2008 WRX Battery / Electrical Issues
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This is a discussion on 2008 WRX Battery / Electrical Issues within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Hey all - Hope someone might be able to help me help my dealer. My warranty is up in January ...

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    2008 WRX Battery / Electrical Issues

    Hey all -

    Hope someone might be able to help me help my dealer. My warranty is up in January and so far, the Subaru dealer has been unable to track down the problem themselves. They are the only dealer in town, so my options are very limited for warranty work.

    Anyhow, here's the story:

    I bought a new WRX wagon in January 2008. It's completely stock, no aftermarket-anything, no accessories, no adjustments, etc.

    Basically, since purchasing the car, each fall/winter the battery will die after anywhere from 1 to 5 days of sitting. It's been so bad that I'll start the car in the morning, drive to work, and in the 8 hours that pass while I'm working it will have died. I travel often, so typically I find my battery dead when I return and try to leave the airport to drive home, which is very frustrating. I live in Juneau, Alaska - while it gets cold, it doesn't get THAT cold. It seems that anything under 32F will trigger this behavior. I now just keep a portable jumper in the back.

    I've taken the car to the dealer several times. Most times, they test the battery, alternator, starter, and check to see if there are any draws while the car is off. Typically, they come back and say everything is fine. They've replaced the battery twice and the issue persists. Most recently (March 2010), I instructed them to keep the car until it died. They did and said they'd tracked the draw to the stereo (6 CD changer w/ iPod interface), which apparently was staying on after the car was shut off - they removed the old one until the new stereo arrived, which took about 3 weeks. About a week after they installed the new stereo, the car died one more time, then was fine over the summer.

    In the past couple of months, I've noticed that the cycle is starting again as the temperature drops and the car is having a difficult time turning over in 30F degree weather. However, now I've got a CEL - I took it to the dealer and the codes were P0138 and P0137, both related to O2 sensor and P2096 "cat fuel trim system too lean." The tech tested everything, said everything was fine, sent me on my way and the CEL came back about halfway home. Also, for the first time I've started seeing the red "check battery" light - the car will turn over, but the radio and clock/temp gauge don't turn on and I see the red light. After a few seconds of idling, everything turns on and the light goes away.

    Anyhow, ANY ideas that I can pass along to my dealer would be awesome. They seem to be as frustrated as I am and just want to fix the car.

    Thanks for any help.

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  3. #2
    Registered User oguitar's Avatar
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    Electrical issues suck and are most times hard to identify.

    How old is this battery? Also what brand? Cold weather is very hard on batteries as I am sure you know. You will figure it out.
    Life is like riding a bicycle in order to keep your balance you must keep moving.

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    What adds a little more frustration to this is the fact that the battery was dead on the showroom floor when I wanted to test drive the car. I had to wait around for 20 minutes while they jumped it. Red flag.

    Anyway, I forgot to mention that the battery has been replaced twice. First in November 2009, then again in February 2010, both times OEM.

    I've thought about replacing with a Red Top, but don't want to drop $125+ on a battery only to have it drained in a couple of months.

    The dealer mentioned at one point that it could be my driving habits, but I don't buy it. I have a 3 mile commute - so the logic was that starting the car pulled more from the battery than was being put back during the drive. There are other Subarus in my complex that have the same commute I do and this is a small, Subaru-laden town, so if this were really an issue, we'd have a lot of unhappy drivers. Anyway, after the first battery replacement, I made a point to either walk to work or drive when I knew it would be for at least 10+ miles. Battery still died.

    Thanks for any suggestions. We've checked fuses, the dealer's run tests, I'm just at wit's end. I don't want to be stuck chasing this issue after my warranty runs out.

