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Any F250 electrical experts around?

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  • Any F250 electrical experts around?

    I was headed to the barn tonight when my truck suffered a total electrical freakout. It's done it before, but this time I noticed a lot about what happened. Diesel truck, 2001 F250.

    Plugged truck in this morning because it was so cold and my batteries are bad. It was plugged in until about 8pm tonight. Unplugged it, got in, everything seemed fine. The overhead lights worked, etc. Put the key in and turned it to on for the glow plugs. When the Wait to Start light went out, I turned the key to crank it. It tried once to start, and then everything went black and it gave up. Two of the dashboard lights glowed dimly, then they went black. There was a clicking noise, so I pressed the hazard flasher and then there was a low volume scream. Pressed the hazard light again, and the clicking resumed. Tried this three or four times and the same thing happened.

    First thing I did was get out the Owners manual. Took the covers off the fuse panel in the cab, but couldn't find a main switch there, so decided to disconnect the batteries. When I put the wrench to the battery on the passenger side and gave it one turn, everything got all right. Lights came back in the cab, the clicking stopped, and all seemed well. Got back in, turned the key, dashboard lights came on, and it was rinse and repeat with the first paragraph with one exception. When it was clicking, all of the cab lights (outside roof, inside roof, and my brake controller) all blinked with the clicks. Press the hazard flasher and the scream returned. Went back to the left battery, jiggled the positive cable and everything returned to normal. Hazard lights flashed, inside lights quit flashing, sounds disappeared.

    My mechanic has already told me that I need a new cable for the positive side of that battery, since it's pretty badly corroded; and the other battery was very low. The second battery's cable is also a bit corroded.

    I have the second battery on trickle charge now.

    I have two batteries on order as I type. My mechanic didn't want to work on the truck until the new batteries were installed.

    2 Questions: Can I safely plug the truck in tonight? I know it's a completely different circuit, but there was a "warm" smell under the hood, and I'm a bit afraid of fire.

    Is it likely that my problem is entirely the corroded main positive cable, and replacing it will solve the problem? Or is there likely something else major that is wrong?

    Ended up driving my tractor down to the barn for the night hay feed. It was COLD!
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire

  • #2
    It is a bit late so this will be short.

    You definitely have a corrosion problem.

    But it may not be your only problem.

    I doubt that it is the cable itself. Cables usually last the life of the truck.

    It is most likely corrosion of the cable clamp. That is the clamp that fits over the battery post.

    Both the positive and the negative need to be properly cleaned, and on both batteries.

    Your batteries may be shot. If they are over 3 years old, they most likely are, even though a few last much longer.

    Also, since from your post it is obvious you know little about batteries and the related problems, you probably have never checked them for water level.

    So back to basics.

    Take all terminals off the batteries. Always remove the ground or negative first and then the positive.

    Your positive may be red on the end. If not, look at the top of the battery next to the post and you will see either a - or a +...the + is the positive.

    Auto parts stores sell battery clamp cleaning tools, but a very stiff small brush that will go inside the clamp, some baking soda and Vaseline will do the job.

    You must rub the inside of the clamps, all four of them, with the brush and soda mixed with water until the inside of the clamp shines like new jewelry.

    Then you must clean all posts until they shine.

    You must do this because it is possible that the batteries are OK, but the corrosion is preventing them from being charged properly and also preventing the starter from getting the power it needs, even if the batteries are charged.

    While you are at it, check the batteries for water level.

    The water should be just enough to cover the top of the plates, which you can see if you shine a small flashlight in the filler holes.

    Use ONLY distilled water. Distilled water at the grocery store works just fine.

    Now when all of this is done, you need to charge the batteries or at least get a jump start either from a large charger, not a trickle charger, or from another truck. You car will not have enough alternator to do it unless you leave them hooked up for quite a while.

    When you hook the cables back up to the batteries, reverse the connection sequence. Hook up the plus cables first and the negatives last. This prevents sparks and the possibility of fire.

    Be very careful how you hook up the charger. Hook the negative to the negative or to the frame or engine block.

    Hook the red to the red.

    Hooking a charger up wrong, unless it is one of the modern chargers that can detect this mistake, will ruin our alternator, your computer, your radios and no telling what else.

    You trickle charger may build the batteries up if left on for several days, but I doubt it.

    If you get it started and it runs for any reasonable time, say like from home to work and that trip is 30 minutes or so and does not start when you crank it again, then your batteries are shot.

    However, anyone with any knowledge of this stuff will have a battery load tester. After you think you have the battery charged up, put the load tester on and it will determine whether the battery is good.

