What Would Cause A Car To Lose All Electrical Power Instantaneously And Intermittently

Posted in Ignition Systems | Asked on Mar 27, 2011

I was driving my 1991 Ford Thunderbird today and made a quick stop at a store, and I was in and out in under 30 seconds. I tried to start my car, and the car lost all power the moment I turned the ignition to the start position, the starter didn’t even click, the dashboard panel died, no headlights, the automatic seat-belt didn’t retract when I opened the door, the seat controls didn’t work. There was absolutely no power to anything. I pulled the key out of the ignition, and went to check the battery connections.

When I got back in the car, it had power again. I tried to start the car, and the moment the starter engaged the entire car lost power again. Even though there was no power, I left the key in the run position, and shorted the starter solenoid terminals with a screwdriver to see if the engine would turn. It did nothing, and I went back in the car with no power. After about 10 seconds in the car, the power came back on and my dash lit up and started dinging like usual, the stereo turned on (the presets are gone), and I was able to start the car without issue.

What could have happened, and how do I make sure it doesn’t happen again?

It shouldn’t be an alternator issue because the battery had plenty of juice to start the car, it shouldn’t be a starter issue because that was just very recently replaced, and it wouldn’t explain the fact that no power whatsoever was available for a few minutes. The battery was manufactured in 2001 according to the label, and the acid in it has always been topped off with distilled water; it is supposedly fine because it was able to turn the car over. The fuses are all good, and I don’t see any melted wiring in the path that would lead from the battery to the rest of the electrical system.
Thanks for the answer, but I know for a fact that the ground cable is properly attached.

There are 3 Answers for "What Would Cause A Car To Lose All Electrical Power Instantaneously And Intermittently"

  1. Leanne says:

    Bad connection – battery, ground and/or wiring at the solenoid terminal.

  2. Brandon says:

    I would check the connections coming off from the battery and follow where the wires go, both positive and negative. most likely a bad ground. the positive wire will lead to a fuse/relay block and the negative will lead down to the frame somewhere

  3. What To Do? says:

    Take a good look at the ground cable. If you have absolutely nothing, then get it all back; it’s probably the ground from the battery to the body. If it is held on with a bolt, take it off, wire brush both the cable end and the spot where it connects, and re-fasten. Put some wheel-bearing grease on it and you should be G to G. I hope you use eye protection when filling the battery!!!!