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    Registered User economatic's Avatar
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    I feel some of your pain. I had some battery problems with my '09 WRX but they have since been resolved (sort of). When I test drove the car it had a dead battery so I expected it to be toast prematurely. As soon as the car sat for a few days in cold weather it would die. Dealer replaced it under warranty with no questions asked and said parasitic draw was normal. A few weeks later we had our little 2010 Snowpocalypse in the DC area and the car sat for about 2 weeks...dead battery again with a new battery. I should also mention that I have an aftermarket alarm so it does have more parasitic draw than normal but the dealer claimed it was in spec. Also, I only drive my car on the weekends so it sets for long period of time.

    I did some testing myself since I didn't believe what the dealer was telling me about parasitic draw being normal. The car would draw 35mA without the alarm armed (), 50mA factory alarm armed ( ), and about 80mA with both alarms activated ( ). Yeah, that was a problem. I consider 50mA draw to be pretty ridiculous for constant draw but whatever. Disclosure: I didn't wait around for a couple hours to see if the draw stepped down any further, which supposedly can happen when all systems go into standby mode (not sure if Subies do that).

    This was not only a nuissance but a risk since there had been thefts in my neighborhood (including my other car) and I couldn't have my security systems shutting down. My solution was 2-fold: a deep cycle Yellowtop battery and a small solar battery maintainer (110mA in sunlight) that I throw on the dash if I don't plan to drive the car for more than a couple days. A pain in the ass but no more dead batteries.

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    Registered User anxiouz's Avatar
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    In all of my years of experiencing random things, when you replace the battery and the dead battery problem persists....for me at least it has always been the alternator. The weirdest one was in my ex's 3-series BMW. Only when the car was warm would the alternator start to fail. Cold starts were fine but after driving for more than like 10-15 minutes some lights would come on, the stereo would cut out, etc.. Park the car and let it sit for awhile. It would start up again pretty normally and be fine for awhile.

    It took an expert mechanic 2 visits to figure this out since they test the alternator by just starting up the car usually, watching the battery for a bit, and then moving on. That's what they did the first time so they didn't see anything happen. The second time he just let the car idle for a while while monitoring the battery and sure enough, after a period of time he saw the battery draining. He said something about the alternator coils not causing enough friction when warm (or something to that affect...I don't quite understand it though).

    My only other thought is you have a wonky fuse or something that is pulling a constant charge or the alternator isn't keeping the charge. To have the car die on the showroom is nuts though. I would hate to get stuck in the weather you're describing...so to me it would be worth it to find a mechanic to take a look even if it costs you money. Maybe they can find the problem and then you can talk to the dealer to see if you brought the car to them if they'd fix it.

    And if you get another battery, skip the OEM and maybe try a DieHard...I had those in my vehicles when I lived in Oregon and they performed flawlessly in any weather.
    Steve // 2010 Cadillac CTS-V // 2011 WRX hatchback (SOLD)

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    Registered User economatic's Avatar
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    I guess I was kinda typing in circles and not really getting to an actual point. If the dealership is doing their "tests" and sending you on your way I would be wary and get a second opinion of the normal things like alternator, parasitic draw, and battery. Also don't forget that once you drain your battery all the way once it might be done. My battery worked fine 6 months until the temp went below 30 then the problems started, which sound a lot like yours.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anxiouz View Post
    In all of my years of experiencing random things, when you replace the battery and the dead battery problem persists....for me at least it has always been the alternator.
    I agree, that's usually what I've found too (just replaced an alternator actually). But if that were the problem, then once you got to work and the car was running fine, it should still start fine 8 hours later. It would just gradually go downhill until it wouldn't start or die while you were driving.

    Another possibility is something is draining the battery. This could be tested though to see if there's current coming out of it when the car is off. I don't know why the dealer wouldn't have done this (though it sounds like they did to get to saying it was the stereo).

    The last possibility is that Subaru batteries suck in the cold, but I don't buy that as the issue. I live in a very cold area and the 5 year old OEM battery in my STi never had a single issue.

