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This is a ten year old diesel car from Ford, the Ford Focus DA1.

Let me start with the chain of events:

Car has been standing outdoors for two weeks without use, had been almost frozen but not quite below zero. Girlfriend turns it on, starts fine and she blasts the warm air to clear up fog on windshield. She starts driving, and suddenly the ABS and anti skid lights come on. She parks it and starts checking the service manual, turning the engine off. The car had been running for maybe five minutes. Electronics don’t work at all - no dash lights, nothing.

She calls her parents, they come with their car and hook up starter cables. The electronics now go on, but starter won’t turn the engine. She notes that there is light smoke coming off the cables. As the ignition key is turned to starter, the electronics “flicker” which I think is normal.

It was quite cold out at this time, about 4-6 degrees celsius.

One explanation is that somehow the battery had been almost completely drained, and her use and quick turn off was too much. But then the starter cables should have been enough to start the engine turning; it being a diesel engine it should be enough to get it turning to keep it rolling? But no dice.

I am now at a loss for what to do, I was not there so couldn’t try roll starting it or check the fuses. I’m going to check it later today with a multimeter in hand.

What else should I do to diagnose this issue? It kinda sounds like something is short circuited. Someone said online that if the fuses aren’t covered properly moisture can get into the ESP or ECU and cause corrosion and eventually shorting.

It had been really humid the last couple of weeks.

Please any help would be appreciated, I really need this car to work.

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You may just have a bad connection on the battery posts. This would account for the sudden loss of power and also explain why everything powered up once the jump leads were added.

Try disconnecting the battery connections and cleaning the connectors and battery post with some sand paper or wire wool, then reconnect.

The reason why the car would not start using the jump leads and also why there was smoke will be due to the jump leads being too thin (cheap) for the job. The jump leads wont be able to carry the high current required by the starter - possibly 100 Amps. Those type of jump leads are really only good for charging a flat battery, you need to leave them connected for 5-10 minutes before trying to start the car. Jump leads capable of immediately starting a car are a lot thicker and also expensive.

The only other possibility I can think of from your description is that the battery has gone open circuit internally, which would mean getting a new battery

  • Thank you for your suggestion. I really hope it’s this easy, and I guess the voltmeter would show the voltage to be nominal if so. Do you think there could be other causes? It seems strange that the low power circuits would stop getting any power if it’s just bad connectivity. – lericson Nov 18 at 13:38
  • From your description, the only other possibility I can think of is that the battery has gone open circuit internally, which would mean getting a new battery. It is very possible for oxide on the battery post/connectors to totally disconnect the battery. – HandyHowie Nov 18 at 13:45
  • Did you connect the jump leads directly to the battery posts? – HandyHowie Nov 18 at 13:47
  • The battery does not have any charge basically, about one volt on the meter. Is the battery just dead? Why would it die suddenly like this? – lericson Nov 18 at 19:34
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    In your description, did the smoke from the cables start before attempting to start the car? The reason I ask is that if the starter was stuck on for some reason, it could have drawn a lot of current while the car was being driven, which would have flattened the battery and killed it. If you get another battery, touch the connectors on briefly to verify that the starter doesn’t start turning immediately. – HandyHowie Nov 18 at 20:42

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