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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Man, I must have been away a looooong time! The look of this forum is so different!

Anyhow, the bitch died on me this morning and although I think I have a diag direction to go I thought I'd ask for input before I proceed.

2004 Astro just under 100K miles.

Backstory - I know mice have been in here because I actually offloaded one about a year ago and found tissues in my trash bucket removed and chewed up. Solution - mothballs. That said, I've thought for several months that the little culprits may have chewed on a little bit of wiring due to dash and radio lights doing odd things, especially when I use turn signals or flashers. Anyhow, it wasn't on my high priority list so I ignored it for time being. My bad! ;-)

Fast forward to 3 days ago when i wanted to go run errands and the engine had difficulty and failed to turn over. Dug out a spare lawn tractor battery and jumped it, ran multiple stop and start errands with no problem. Then this morning when I wanted to go run two errands around the block she started, but just barely. As soon as I got going I checked the charging and it was down a bit from the usual 14.5v. As I got out to the road (100 yards) it was down even further. I made it out to the corner and onto the main road and got about 20 yards and not only was the charging indicator going down even further but power steering and brakes went out. I'm used to driving under these conditions, so I continued up the block and pulled in but left the engine running while I went into one store to make a purchase. Came out and still running, so got back on the road, took the next left using upper body strength, down to the corner and another left and on to the post office. As I got there I realized the charging indicator was getting dangerously low so I decided to continue the remaining 200 yards to home. Got 150 yards and she died, although I did manage to pull off to the side of my single lane dirt road, so no huge problem.

More info: Battery new according to seller about 4 years ago and up until now never any issues with it taking or holding a charge. I replaced the alternator myself with a rebuilt Duralast 18 months ago and up until today has charged consistently at 14.5v.

My suspicion is a faulty ground wire, possibly chewed by little critters. I forgot to check the belt while I was out a while ago to remove the battery, bring it home and put it on a trickle overnight, but I did check it a few months ago and it had no cracks or wear and seemed fine. That said, when I install the battery tomorrow morning I'll check it just to make sure it's not something obvious.

My question is this: Do you think I'm on the right track and if so, where would you start looking first. I intend to look at the primary engine ground(s) first, followed by any other grounds I can find. The last time I was working on the van (replaced the power steering pump - that was a nasty job!) I looked all over the firewall in the engine compartment and pulled, cleaned, treated with dielectric grease and reattached every ground I could see. Also cleaned up the battery contacts really well and treated the same way. The battery leads feel solid and the connections I made still had the dielectric grease on them and were spotless. I had also purchased a red rubber boot for the positive post that had been missing previously, trying to do the right thing by this van. :)

Any input gratefully appreciated! I'll be out there tomorrow morning hoping I can limp the van the last 50 yards down the dirt road and up into my garage so I can work inside out of the cold and snow (Cape Cod, Mass. - it was in the 20's this morning and a light powder has been coming down most of the day).

Thanks!
 

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To start with it is not a charging indicator. It only monitors the battery voltage. The slow decline shows there is no charge from the alternator which is case grounded not wire.

It could be a chewed wire or a bad alternator..

Then come to think of it. The armstrong steering and flintstone brakes would certainly point towards the belt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
To start with it is not a charging indicator. It only monitors the battery voltage. The slow decline shows there is no charge from the alternator which is case grounded not wire.

It could be a chewed wire or a bad alternator..

Then come to think of it. The armstrong steering and flintstone brakes would certainly point towards the belt.
Thanks!
 

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I don't know how a 2004 is set up, but on both my Gen-1
vans the brake booster is run by the power steering pump.
I'd be starting with the easy stuff.
Check the power steering fluid level, replace the serpentine belt.
If that doesn't solve anything, I'd suspect it's a bad alternator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I don't know how a 2004 is set up, but on both my Gen-1
vans the brake booster is run by the power steering pump.
I'd be starting with the easy stuff.
Check the power steering fluid level, replace the serpentine belt.
If that doesn't solve anything, I'd suspect it's a bad alternator.
Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not charging + lost power steering/brakes = belt.
Thanks, Will! I figured I'd hear from you, MusicMan or Leeann eventually. ;-) I'll post the diag when I figure it out. First I have to talk myself into going out there with the wheelbarrow and the recharged battery to see if it'll drive the last 60 yards into the garage. ;-) The good news? If it IS the belt the one that's still in my partially disassembled 2000 Safari sitting dead in the yard may work until I can get a new one. Nope, I won't trust it and yes, I'll match it up with the one in the Astro to make sure it's a fit first. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I don't know how a 2004 is set up, but on both my Gen-1
vans the brake booster is run by the power steering pump.
Same on mine. How do I know? I already replaced the pump when both went out a few miles from home last year sometime. I'm gettin' real good at driving without brakes or steering! ;-) My only mistake was not realizing I should have purchased the pump with reservoir attached. I only got the pump and had to take the reservoir off the old one and install it on the new one and that was an interesting job! It's worked perfectly since then so that's why I don't think that's the issue, especially since the voltage gauge went downhill steadily over about 10 or less minutes. Had to be an electrical-related issue.
 