    Any auto parts store will do that for you.

    I would not drive it to an 8 hour job 30 minutes from home and expect it to be charged well enough to go home at the end of the day. I would drive it to town on an errand, like the grocery store, leave it running while inside (locked or guarded) and then drive it home.

    Much better to have it not start at home rather than where you are forced to pay through the nose for road service.

    Getting late. All I have to say tonight.


    • Original Poster

      Actually I'm not as ignorant as you seem to think. I've had to put water in the left battery twice in the past three months, and it was distilled water. The right battery is sealed; at least I can't get the top off to check the water.

      The posts and battery clamps have all been thoroughly cleaned about two months ago and treated with an anti-corrosion product.

      I have two new batteries on order and hope to pick them up tomorrow. It's a 60 mile trip, but they are already paid for. I do know that the left one is really shot, and the right one ain't great. My mechanic says that the batteries are bad and main battery cable is very corroded and he hopes that replacing them will solve my problems. But he isn't sure that is the only thing wrong. When the new batteries are installed, the truck goes in for a new $200 dollar battery cable and another $40 dollar one on the other side.

      Both batteries show a full charge on the charger meter, and I've plugged the truck in for the night. Tomorrow morning will tell the tale.

      You can see corrosion on the battery cables where they join the clamps.

      I trust my mechanic; he's my cousin and an honorable and skilled man.
      "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
      Thread killer Extraordinaire


      • #4
        the cross over cable will go bad over time, we have replaced that specific cable on both of our F250 amd F350

        As for the first question, plugging the block heater up with or without the batteries has no effect.

        Both batteries should be of the same ratings however


        • #5
          Actually the block heater should be plugged in every night until the battery problem is resolved because a warm engine and warm oil makes for an easier start,. Thus less load on the batteries.

          Also it is correct that both batteries should be of the same capacity and in the same condition.

          A battery in poor condition will pull a better battery down even when there is no load on either.

          If you can get cables with the new style clamps, you will not have a repeat of corroded clamps.

          I don't know what year Ford started using them. My 2008 had the new style as does my 2012.

          I drove a 1999 F350 357,000 miles and like all of my others, never had a cable corrode. Only clamps, which are easily cleaned.

          So I stand corrected on the life of cables..

          You would be surprised how many people don't know that only distilled water should be used. So the OP does know more than most.

          My apologies.


          • #6
            Dh seems to be one of those people who are electrically charged because we have had some of the oddest electrical problems in our cars over the years.

            Suffice it to say that by completely replacing the cables we have solved a starting/charging problem with more than one vehicle.
            We have peeled back the plastic cover on the cables to discover that a secondary wire had corroded and that was why the headlights were flicking on and off over bumps.
            We have also had to change out the starter motor on two vehicles when the batteries/alternator all tested good but the starter would randomly fail to work. A jump would get it to start, or you could sit there and tap tap tap and it might work, or you could wait an hour or three. The new starter works just fine.

            So there is the possibilty that there is one more thing wrong, but if he completely replaces the cables and the batteries, unless you are specially blessed and get a bad battery - been there too - you should be fine.
            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
            Incredible Invisible


            • Original Poster

              There is something that has happened that is freaking me out just bit.

              When I took the battery cable off the positive side of the one on the driver's side, I found matching holes in both post and cable end where the lead had actually melted. I did use the 125 amp booster from my battery charger a couple of times. Would that have caused the melting?

              I just got it cranked and off to pick up my new batteries. Still worried about the cables, though. When I put the cable with the holes back on the post, I moved it away from the holes on the post as much as possible.
              Last edited by vineyridge; Nov. 29, 2012, 01:50 PM.
              "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
              Thread killer Extraordinaire


              • #8
                My guess is that the cable clamps either were not tight or more likely corroded.

                I know you said they were cleaned, but cleaning them is a tedious thing if done right.

                But something caused a gap at that point and lack of good contact at other points so that you had a spark at the point that has the holes.

                You had sort of a miniature electric welder at those points. That burned the holes.

                Not really a short, but sort of.

                Check to be certain the clamps are really tight. It is possible if one uses a metal reamer to clean the inside of the clamps that the clamp is oversize even when the bolt is tight.

                Get them tight but be careful not to strip the threads as that is a small bolt. Of course it is easily replaceable if you are close to a source.

                If they are hard to see, it may be that the holes were made before the clamps were cleaned and that you are OK clean now.

                Only inspection can determine that and they can't be inspected from here.

                So these are suggestions and not anything more.