(This is my first question here so let me know if it is off-topic or not enough info provided, or otherwise inappropriate for the forum and I will delete it)
I have a 2001 VW Golf which has started exhibiting a disturbing electrical problem: I turn the key and just hear the starter "click". The dashboard clock gets reset to "12:00". There is still power but not enough to start the car.
If I wait and/or put the clutch in and shift gears, it will usually start as normal, with no indication of weak battery or other problem. It will then run fine for a couple of days and then the problem happens again. However, this is not predictable (shifting gears doesn't always "fix" it, etc) so it is unclear what the problem is.
- the battery is @ a year old
- the car was recently checked out for a power steering noise (whining). They topped off the transmission fluid
I don't have a mechanic I have confidence in and I have heard that electrical problems like this are notoriously hard to diagnose. Consequently I am thinking of taking it to a VW dealer for service on the hope that they will be more familiar with an issue like this.
It doesn't seem like a weak battery problem. I looked at the battery cables and they seem tight.
Is there anything else which would cause an intermittent failure like this? The car has had no collisions or other incidents which might have damaged the electrical wiring, etc.
Not looking for a "diagnosis" per se but hoping to become more informed so I can talk to the mechanics and not end up on some expensive "replace this and that" joy ride.
Adding a little more information:
So today the issue occurred while I was driving: the car stalled and would not restart. Strange electrical behavior on the dashboard: indicator lights on, lights off. Previously this has only occurred a few times when starting from a parked position. Today it was seriously unsafe.
I was able to "roll" the car over to the side of the road. I popped the hood and felt around the battery. The negative (-) cable was almost too hot to touch. That seems to indicate that there is a short somewhere (from my limited knowledge of electronics. . .). I let it "rest" a bit and then was able to start it again and get home.
I'm going to bring it into the shop-I-don't-really-trust tomorrow because it is close by. Hopefully they will sort it out. When I find out what is wrong I will post it and accept a correct answer or post my own answer.
Thanks for the replies. In my years of driving, I've never encountered this particular issue before.
Update So I just got the car back from the garage-I-have-no-confidence-in (took it there because I can walk to it) and they "couldn't find" anything wrong because the car "wasn't exhibiting the symptom". They said they "reset" some "codes for low voltage" and something about "throttle adjustment when changing the battery". The battery checked out ok. Cost me $130. I guess I should have taken it to the VW dealer straightaway.
I can't really pick a "right answer" since I still don't know what the problem is but thanks for the replies.