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Thanks, Will! I figured I'd hear from you, MusicMan or Leeann eventually. ;-) I'll post the diag when I figure it out. First I have to talk myself into going out there with the wheelbarrow and the recharged battery to see if it'll drive the last 60 yards into the garage. ;-) The good news? If it IS the belt the one that's still in my partially disassembled 2000 Safari sitting dead in the yard may work until I can get a new one. Nope, I won't trust it and yes, I'll match it up with the one in the Astro to make sure it's a fit first. :)
Belts are the same, check the tensioner and the alignment of your power steering pump pulley as you said it was replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Belts are the same, check the tensioner and the alignment of your power steering pump pulley as you said it was replaced.
Thanks again! Will do, although I was very careful with that alignment when I installed it. Now that you mention the tensioner (and it did occur to me it could be that) I'm guessing that could fail and lead to belt wear as well. I seem to rememember I actually had it off so I could inspect and it felt OK at that time. The suspense mounts... ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Finally got recharged battery in and drove it into the garage sans power steering and brakes. Can you say, "driving ever so sloooooowly, shifting between forward, neutral and reverse ever so quickly and standing on the all-but-useless brake pedal as necessary"? ;-) IT'S THE BELT! Yup, busted and just sitting there doing nothing. This is the first time I've ever seen a broken belt (and I'm 74) but I'm not surprised, really, that it's the cause of three things failing at the same approximate time. Now to get off the air filter housing, front shroud and whatever else to pull out the old one and look up online and see how fast I can get a new one delivered. Decided not to bother with pulling one off the Safari in the yard. Probably makes more sense. I'm also going to inspect the belt carefully and look at all the applicable pulleys to make sure they're all free to rotate so I can confirm it's only the belt worn out and not another cause.

Anyone have an experience with specific pulley's that may have locked up more often that others? I'm thinking tensioner first, as Will mentioned. Easy enough to check alternator, power steering pump, but not sure about others (idler?). I'll have to look - just thought I'd put this comment out first before I got too dirty to type on my computer. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
UPDATE: Got the mangled serpentine belt off, in two pieces. All pulleys seem to be freewheeling except there is some resistance of the alternator, but if memory serves that has a bit of resistance anyway, so I don't think a frozen pulley is the culprit. The belt was missing about half (4-5 feet) of one rib just inboard from the outside rib. There doesn't appear to be any abrasion that I can see - the breaks seems to be fairly clean. One piece was wrapped around and somewhat caught behind the idler pullery and the other was barely lodged under the crank pulley. All the pulleys have bits of rubber stuck into the grooves and the alternator pulley has one specific location where there are rubber bits in the grooves in a line right across it. I suspect that was where it was rotated to when a break occurred. All the other bits everywhere are somewhat random. Not ever having had any experience with a serpentine belt breaking before I have no idea how to analyze and find the actual fault for the failure, so if anyone out there has any knowledge about this kind of break I'd appreciate that input so I can avoid this in the future. For the time being I've ordered a new ACDelco replacement (Amazon Prime $25, due tomorrow) and I'll be cleaning out all the pulley grooves really well in the meantime. I'll also be checking, once installed and running, to see if anything out of the ordinary happens to the new belt in the coming days and weeks. FWIW, the charging system has been working perfectly all along (I check all my gauges every day that I drive) and there have been no sounds one would expect from a slipping belt (squealing, etc. when first starting up). No odd smells of burning rubber either, although there's no evidence of that - just the more or less clean breaks as though something prevented the belt from rotating and something else grabbed it and snapped it right apart.
 

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Glad you found the problem.

While you are in there, check your lower radiator hose as well sometimes a broken belt can damage it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Great advice! I'll make sure to check it.
 
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