02 Monte Carlo Won’t Start, Randomly I Turn The Key And Everything Dies With Clicking From Passenger Side

It’s happened a couple of times now, and it doesn’t seem to start up as quickly as it used to, or that could be my imagination. But here’s the facts:

– What Happens: Turn the key and get nothing but a mechanical clicking from the passenger side. -This is NOT a starter clicking- I know that sound and this is definitely inside the car and a faster pace than a starter would be. Also I lose all power. Everything but “Check Engine” goes out on the car while I turn the key, and it clicks a little faster. When I let off the key, the gauges all bottom out and then bounce slightly in step with the clicking. The stereo (aftermarket) go crazy, blinking and flashing and sputtering. The lights are half-lit and flickering. Sometimes this will only last a few seconds after, sometimes indefinitely.

– First time it happened in my driveway, and after much trying we put it in neutral to roll it back to a place we could jump it, and when we tried it again (without the jump), it started.

– 2nd time happened 2 weeks later at a gas station, couldn’t move car to try what worked last time, so I called AAA. AAA guy said it was “very clearly” a dead battery, hooked up cables, and after considerable effort (not the quick & easy jump I’m used to) it started.

– 3rd time, walked to car after work, used remote to unlock doors, no problem, all lights came on, inside and healights, bright as normal. Got into the car, insert key, bam, everything dies. Eventually got a jump and, again after considerable effort, got it running.

– It seems that as soon as a connection is made with cables, the lights and everything come back to life. Usually as soon as I turn the key they all die again. Usually after we’ve rearranged the cables a few times it will finally seem to catch and get it going, with much cranking & pumping of the gas.

– When the car does come back to life, the stereo is all reset, back to demo mode, blinking 12:00.

The 2nd time it happened and AAA was so sure it was a dead battery, I immediately drove up to Autozone and had them run a test on it. They said the battery looked good, but was kind of showing it’s age (about 3 years old), not at peak performance but still “plenty to get it going”. Also tested the alternator and said it was charging very well.

Looking through the manual, the “Battery Protection Relay” stood out as a possibility. It’s in the right area, and the clicking does sound like a relay type of click, as far as I know relays, which is not much. Haven’t had a chance to check it out, nor would I even know how, but it’s my prime suspect at this point. Considering the lights and everything were on up to the moment I turned the key this last time, I have to think it’s not a dead battery.

Sorry for making this long and possibly boring. I do tech support for PCs, so I understand that sometimes the little details can reveal the problem, but I don’t know cars worth a damn, so I just threw everything in there. Any ideas or suggestions would be great! :) I can’t find anything on the ‘net about this type of thing.
Just to clarify in case it wasn’t clear above: The power does not come back after the first attempt. The clicking, flashing lights and blinking stereo may only last 5-10 seconds, but afterwards the lights and stuff do not come back on. The car is completely dark.

Answers for The Question

  1. Matt McClure
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