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Angel Eyes, DDEs, lighted rings, Clear Turn Signals, LEDs, Xenon, HID, or Bi-Xenon. If it lights up and you want to discuss it, post here!

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Old 09-04-2012, 05:04 PM   #1
fiveightandten
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Electrical problems (DSC, Xenons, etc). Charging System? How do my voltages look?

I'm having some electrical issues. Hopefully someone will have some input here.

Symptom 1:
About a month ago, I started the car up went inside to grab something, and when I came out to leave for work the DSC and brake lights were on. It was raining out, and the system wasn't working. I drove about 10 minutes to work, turned the car off, turned it back on again, and everything was fine. DSC worked fine, and I didn't have the issue again, until...

Symptom 2:
This morning, I get in the car turn it on, load the trunk up with work stuff, hop in the seat. It's raining out...so I turn my lights on and immediately the following issues occur:
-Right front Xenon low beam out, illuminated on dash
-DSC and brake lights illuminated
-While driving, the little line drawing of the car in the cluster starts flickering, for a moment I see the trunk open light illuminate, then go away. I turn the headlights off and everything goes back to normal.

Current condition:
No odd warning lights, but the right xenon low beam is out. The ballast is getting 14.8V or so with the engine running. Resistance to ground (jumper cable ground in engine bay) is 0.02 ohms. The ballast just makes a ticking noise. Tick tick tick [3 second pause], tick tick tick, repeat.

Other info:
-My battery is some NAPA thing that the PO installed, and the date circles weren't marked so I have no idea how old it is. Never had any issues starting and it's always been fine.
-108K on the car, original alternator (and voltage regulator), and ballasts from what I know. I have replaced the belts, tensioners, and pulleys recently. My belt is not loose.

I took some voltage readings:
-Battery (from terminals), engine off: 12.08V
-Battery (from terminals), engine at idle, no accessories on: 14.08V - 14.14V (jumped around a little)
-Battery (from terminals), engine at idle, heated seats, radio, interior lights, AC, parking lights, and fogs all on: 13.75V - 13.87V (jumped around a little)
-Right Xenon ballast: engine idling, no accessories on: 14.8V or so.


Both incidents happened while it was raining out. But, both incidents also happened while I was using the headlights. I'm unsure as to whether this is an inadequate voltage issue from a bad regulator/alternator, if the DSC and xenon problems are unrelated, or if the xenon ballast is fine or was damaged by another condition. How do these charging voltages look? I'm reluctant to swap ballasts yet, for fear of damaging the other one if this is not a lighting issue.

Any insight from the electrical gurus? Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-04-2012, 05:11 PM   #2
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That 14.8V looks odd to me but i'm no expert. I have a good known spare voltage regulator you could use if you want to try out. just pay for shipping... hell.. you can have it. haha. but really a new one is $38. Just PM me if interested.

I'd of course suspect grounds... inspect the DME box for any wiring flaws... seems water/moisture is causing havoc. Maybe pull the LCM and look at it?

This is a very DMAX-style answer. Sorry! Just things I'd look at and/or suspect. If everything looks good then I guess I would replace the battery and voltage regulator for starters (no pun intended) and at least you'll have elminated two very important things that should be replaced anyway. As you know these cars are super sensitive
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Old 09-04-2012, 06:28 PM   #3
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This is pretty much a no brainer from where I sit. 12.08 Volts at the battery means it only has about 50% charge or capacity!

Your charging system appears to be working as expected, but your battery is crap. You most likely have a bad cell in the battery and it needs to be replaced.

I would have never believed it until it happened on my E46, dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, many times brake warning lights and DSC light on. Sometimes other strange things light light out indicators, turn signals etc.

Get your battery to Auto Zone, Advance Auto or Pep Boys, they will charge and check if for free. My guess is they will tell you the battery is bad?

Some of the guys here say the Auto Zone DL49 battery is a good fit for these cars?? Check with DMAX, he seems to know the battery model number off the top off his head.

The 2nd issue you may have either a bad HID bulb or ballast?? I would sort your battery issue first, then worry about your headlights. You can always swap ballasts or bulbs if you want to try that.
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:31 PM   #4
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That 14.8V looks odd to me but i'm no expert. I have a good known spare voltage regulator you could use if you want to try out. just pay for shipping... hell.. you can have it. haha. but really a new one is $38. Just PM me if interested.

