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Causes of a Dead Battery in a Dodge Caravan

by Mike Parker

An old auto commercial tag line used to tell us, "It's not just your car, it's your freedom." Anyone who has ever turned the key in their ignition and got no response understands that sentiment completely. When your car battery is dead, you are not going anywhere. There are lots of things that can cause the battery in your Dodge Caravan to lose its charge. Fortunately, a little preventative maintenance can often keep unpleasant surprises to a minimum.

Function

The battery is one of the truly indispensable components of your Caravan. The vehicle simply won't start without it. The battery supplies the short-term boost of power that starts the engine; it also provides power to other accessories such as the radio and lights even when the engine is not running. The battery, along with the alternator and voltage regulator supply power for all of the electrical components on the Caravan including the air conditioner, cigarette lighter, clock, interior lamps, electric windows and everything else that uses electricity.

Common charging problems.

The battery on a Dodge Caravan is subject to the same drainage issues every conventional automobile battery has. If the alternator does not produce enough current to recharge the battery, it will lose its charge over time. If the voltage regulator is not functioning properly it can impair the ability of the battery to stay charged. If the operator leaves the headlights on, or the door open or any number of other accessories that draw electricity from the battery while the engine is not running, the battery will eventually die. Loose battery cables can also keep the alternator from supplying current back to the battery.

Parasitic Drain

Later model Dodge Caravans are subject to parasitic drain. This is due to newer electronic parts that require a constant, albeit tiny, trickle of current in order to maintain their memory when the ignition switch is turned off. If a device is drawing too much power, it can run the battery down. A diagnostic test at a professional auto shop can usually isolate the problem component within an hour or two.

Brake Light Switch

The Dodge Caravan, like many other vehicles, utilizes a brake light switch that illuminates the brake lights when the brake pedal is applied and shuts the lights off when the pedal is released. This switch, which is located under the dash above the brake pedal, can wear out over time and arbitrarily cause the brake lights to turn on. If the operator is unaware of the problem, he can experience a dead battery and never know why. The switch typically costs less than $20; anyone who can pump their own gas should be able to replace it in less than 15 minutes.

Time Frame

Batteries are not designed to last a lifetime. In fact, most batteries have an effective life of between three and five years. Once your battery gets past its expected life, you are running on borrowed time. In order to not experience the frustration of running late for work only to discover your old battery has died in the night, invest in a new battery. Keep in mind that all vehicles have particular requirements for their batteries. Ask the clerk at the auto parts counter to look up the correct battery for the year model of your Caravan to ensure you get one that will give you satisfactory service.

About the Author

Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.

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