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1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
07-30-2018, 11:54 AM
Post: #1
1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
Hello all, I'm new to this forum but have been searching it and getting great info since I recently acquired my little towed. 96 Tracker, manual.

It's worked great until recently it would not start. I got lots of relay clicks, and when I turned the key to crank, all dash lights would go out for 15 seconds. After 15 seconds, dash lights would come back on and then go out when I tried to crank engine (not a peep from engine.)

Strangely, radio was malfunctioning (after-market unit that looks properly installed). When I would turn the radio on, the little horn that says "you're not belted in and the door is open" would stop and then start again when I turned the radio back on.

It continued to get worse and then I got no dash lights in any key position and I'd get a really pitiful beeping from the "door open, no belt, headlight on" horn.

I chased voltages through all the large fuzes and checked all the small ones. Had my battery on constant charge to keep battery voltage up. No corrosion at fuze blocks and voltages good across all fuzes.

I thought that my main power relay may be the culprit. Oddly, after I found the relay and got it to where I could disconnect it, everything worked perfectly. I replaced it anyway and everything continued to work perfectly. I buttoned everything up and readied myself for a celebratory drive, and NOTHING. No dash lights, no radio, no headlights, no cranking. Just the pitiful sound of the door open alarm dying until it was silent too.

Started in on the wine after that. Any suggestions for when my head clears?
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07-30-2018, 11:59 AM
Post: #2
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
(07-30-2018 11:54 AM)samhoustonkurt Wrote:  Hello all, I'm new to this forum but have been searching it and getting great info since I recently acquired my little towed. 96 Tracker, manual.

It's worked great until recently it would not start. I got lots of relay clicks, and when I turned the key to crank, all dash lights would go out for 15 seconds. After 15 seconds, dash lights would come back on and then go out when I tried to crank engine (not a peep from engine.)

Strangely, radio was malfunctioning (after-market unit that looks properly installed). When I would turn the radio on, the little horn that says "you're not belted in and the door is open" would stop and then start again when I turned the radio back on.

It continued to get worse and then I got no dash lights in any key position and I'd get a really pitiful beeping from the "door open, no belt, headlight on" horn.

I chased voltages through all the large fuzes and checked all the small ones. Had my battery on constant charge to keep battery voltage up. No corrosion at fuze blocks and voltages good across all fuzes.

I thought that my main power relay may be the culprit. Oddly, after I found the relay and got it to where I could disconnect it, everything worked perfectly. I replaced it anyway and everything continued to work perfectly. I buttoned everything up and readied myself for a celebratory drive, and NOTHING. No dash lights, no radio, no headlights, no cranking. Just the pitiful sound of the door open alarm dying until it was silent too.

Started in on the wine after that. Any suggestions for when my head clears?

Let me add; before everything went dead, I was getting buzzing from the relays above the passenger footwell attached to the duct work. When I removed the main power relay, I got the same buzzing so I thought I was a genius discovering the bad relay. So much for that!
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07-30-2018, 08:47 PM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2018 09:06 PM by fixkick.)
Post: #3
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
welcome !!!!
fix headlights first ! the headlamps on cars are first trouble shoot, (the are not bad but are super simple , its directly wired. no magic, just wires, no computer. (HL >>> switch>>>>>battery ) < this is all it is? (yells battery dead)
sounds to me the main battery is bad.

batteries in cars can do ANYTHING. (good, bad , ugly, intermittent,a bad cell that is good one day then not the next., my wifes jeep just did that yesterday. $$$$)
you can test the battery many ways.
using A voltmeter, tops the list, got one , its $20 DMM tool at walmart.
the normal voltage at the battery , hood up is 12.5v. (summer voltages)
just last WEEK my wifes car died, HL weak. (voltage 10v) one cell in the battery went open , at that voltage.
I charged it and it went to 12.5v but in just minutes of usage failed again. (the cell is bad, 1 cell of 6) was tje cause. there is no fix here. new battery time.

the battery can be load tested, (another $20 tool) or drag battery to auto-store they do this for free.
or take battery from your car to another, see it's bad. ?
or take any battery from other car, try it in dead car, see battery works?
you can also use battery jumper cables to a running 2nd car (read the manual with cable first for safety) if this works the battery in your car
is bad, or only discharged due to phantom drains, type that word in the search box, at fixkick.com (phantom)
ok here
http://www.fixkick.com/drain/drain.html

down here batteries last 5 years. and then turn to texas toast.

the buzzing sound is all those vast things in the car that will not run on extreme low battery voltage.
no matter bad battery or bad wires or corroded battery terms.
the car radio can run on super low voltages,(varies by make and model) so is very poor test device, unless 100% dead. (if it plays is means little)

the starter solenoid chatters at 8vdc. below that it acts dead. one more clue in the list of symptoms.

when measuring the battery with a meter, use the 2 probes at actual post first, then if ok do the 2 lugs. (not center posts)
if the lugs fail (but hot posts) the lugs are corroded.

