Friday, February 07, 2014

Jumping in the dark

This isn't about playing jump rope at night. But before I get to the main story, I have to set it up. Over the week-end (after burying the skunk), I went to start our car to run an errand but instead of starting, it made a rapid clicking sound and all the gauges and displays on the dashboard went nuts. I've seen a run-down battery give one click and then nothing before but this had me worried. Even the speedometer dial went from 0 to 120 and back a number of times! It seemed like something big was a problem here. I looked for loose or charred wires but nothing looked obviously bad. So, I hoped it was just a dead battery. I pulled my mother-in-law's car around and hooked up the jumper cables. As I hooked them up, I got the small spark that showed that the connections were good and tried to start our car. Still a rapid clicking and dashboard madness. I adjusted the jumper cables. No good. Then I remembered that I'd seen problems in other cars where the battery terminals were corroded and didn't make good contact. So, I cleaned those. Still no good. I gave up and put my mother-in-law's car back in the garage.

This was terrible. What do I do? Have it towed to a garage? Have AAA come by and see what they can do? I worried around for a long time but it was dusk and I didn't want to be working in the dark so I pulled my mother-in-law's car out one more time and tried a jump again. This time, I really made sure the cable clamps were well positioned and I noticed the engine of my mother-in-law's car, which I'd left running, sounded different as if the load on the battery had changed. Yes! That must have been the problem before. Even though I got small sparks when I connected the cables before, they weren't making good enough contact to carry the load that was needed to get our car going. Sure enough, when I got my son to come out and rev the engine of my mother-in-law's car to make sure we had enough power, our car started right up. That was it. A dead battery. I must have left a light on or something when we used it the day before. I could sleep well that night.

The next day, I needed to take the car to work because it was going to be very cold and was going to snow so I couldn't take the scooter (there hasn't been much scooter riding this winter). The car started up with no problem and I took it to work. And it did snow. We got about 4 - 5 inches. I left right at 5 pm so I could get the last bit of light to clean the snow off the car. As I was scraping the ice and dusting off the snow, I decided to start the car to get it warm for the ride home and to help melt some of the snow. I turned the key and got rapid clicking and a wild dashboard. I guess I hadn't left something on in the car over the week-end after all. Our battery was just not holding the charge. I'm surprised it held up over night and started that morning. Now I had another problem. There were cars parked all around me and their owners didn't seem to be leaving. I had jumper cables, of course, and other people did, too, but they weren't long enough to run past the cars that were parked around me. I'd have to wait until the people around me left work. But they didn't. I just happened to park among a bunch of people who were staying late that day. A lot of nice people at my job got out their jumper cables and we measured them against the length they'd need to go and no one had super long cables. One guy thought he knew whose cars were parked around me and said they probebly wouldn't be long but it had been dark for about a half an hour and the snow was continuing and it was getting colder and the wind was steady. I couldn't wait much longer. So, I called AAA. They are very nice and called the closest garage but said that it could take up to 90 minutes. I was going to die. So, more people checked the length of their cables. No luck. Just when I was about to give up, I saw the AAA truck pull into our park lot. It had been only about 10 minutes! He had super long jumper cables and had me up and running in seconds. I gave him a tip and he seemed really happy. But not nearly as happy as I was.

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