I'd of course suspect grounds... inspect the DME box for any wiring flaws... seems water/moisture is causing havoc. Maybe pull the LCM and look at it?

This is a very DMAX-style answer. Sorry! Just things I'd look at and/or suspect. If everything looks good then I guess I would replace the battery and voltage regulator for starters (no pun intended) and at least you'll have elminated two very important things that should be replaced anyway. As you know these cars are super sensitive
Thanks Mango. I'll keep that offer in mind, but to me it's looking like the charging system is doing ok. I was concerned about the higher numbers under hard load, and the high number the ballast was seeing. But if that's normal and not a cause for worry, so be it.
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This is pretty much a no brainer from where I sit. 12.08 Volts at the battery means it only has about 50% charge or capacity!

Your charging system appears to be working as expected, but your battery is crap. You most likely have a bad cell in the battery and it needs to be replaced.

I would have never believed it until it happened on my E46, dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, many times brake warning lights and DSC light on. Sometimes other strange things light light out indicators, turn signals etc.

Get your battery to Auto Zone, Advance Auto or Pep Boys, they will charge and check if for free. My guess is they will tell you the battery is bad?

Some of the guys here say the Auto Zone DL49 battery is a good fit for these cars?? Check with DMAX, he seems to know the battery model number off the top off his head.

The 2nd issue you may have either a bad HID bulb or ballast?? I would sort your battery issue first, then worry about your headlights. You can always swap ballasts or bulbs if you want to try that.
Thanks for the reply. I Just took the car to AutoZone. They put it on their tester and the battery tested out fine. So I drove down the street and went to Advance auto. Their battery tester said it was fine as well and reading out quite strong.

If this was just an issue with the Xenon, i'd be out there swapping ballast or even just put a new one on order. But the fact that it started with the DSC fault lights, and I had flickering things going on in the cluster leads me to believe there's something more going on there.

I supposed i'll have to get in there tracing wiring, checking grounds, and what not. I'm not sure if this happening in the rain has anything to do with it. The car isn't garaged, but it did exhibit these issues before even moving from the parking spot. Not enough time for any water to splash much of anywhere. I'm not sure what would be exposed and affected by water while the car is sitting.

Any suggestions in light of the battery being tested? The result was not what I wanted to hear.
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:47 PM   #5
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Your battery voltage (after you car has been switched off for few hours to get rid of surface charge on plates) should be greater than 12.60 volts, otherwise you need to replace the battery. After you get a new battery only then will you be able to check on rest of the items, most likely rest of the systems will function normally.
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:13 PM   #6
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Your battery voltage (after you car has been switched off for few hours to get rid of surface charge on plates) should be greater than 12.60 volts, otherwise you need to replace the battery. After you get a new battery only then will you be able to check on rest of the items, most likely rest of the systems will function normally.
Agreed (unless it is very cold).
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:16 PM   #7
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Your battery voltage (after you car has been switched off for few hours to get rid of surface charge on plates) should be greater than 12.60 volts, otherwise you need to replace the battery. After you get a new battery only then will you be able to check on rest of the items, most likely rest of the systems will function normally.
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Agreed (unless it is very cold).
Thanks guys. I'lll check the battery voltage again in the morning, or before I go to bed. I just finished driving the car back from the parts stores.

So you're not in agreement with the battery testers at both stores I went to, or is there a condition with the battery that their tester would not pick up on?
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:30 PM   #8
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...So you're not in agreement with the battery testers at both stores I went to, or is there a condition with the battery that their tester would not pick up on?
A good and true battery load test takes more time than the stores are likely to give. They'd also have to recharge the battery after the test.

Alternately, your meter could be bad.
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:51 PM   #9
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The problem with electrical issues is it can sometimes be the unexpected. From what you are describing I would look at at your relays behind the glove box ( k bus) I'm suspecting you are getting moisture back there or even a small leak. I'm heading in this direction because of the multiple issues showing up. As far as the battery- it sounds right and the 14.08 is fine.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:15 PM   #10
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Vehicle electrical systems 101.

Base Voltage on a fully charged lead acid battery with no surface charge should be 12.6 Volts. Given temps and meter variables, you should almost always see 12.5- 12.6 Volts.

You indicated your battery was at 12.08 Volts at the terminals at one point, this is BAD. Either you have a very heavy parasitic load on the battery when the car is turned off or you do have a possible battery issue.

