[Vwdiesel] Rabbit electrical problem

Mark LaPlante laplante at mac.com
Thu Apr 7 05:34:49 EDT 2005


I could use your help narrowing my search for the cause of an electrical 
problem plaguing my Rabbit.

Several times in the last year when I left the Rabbit parked for a few 
weeks, the battery would be dead when I went to start it. Charging the 
battery would fix the problem.

A few weeks ago, I had this problem so I charged the battery all day, 
started up (maybe a little sluggishly), and drove 20 minutes at night 
and in the rain. I had trouble when I went to leave -- turning the key 
to preglow resulted in normal dash lights, but also a rapid clicking or 
buzzing from either near the ignition switch or the relay panel. Turning 
to Start resulted in silence (no clicking, no cranking). Hooked up the 
cables to a friend's car, turned to preglow, engine speed of other car 
kicks up a notch (friend says 'you have a short somewhere', but I 
thought it was just from the load of the glow plugs), glow light goes 
out, starts normally, I drive home in the rain, and notice that dash 
lights dim momentarily when braking. Once home, same clicking/buzzing, 
no start symptoms after turning car off and trying to restart.

Installed a new battery. (old one was of unknown age and I figured it 
couldn't hurt). When I attached the negative battery terminal, there was 
a very small spark. I have seen larger sparks when I accidentally left 
the door open and the dome light on, so I figured this small spark may 
just have been from the clock running.

I started up great all week, driving to work at night and home in the 
daylight. Today while I was sleeping it rained all day. Started up OK in 
the afternoon and I drove a mile in the rain (coincidence?) to pick up 
my son. Ready to go home 5 minutes later and I had the same 
buzzing/clicking no start condition of a few weeks ago. While waiting 
for a jump, I tried the horn with very weak sound, if any, and the 
wipers hardly move at all.  Jumped from another car no problem and drove 
home. On the short drive, I noticed that when there were electrical 
loads like pressing the horn or turning on the blower, the oil pressure 
light glowed dimly (increasing brightness with electical load like 
putting the blower to High). Wipers work. So, I think the alternator is 
providing at least some juice.


What is likely to be causing the buzzing/clicking? A relay without 
enough juice to engage? Is that a normal symptom of a low battery, or is 
it a clue to what is faulty?

I know water can leak from the windshield into the relays. But, if that 
were the problem, wouldn't I have problems starting even with a booster 
battery attached? I have not noticed any water on the floor, but I will 
check under the dash in the morning for moisture.

I feel it is more likely that something is draining my battery or it is 
not being recharged properly. I have not noticed any glow of the charge 
light, but I have for some time had a small squeaking noise at idle that 
goes away with any throttle at all. All the belts seemed tight.

As an aside, I think I have at least one glow plug that is not working. 
I get a cloud of white smoke at startup and lopey running for several 
seconds. The colder it is the larger the cloud. If I go ahead and pull 
away, the smoking stops.

OK, I'm sure there are clues in there somewhere. Please ask any 
questions I should seek to answer.


Mark LaPlante
Huntsville, AL

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