    I'd bet something is draining it. I'd bet serious money on it. Nothing else makes sense if the battery is good.
    Scott
    Past Subies - '11 STI Limited stage 1+ and '04 STi stage 2+
    '13 Wrangler Rubicon - custom front bumper w/12k lb winch & off-road lights, skid plates, diff guards, etc.
    '04 Porsche 911 Turbo GT2 clone 600 HP/TQ
    '77 F-150 heavily modded for off-roading

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    In the 2008+ cars, is it possible to raise the windows or close the sunroof without the motor running? If so those circuits could be suspect for parasitic draw.
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    In my 2011 WRX the power windows only work with the key in and turned to ACC or ON. The car can be running or off. Once the key is out there isn't even a grace period for the windows to still work like I've had in other cars. But yes the windows can be used with the motor not running. That's a good idea.
    Steve // 2010 Cadillac CTS-V // 2011 WRX hatchback (SOLD)

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    Quote Originally Posted by economatic View Post
    When I test drove the car it had a dead battery so I expected it to be toast prematurely. As soon as the car sat for a few days in cold weather it would die.
    This sounds exactly like my issue. Are the 2008+ OEM batteries just that bad in cold weather? I wouldn't mind throwing a different battery at the situation on my own dime (Die Hard, Red Top, whatever) if I was pretty certain it too wouldn't be drained and dead in a couple of months like the OEM's have.

    Over the 5 or 6 times I've taken my car in, the dealer claims to have performed tests on the battery and load/draw tests on the car while on and off, both immediately after power-off and after longer periods. If it was tracked to the stereo and a new stereo didn't fix it... could I have just gotten two bad stereos?

    As a sidenote, the first time they replaced my battery, they said it was fine and couldn't be replaced under warranty - I insisted they test it again and it failed the test the second time. So whether they actually performed either test, who knows.

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    Registered User economatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solja.wrx View Post
    This sounds exactly like my issue. Are the 2008+ OEM batteries just that bad in cold weather? I wouldn't mind throwing a different battery at the situation on my own dime (Die Hard, Red Top, whatever) if I was pretty certain it too wouldn't be drained and dead in a couple of months like the OEM's have.

    Over the 5 or 6 times I've taken my car in, the dealer claims to have performed tests on the battery and load/draw tests on the car while on and off, both immediately after power-off and after longer periods. If it was tracked to the stereo and a new stereo didn't fix it... could I have just gotten two bad stereos?

    As a sidenote, the first time they replaced my battery, they said it was fine and couldn't be replaced under warranty - I insisted they test it again and it failed the test the second time. So whether they actually performed either test, who knows.
    I suggest doing some testing on your own. All you need is a decent DMM to get accurate readings on how much parasitic draw there is. From what I read, Subarus typically have rather high parasitic draw and anything above 50mA is considered problematic if you let it set for long periods of time but even at that rate with a good OEM battery it should last a week. If everything is stock and it is on the high side I'd take it to the dealer again and have them prove to you it is within specs.

    I have read that the OEM batteries are pretty weak but there are a few out there that power on past 5 years. I knew there was no way an OEM would handle the load I'm putting on it so I had to get a deep cycle. Besides, it isn't fair to make warranty claims when I know my security system is exacerbating the problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by economatic View Post
    All you need is a decent DMM to get accurate readings on how much parasitic draw there is.
    This is just placing the DMM between the negative battery terminal and the negative wire, right? So disconnect, the wire, connect the black DMM wire to it, then the red DMM wire to the terminal?

    I've done a ton of DIY auto repair, but never have had to mess with electronics. Guess there's a first for everything, eh?

    Thanks to all for your help with this.

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    Registered User economatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solja.wrx View Post
    This is just placing the DMM between the negative battery terminal and the negative wire, right? So disconnect, the wire, connect the black DMM wire to it, then the red DMM wire to the terminal?

    I've done a ton of DIY auto repair, but never have had to mess with electronics. Guess there's a first for everything, eh?

    Thanks to all for your help with this.
    Thats about it. http://www.aa1car.com/library/battery_runs_down.htm

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