If Auto Zone and Advance Auto claim the battery is good, it is likely good based upon their automated testers, which generally are pretty accurate.

So you need to check your battery in the morning(s). It should be at 12.5-12.6 Volts. If is is again around 12.08 Volts, then you have something drawing the battery down over night. Likely cause are things like FSU (Final Stage Unit) blower motor resistor. These go bad often. There are many other things that can drag a battery down. Bad FSU will cause the blower motor speed to be unstable and run when the car is turned off.

What you also need to understand is when the battery gets very low, then you start the car, the available Voltage to all the other modules in the car can drop too low and they become unstable and have problems communicating over the iBus. This is when the Christmas season starts early on the dashboard.

So even a good battery that is very low can simulate or cause the same crazy behavior as a bad battery. I have seen this first hand in my E46.

So before you over analyze things to death and chase ghosts and goblins, figure out what your battery Voltage is in the morning before starting the car.

If it is below 12.5 Volts, you have a heavy draw.

Again, unless the Xenon ballast is bad and somehow trying to switch on when the car is turned off, I would expect your headlight problem to be likely a totally separate issue.

Your Voltmeter is your friend, used is it, log the Voltage readings, not the date & time as well as how long the car sat for.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:46 PM   #11
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The problem with electrical issues is it can sometimes be the unexpected. From what you are describing I would look at at your relays behind the glove box ( k bus) I'm suspecting you are getting moisture back there or even a small leak. I'm heading in this direction because of the multiple issues showing up. As far as the battery- it sounds right and the 14.08 is fine.
Just pulled the glove box and had a look behind there. I looked very carefully using a mechanic's mirror and had a peek around the relays and the fuse box. No moisture, no drips, no evidence of drips or moisture. Everything is clean and dry as a bone.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joegr View Post
A good and true battery load test takes more time than the stores are likely to give. They'd also have to recharge the battery after the test.

Alternately, your meter could be bad.
My brother runs a CarQuest the next town over. I'm sure he'll do it up right. maybe I can pay him a visit tomorrow.

I doubt my meter is bad. I have 4 different ones and this is the nicest one and only about 2 months old. It's barely been used. I'll use the others to confirm readings next time.
Quote:
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Vehicle electrical systems 101.

Base Voltage on a fully charged lead acid battery with no surface charge should be 12.6 Volts. Given temps and meter variables, you should almost always see 12.5- 12.6 Volts.

You indicated your battery was at 12.08 Volts at the terminals at one point, this is BAD. Either you have a very heavy parasitic load on the battery when the car is turned off or you do have a possible battery issue.

If Auto Zone and Advance Auto claim the battery is good, it is likely good based upon their automated testers, which generally are pretty accurate.

So you need to check your battery in the morning(s). It should be at 12.5-12.6 Volts. If is is again around 12.08 Volts, then you have something drawing the battery down over night. Likely cause are things like FSU (Final Stage Unit) blower motor resistor. These go bad often. There are many other things that can drag a battery down. Bad FSU will cause the blower motor speed to be unstable and run when the car is turned off.

What you also need to understand is when the battery gets very low, then you start the car, the available Voltage to all the other modules in the car can drop too low and they become unstable and have problems communicating over the iBus. This is when the Christmas season starts early on the dashboard.

So even a good battery that is very low can simulate or cause the same crazy behavior as a bad battery. I have seen this first hand in my E46.

So before you over analyze things to death and chase ghosts and goblins, figure out what your battery Voltage is in the morning before starting the car.

If it is below 12.5 Volts, you have a heavy draw.

Again, unless the Xenon ballast is bad and somehow trying to switch on when the car is turned off, I would expect your headlight problem to be likely a totally separate issue.

Your Voltmeter is your friend, used is it, log the Voltage readings, not the date & time as well as how long the car sat for.
Thanks again for the helpful reply. Well, I likely just ran it down a bit in there with the interior lights on pulling the glove compartment out to check for moisture. I'll take the car around the block, park it, and check the voltage in the morning.

My climate control blower does hunt speeds sometimes in the morning when I first start the car up. Then after the blower is on for a minute or so, it's fine. It does this intermittently. FSU was going to be on my next parts order of things to replace before winter. Maybe I should get at that sooner. That will exhibit parasitic draw even with then CC isn't in operation?