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07-30-2018, 08:54 PM (This post was last modified: 07-30-2018 08:56 PM by fixkick.)
Post: #4
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
if the engine starts, check battery again, get 14v to 15vdc?, if not that, and see 12v the alternator is dead.
if the battery charges and works ok, and can start and drive. and then goes dead parked. for say 8 hours. (drain)
do not drive if it starts , and not check charging voltage or you will get stranded. on the way to work or coming back home.
this parked and dead, is sign of phantom drain. if battery ok , going to sleep at night and then dead in the morning.
(sometimes (most) it's bad battery, but we can check for drain 2 ways, one with a simple test light or a dmm using amps mode (tricky the last, ask)
good luck on your car, hope its just simple issue.

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07-30-2018, 09:07 PM
Post: #5
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
when I look at a battery, the top has sticker,
on mine its round and says 7/13, it's 5 years old, this is clue 1.
the age is good to know , going in,... always.

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07-31-2018, 01:40 AM
Post: #6
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
Thanks for the quick responses! I had ruled out battery issues as the battery is a couple months old, but when i had it in the garage and hooked to the electronic charger, it seems that it would drop to 25% in no time. Voltage is good (12.7v) but if i have bad cells all bets are off under any load. The battery is in my truck (also a Suzuki) and will be going in for a load test on my way home from work. Will update you on results.
Thanks again.
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07-31-2018, 12:03 PM
Post: #7
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
Don't know if this should be posted here or be submitted to "Unsolved Mysteries".

The battery tested perfect. Came home tonight and chased the two grounds from the battery cable (one to the starter, one to the alternator) and both were clean and tight. Resistance from the negative battery terminal to various places on the vehicle was always less than .5 ohms (some spots were zero.)

Reinstalled battery and buttoned everything up.

Everything works great. Lights light, radio comes on, "door open" beeper is deafening, radio plays, and it starts up and runs like a champ.

Checked codes and got none.

Now, it appears that I have a intermittent gremlin. My question becomes "what do I prepare myself for?"

I'm pretty sure it was not the battery or the battery connections. I'm not a mechanic, but I am an electrical engineer and I replaced the battery terminal when I replaced the battery a few months ago.

I don't think it was the main power relay because I had the failure before and after I replaced the relay.

By having the battery out for a day, I'm sure the ECM was good and reset; Could that be the issue?

I really appreciate the input gents. Should I be packing a spare ECM or a pocket full of relays?
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07-31-2018, 09:52 PM
Post: #8
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
The head lamps dead, make trouble shooting this very easy, imagine engine gone , drive line gone, all things related, gone.
just a car, battery, harness, frame and 2 head lamps and that simple,( a beauty in its own right of simplicity(my news jeep car has computer in its place (H3LL)
but 1996 they did add at least 1 relay to head lamps for hazards or DRL.
the battery neg, goes to starter mount bolt, top. tight it must be,!!!!!
the battery minus is also grounded to the body, next to the battery, this ground also runs (vast things)
checking ohm, only uses .001 amps of current, head lamps draw 10, starter uses 500. so ground measure great with no current but with full current they do not.
that is why we use voltage drop to find bad current paths (wires and connectors)
that is why we can use head lights on and draw 5 each for 10 full amps of current.
forget codes, this ECU does not report, battery loss like my jeep, nor do I need to have it tell me a code for that, after all the head lamps are dead. that is a code (max) unto itself.
ECU is not the issue ever here,
headlamps dead, and starter dead is the issue and ECU does not do anything for starter nor head lamps.

i have only 1 question, for intermittent.
have Dmm ready when it fails, no electrical person ever is with out one.
when failed, use the meter to find the voltage drop.
you will find it on the ground or the PLUS path to power battery plus.
one of the 2 will be wrong, or find the battery fails, intermittently, as the are loath to do.. (id day 1/2 old batteries do that)

head lamps go dim or out (starter dead)
check battery first. at the battery posts, across, them, then across the 2 battery terminals, 12vdc with head lamps dim.
the from battery (dmm leads) from battery post neg to engine metal, 0.5v max. 0v is best.
if not 0v, or spec. 0.5v, the grounds are bad.
ok 0v.
now check minus battery lug to the fuses on the right (left facing)fender, all must read 12vdc. if not this fuse box is bad. (common on all sidekicks
those checks above are live failures, using a DMM. under load (head lamps ON)
btw the head lamps on this car are hot all the time even keys in pocket, and the head lamp switch only grounds the headlamps to turn them on, no magic, here, no computers, works just like 1950 chevy, dirt simple, fix the head lamp path with both go dead.

