcourse when you test across the battery, the lamp itself causes current to flow.

01-14-2004, 11:54 AM
Hey thanks. We figured it was SOMETHING TO DO with the alternator, but we had no idea what. Come to find out the car has no fuseable links between the alternator and the starter. This really confused us. Well anyways come to find out it was the alternator. My dad never even thought to change the damn thing. RIDICULOUS isn't it? Something so simple. Thanks though. :)

01-17-2004, 06:08 PM
Ugh. Ok so I put a new alternator and batter in/on. Ok so I put these in and I went out 3 hours later and turned the car on. It started right up and the charge light did NOT come on. Well 10 hours after that I go out to go to work and the mother ****** is dead. What is it? To drain a new battery like that over night? What in the hell could do that?

01-24-2004, 06:55 PM
Haha, look, I understand yur pain, my 83 did it... when i bought it. It was all completely screwed all my electrical problems...??? made no sense. We replaced the alternator with one from Auto zone(lifetime warranty so we could replace for free)and it still did it. So we got another one, and it still did it. We found out it was the diode tri burnt up in em that was causin the battery drain. Finally we got another one, the 4th alternator from Auto Zone lol and it fixed the drain and numerous other electrical problems that made no sense, Go figure.

01-24-2004, 07:49 PM
Yeah so we thought it was ok. It's not. Even when the car is running with a new alternator and battery it still drains. Very slowly though. So whether the car is on or not, it still drains the battery. I'm talking i.e. drive it for 30 minutes a day for 5 days.... = drained.

01-29-2004, 10:51 AM
I have an 86 cutlass supreme to and It is doing the same thing. I have changed the battery, altenator, and even some wires. I have been working on this thing for over a week now, and the battery still drains very slow. Have you found anything esle out?
Man this is frustrating.

01-29-2004, 01:00 PM
No I havn't. When driving at night with nothing but the lights on, after about 20 minutes or so the dash starts to dim, the whole car runs quieter, and the lights flicker and dim even more when ever I hit the breaks. We figured it might be bad wires with the starter, BUT if that was the case, wouldn't that keep the started engaged and make a NOISE? We think it might be either the heater is taking power from the battery even when it's not on, or maybe a short in the lights. Would either of those makes sense?

01-30-2004, 09:10 AM
Yes it does make sense, but I think the only thing to do now is start trying to check every wire one at a time. This really blows. I will keep you posted if I find out anything that fixes it.

02-06-2004, 09:28 PM
Turns out the alternator wires were messed up and backwards for a long @$$ time. We kept hooking ALL of them up the wrong way, even the new one. Go a result....basically the voltage regulator was sucking the battery dry. Problem fixed. :)

03-17-2004, 05:21 PM
Turns out that wasn't the problem. There's a short in the lights somewhere. Sucks. I'll let it be though.

03-31-2004, 10:12 AM
Does this car have any type of aftermarket security or alarm sysytem installed in it? Whether its working or not, or whether you use it or not, either way, I've seen alarms go haywire and cause ALL the symptoms you are referring to. I once bought a car and it had an old alarm/remote start sytem installed on it but I never even knew it was in there until I tore the dash apart. Most alarms tie into the dome light, door switches, and the parking lights, so that might be a possible cause of your problems. Just my 2 cents

05-06-2005, 07:10 AM
Hey guys, i've been reading your post and i too have the same problem with my 1986 Cutless. If you guys come up with any other info, or even find out the problem. Will some one please e-mail me some info on how to fix this peace of crap.

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