I'll get some more measurements of that battery before chasing anything else. The xenon issue may be unrelated. But it's odd that it popped up at the same time. I know they draw a ton of current during the warmup time. I'm not going to overthink that one, as it's easy to just swap them and see. 1st things first.

So:
-I'll run the car for a while and put her down for the night.
-Check voltage in the morning with 2 different meters.

What's a normal amount of draw while the car is off? I did some searching and i'm a little vague on how long it takes for the modules to go inactive and what I should be looking for before and after that happens.

Thanks again for all the help and suggestions guys.
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:28 AM   #12
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Definitely get a brand new Autozone 49DL. I've had three of them in three different BMWs. Superb. My 330 came with a sh!t generic ill-fitting battery when I first bought it. First thing I did was went to Autozone to get a brand new 49DL.

I had Autozone test out a bad battery once and they said it was good. I complained and they replaced it under warranty anyway and my problems went away. (another car--E39) long long ago
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Old 09-05-2012, 02:41 AM   #13
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Takes about 16 minutes after shut down for the cars modules to go into "standby" mode.

Draw when the car is in standby mode should likely be under 100mA. I do not have sample measurements to give you a typical value but anything over 100mA will likely drain a battery quickly.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:48 AM   #14
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So the owner of my shop once told me that if the battery tester is a little hand held thingy, that it really can't load test a battery properly.

A 'real' battery tester is a sizeable thing...able to apply a strong load like a running car with lights, stereo, rear window defroster, and heated seats on.

Also, the date might be under your battery bracket if you didn't check.

Of course, I suspect the battery first, and if the guys walked out to your car with a little hand held thing, I'd suggest an Autozone 49DL (don't get talked into buying their $150 battery...the 49DL fits and is only $100 (fits all but vert...not sure about M).

I'm sorry, but I hate to leave it with this type of answer, as it sounds very 'Mango,' but what ya going to do!
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:00 AM   #15
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Thanks for the replies guys. The testers they used were the big elaborate digital things. Not handheld, but about the size of a portable defribulator. Looked legit to me, but I'm not as well versed in electronics as I am in other aspects of the car.

I took some measurements this morning after the car sat overnight. I'm seeing more variation in my meters than I would like to. So, battery voltages with car off after sitting for 9 hours:
-Craftsmans top of the line DMM (brand new)- 12.30V, 12.32V on a second try.
-RadioShack DMM (actually a pretty decent one, but it's about 10 years old now and ive never had it calibrated) - 12.15V
-Cheap Chinese DMM (not auto ranging, a little $15 unit) - 12.38V

I'd say the general consensus would have it in the 12.3V range. Any thoughts?

And while we're talking about batteries; my brother can get me parts at cost from his store, including OE BMW stuff. Worth it over the AutoZone unit?
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:29 AM   #16
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Those readings are too low. You have a bad battery, or too much of a drain while the car is off.
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:29 AM   #17
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Let me ask you this? When they tested with their legit looking battery testers...did they remove the clamp off the battery which would have told them what the CCAs should be?

When my bat died on me, the voltage was what it'd been for a while...12.2 sitting overnight...and although I know that sounds low it did start my car like that for a long time...over a year. Anyway, I load tested it myself with this good machine and the first time just pressed 'ok' to everything the machine asked me...but I didn't enter the CCAs not wanting to bother. The test came back fine.

Then a 'real' mechanic asked if I entered CCA. It was supposed to be over 800...so I entered it, ran the load test again, and this time I failed. The battery only had 400 amps...less than half its strength.

...a few other things...

I'm assuming you've checked connections well...know about bst...cleaned things up, pulled up on cables, actually inspected main grounds at least.

Also...I'm 96% that your elephant trunk loom going to trunk lid has a wire that's on its last legs...so be prepared to learn how to lower the elephant trunk into the car body (cut ziptie inside trunk)...and solder that break good. At some point, you'll have more and more broken wires...lights out...that you might do what I did in my elephant trunk thread.

HTH

So...still a chance it's battery...unless you saw that they entered the expected CCAs. A start sucks more juice than anything...and our cars are very sensitive electrically speaking.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:25 AM   #18
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Those readings are too low. You have a bad battery, or too much of a drain while the car is off.
Thanks. So, I'll test the draw after the modules shut down and if there's nothing abnormal, I'll replace the battery and see what happens.
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Let me ask you this? When they tested with their legit looking battery testers...did they remove the clamp off the battery which would have told them what the CCAs should be?