ops I forgot to say, sorry, does your car have DRL, day light running lamps (DRL) always on, like cars from canada have by law?
off my bad power page
is this bad?
http://www.fixkick.com/my96-16v/battery-ground1.jpg

this
http://www.fixkick.com/my96-16v/dizzy-gnd1w.jpg


http://www.fixkick.com/my96-16v/firewallground1.jpg
and this.
http://www.fixkick.com/my96-16v/ECU-ground1.jpg

if the head lamps and starter go dead and the 1 huge battery neg lug is at the top of starter mount bolt g103, http://www.fixkick.com/specs/G103.jpg
then Id say, you lost the PLUS feed not the ground feed after all the starter is hugely grounded at g103, no better ground in the whole car,
That means check voltage in the right fender fuse box next. for 12vdc there head lamps on, i bet its missing? or 0v
http://www.fixkick.com/fuse-box1-failure2.jpg
here is the HL schematic.

first power distribution 8a-10 vol 2. (all links below are out of WAYBACK MACHINE ,sorry, the original guy lost them. (ACKFAQ)
https://web.archive.org/web/201011191039...10_pdf.htm
see that first fuse box, all wires there must be hot, 12v. at point of failure
Here is the non DRL car HL schematic.
its EU drawing but is almost accurate.

http://www.fixkick.com/ECU/1996/Full96%2...-power.pdf

your car has what transmission, can I assume 4wd. (this gets me the correct schematic car.
diagnosing the a/t automatic, PRNLD for dead starters is a pain. super pain.
but not head lamps if non DRL lamps. in car, do running lamps run full time?
or what about parking lamps (aka. tails)
when you click the head lamp switch 1 click that is park, are parks dead all 4 corners?
then blinks dead, then hazards dead.

park lamps on this car are also tricky if DRL.

http://www.fixkick.com/ECU/1996/Full96%2...-power.pdf

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07-31-2018, 10:02 PM
Post: #9
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
one other way, is to turn on headlamps
and if dead, make sure brake lamps work.
if they are dead, power in the fuse box front cab, fuse 12 is dead
if both sides dead F12 then. 0v both sides. or real low.
power in fenderbox is dead. fuse 2 dead, or if fuse 1 blow kills EVERYthing, or battery bad.
see photo, 27 here this is the most important drawing main power feeds
A DMM finds this easy, while dead car.

http://www.fixkick.com/ECU/1996/Full96%2...-power.pdf

if grounds are good then box 1 is dead. I bet,
if true, the problem is obvious. it true.

the first post did no tell all things dead and all things good (i think you said all things bad, but radio works?)
the main relay is only for the ECU(PCM) nothing else btw.


we have the schematics of ECu here, to see that fact
this all main does. here
http://www.fixkick.com/ECU/1996/EFI1.jpg

see left middle right. here
http://www.fixkick.com/schematics-run.html

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07-31-2018, 10:35 PM (This post was last modified: 07-31-2018 10:40 PM by fixkick.)
Post: #10
RE: 1996 Tracker strange electrical issue
let me add...
the car has no voltmeter in the cluster, a serious lack, IMO.
if it had one we'd have gandered there first, omg zero volts now. or with headlights on , 0v or even worse heater blower on dead., it uses 15amps,
the blower and head lamps are the 2 easy things to diagnose(starter on A/t is a pain so we skip this if dead starter) and work above. easy things dead, Brake lamps I think are most easy.
Ive had many cars that were intermittent, way too many.
what i do if inspections fail.
is use the DMM to lay in traps,
we have long pair of jumper wires, Plus line has inline 15amp fuse for safety.
with clips.
we click the ground wire to battery neg post.
the other end of pair are inside car , on passenger set top(our test bed is there)
we then connect the meter up full, at seat top.
then the next wire (far end , hot red test lead extended we connect to something that likes to go dead.
first is battery,
ok say that is not dead when car is dead electrics. (say battery is good, and that ground just behind it good to body)
the 96 has many changes from 95, vast. and some make diagnosis super hard, DLR tops list if you have it, do you?
one more great function on car easy to fix is this. (if the resistor block blown high speed still works, cool no?)
the blower is simple still. blower dead, i bet yes when car is dead. car dies, key on, still blower on next on high, is blower dead?
page 2, simple. as simple can get. if dead. cab fuse 20 dead,? both sides dead, key on, if yes, fuse 3 in fender box is dead.
the blower uses body ground so that huge ground behind the battery to body, is prime inspection point !
http://www.fixkick.com/ECU/1996/Full96%2...-power.pdf
if say fuse 20 is dead both sides, 0v or way way below 12v.
that means the fuse box main on the the right finder will is dead.

I do like the fact that brake lamps are hot wired, they are working even with key out of ignition.
it's a 2 man test at car dead?, is the down side there.
brakes are 2 fuses, a switch, and 1 long wire. if fuses are good, the main box is dead. front fender box. dead . (not withstanding 1 ground stated above)

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