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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Good afternoon everyone. I own a 2012 RAV4 L with about 45,000 mi and a one year old battery.. After going to an appointment, I went to crank my engine and everything seem good and well as usual, but as I attempted to turn to pull out of the parking lot, I noticed my power steering was completely non-functional, with the indicator lit as well. I pulled back in, and after a long sigh, went to crank it over again. This time, the dash flickered and clicked; "okay, it's the battery", I thought to myself.

After getting a jumpstart from one of my parents, the car turned over and started without much issue. With my mother behind me in her vehicle, we went off to a local auto parts store to get a new battery. After about a half a mile, I noticed my power steering go off and on and ultimately off. I noticed a few random indicators then turn on, then turn off, and repeat. The dashboard lights then started to dim and brighten at random. After about 4 miles of driving, the tachometer and speedometer started to fluctuate and then ultimately stop. Finally, the engine lost power, and would only get the vehicle up to around 25 mph.

After two more jumps with the repeated cycle of symptoms, we made it to the auto parts store. Currently, the battery is getting charged from inside the store. When tested, the battery had no charge whatsoever. I noticed the positive terminal was extremely corroded, even with the protective red gel over each of the terminals. I just had the battery changed a year ago! It's a Duralast battery if that helps. I know this has been discussed before in other posts, but I wasn't finding many similar to my symptoms. Do you guys think it's the battery or the alternator? I have to move back into college tomorrow, and I am supposed to use my RAV to do so... Thanks for the help guys!

Kevin
 

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The best way to test the alternator or battery is with a volt meter.
How to check an alternator:
How to check a battery:
 

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Welcome, Kevin! You didn't complete your profile so we don't know your location. In the US, many auto supply shops will test the alternator at no cost. There should not be any corrosion especially of the positive terminal on a one-year old battery - it would indicate an acid leak because of a defective terminal seal, and if enough electrolyte escapes from the cell nearest to the terminal that battery would not provide enough current to start the vehicle or power the electronics. At one year the battery should be under warranty, and if it is still in the free replacement period the battery should be replaced for free. Still, it also would be good to have the alternator tested to make certain that it did not contribute to the battery problem.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
Problem (mostly) solved

Hey thanks for the advice guys! I'm a college student studying mech. e so I guess this is a good experience to get under my belt. Went back to the store to get my car picked up. Had a new battery installed free of charge. The clerk said my battery exploded while charging! I went to another store and picked up an alternator. I am going to go to a garage first thing tomorrow to get it installed. I checked my voltage when my RAV started with the new battery and it fluctuated between 12-20+ V, so it's definitely the alternator, specifically the voltage regulator! Unfortunately it's installed w/ the alternator unlike older vehicles, so I had to spend a little more than I would have liked. Good thing I found this and the faulty water pump (yesterday) before I journeyed across the great state of Pennsylvania to my school. Thanks again!

Kevin
 

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Good catch, Kevin - overcharging as with a bad regulator can easily cause the problem which your battery had. 20V is too high, and the voltage fluctuation also indicated that the regulating function was not working properly. Good luck with your replacing the faulty parts, and with your trip to PA and with your college studies!
 
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