electrical problem on 2005 Hyundai Sonata

My daughter is several hours away with a car that is apparently "dead"( no previous problems of any kind). There is not a single sound when she turns the ignition (nothing was left on prior); obviously the first step is a jump - if that doesn't work and it's towed to a repair shop what steps SHOULD be taken to determine if it's the starter/alternator/battery or combination without her being taken to the cleaners because she's young, alone and female?

by in Lakeland, FL on February 17, 2009
2 answers 3 comments
ANSWER by on February 17, 2009
Start with a jump if she has to tow it I see several Auto centers close to her location http://www.napaautocare.com/ConsumerNew/index.aspx Usually batteries last 3 to 4 years but it might be the starter. ASE certified mechanics are her best bet.
COMMENT by on February 17, 2009
C'mon, guys...AAA will do the jump, that I know. If that doesn't work then I'm asking what are the steps that should come next to determine the extent of the potential electrical problem. If they say, "well, now, it's the starter, alternator, and the battery and will cost you $595", how do I know that they're telling the whole truth and not just trying to make a big sale? What diagnostic steps should come first to either rule out or nail down the specific source of the problem?
COMMENT by on February 17, 2009
The battery is the first thing to check and until we know it has 12.6 volts no one can tell if the alternator is charging until its running and a mechanic puts a meter on it, The alternator should put out 13.5 to 14.2 volts. Once we eliminated the battery and the alternator then possibly its the starter.
COMMENT by on February 17, 2009
The reason for sending her to a Napa Autocare Center if she needs to be towed is that Napa has strict guidelines for their shops to become a Napa Autocare and I felt if it were my daughter I would trust them over other shops.
ANSWER by on February 17, 2009
Batteries can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years so it's possible a cold night drained the battery or it isn't holding a charge anymore. It's possible a dome lamp was left on or something (I know what she said but I have said the same thing in the past myself ;)). First thing to do is charge the battery, ideally with a trickle/slow charger. Jumping will work but you will need to drive at speed a good 20-30 minutes to be sure the battery has charged. Most new cars will set a trouble code (check engine light) when battery voltage is below a certain amount. Once you're sure the battery is charged and the cable terminals are tight, call around to the local auto parts locations and ask if they perform a free charging system test. Also most shops have the tester that will print the results of its diagnostic. It will show battery voltage and voltage with the engine running. Some testers can perform a "load test" on the battery to test the battery's capacity to hold the charge. If it passes the charging system diag, and starts (the starting system is likely not culprit). If you really want to be sure nothing else is causing a problem, a shop (or someone with a multimeter and good instructions) can perform an "Ignition Off Draw" test. This test confirms there is nothing draining the battery excessively when the key is off (and the modules/computers have timed out) hope this helps!
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