When my bat died on me, the voltage was what it'd been for a while...12.2 sitting overnight...and although I know that sounds low it did start my car like that for a long time...over a year. Anyway, I load tested it myself with this good machine and the first time just pressed 'ok' to everything the machine asked me...but I didn't enter the CCAs not wanting to bother. The test came back fine.

Then a 'real' mechanic asked if I entered CCA. It was supposed to be over 800...so I entered it, ran the load test again, and this time I failed. The battery only had 400 amps...less than half its strength.

...a few other things...

I'm assuming you've checked connections well...know about bst...cleaned things up, pulled up on cables, actually inspected main grounds at least.

Also...I'm 96% that your elephant trunk loom going to trunk lid has a wire that's on its last legs...so be prepared to learn how to lower the elephant trunk into the car body (cut ziptie inside trunk)...and solder that break good. At some point, you'll have more and more broken wires...lights out...that you might do what I did in my elephant trunk thread.

HTH

So...still a chance it's battery...unless you saw that they entered the expected CCAs. A start sucks more juice than anything...and our cars are very sensitive electrically speaking.
AutoZone just hooked the tester up and pressed some buttons. Advance looked up the CCA in their computer, input that, and tested. He said it was at 950.

I looked over the main cables to the battery, distribution box, fuse panel, ect. Everything looked fine. Grounds are clean and tight. Nothing wrong that I could see.

I'll measure the draw after the car has been off for a while tonight and see if it's within normal ranges. If that checks out, I'll throw a new battery in it and see. Then I'll deal with the xenon issue if it's still present.

With regard to the elephant loom, I'm assuming you're referring to the run that's exposed on the drivers side of the trunk. I have looked at it before and didn't see any sign of breakage. But I didn't pull the loom back to expose the wires and have a better look. Where do they break? At the exposed point where it pivots from trunk movement?

Thanks again for the help. I'll report back when I check the idle draw tonight. I may pick up a new battery regardless. But I don't want to stress a brand new one if there's excessive parasitic draw due to a larger issue.
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:12 PM   #19
dmax
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The wires break in that loom...inside the insulation...at exactly the point you'd expect metal fatigue would get them...at the bend.

You have to pull the wires apart...try to break them. If they break, inline splice, solder, and shrink tubing...will hold you for a few years.

Keep track of the grounds as one is thicker than the others...the rest are all color coded so no worries breaking them willy nilly!

That your battery says it's at 950 amps makes me wonder...as that's a lot of CCAs...so again, I'm wondering about tester error...but I'm a naturally suspicious guy! Maybe you do have a very good battery with parasitic draw...and yes, I think you 'should' replace fsr as that is virtually the only reliable source of that big of a draw. I can't think of another source although I'm sure they could come from other odd things, this is a sizable resistor that does eat batteries in a night or two when it's bad.
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:46 PM   #20
fiveightandten
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmax View Post
The wires break in that loom...inside the insulation...at exactly the point you'd expect metal fatigue would get them...at the bend.

You have to pull the wires apart...try to break them. If they break, inline splice, solder, and shrink tubing...will hold you for a few years.

Keep track of the grounds as one is thicker than the others...the rest are all color coded so no worries breaking them willy nilly!

That your battery says it's at 950 amps makes me wonder...as that's a lot of CCAs...so again, I'm wondering about tester error...but I'm a naturally suspicious guy! Maybe you do have a very good battery with parasitic draw...and yes, I think you 'should' replace fsr as that is virtually the only reliable source of that big of a draw. I can't think of another source although I'm sure they could come from other odd things, this is a sizable resistor that does eat batteries in a night or two when it's bad.
Thanks again.

I've had my meter on the car for about 40 minutes now. Very shortly after making the connections, the draw dropped down to 52 mA and dropped again to 24 mA after about 20 minutes. I waited an hour after driving the car, but note that I had to disconnect the battery to put the meter in series with the line anyways, then reconnect with the meter in line.

This is with the trunk open and the trunk lights disconnected. With one of the trunk lights plugged in, it was about 750 mA.

I'll leave it for a good long while and see if anything changes, but i'm convinced enough to buy a new battery, put the FSR on order, and tackle the xenon issue if it still exists with a new battery.

BTW, I pulled back the rubber loom covering the trunk wires and they're all totally fine. I'm not sure about others, but mine doesn't make a very sharp bend. It's kind of coiled.
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