Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Sunday, February 07, 2010 Assault and Battery
So then I got in the trunk of the car and pulled the lid shut.
Oh, I seem to be starting in the middle. Let me back up.
In a two-telecommuter house, there isn't a lot of driving. In fact, there have been times when if we didn't have to bring M. Edium to school, we wouldn't leave the house at all for a week. We kind of wish he'd learn to drive himself already.
In the meantime, though, Trash likes me to alternate between the two cars when I drop him off and pick him up. She's got some crazy, superstitious idea that if we don't drive both cars semi-regularly, then on some cold morning one of them won't start. Back in December, I proved to her how silly that was when I got in her car for the first time in a week, started it right up, and drove it over to Walgreens. Of course, when it came time to drive home, I had to call Chao to come give me a jump because the battery was dead, but still. Chicks, right?
It happened a few more times after that, although the other times it was always in the driveway, so I could just hook the jumper cables to my car, which has a battery that was new last summer. Trash thought the battery in her car was also relatively new -- newer than the car, at least, which we bought almost five years ago. But I had to tell her that I had never replaced her battery. I knew this, because I had never seen it. I'd thought it was odd the time I went to jump my car battery off of hers and found nothing under the hood but one red terminal sticking out of a black plastic cover. Which I removed in search of the battery itself. I was halfway to the driveway before I gave up the search, and I never did find the thing.
Turns out that's because on her make and model of car, the battery lives in the trunk. This is a feature of which I was not aware. In addition to the added convenience of having to move all the crap in the trunk around to get to the battery, when it's time to replace it you have to get the kind of battery that has little vents built into the side. This allows certain gases to escape that would otherwise build up in the trunk and cause the car to explode. It also adds about a hundred bucks onto the price of a replacement battery. Win-win-win!
That's why we decided not to pick up a new battery at the beginning of January. And since it was still working most of the time, we convinced ourselves it was the cold preventing it from starting and it would be fine in the spring. Which is only, like, five months away.
I had even resigned myself to jumping her car every Tuesday afternoon, before she went to St. Paul to teach her class. But then last Monday, even jumping it didn't work. We resigned ourselves to buying that expensive new battery. But at least now it was going into February expenses rather than January. And we worked it into our budget by dividing out the extra cost into a new category called "explosion prevention" (I suspect this category has possibilities for justifying some other wish-list stuff that I have yet to fully explore).
So I replaced the battery. Normally this kind of thing takes me a long time, but I got a new set of sockets for Christmas and I still knew where they all are, which saved me the time I usually have to spend looking around for the right ones. Once that was all done, it started right up, over and over. Trash drove to school on Tuesday, and drove back on Tuesday night. No problems at all.
But just to be sure, and to humor my wife's little misconceptions, I decided to drive M. Edium to school in her car on Thursday.
It wouldn't start.
So we went in my car, and after I got home, I decided to try to figure it out. The only thing I could think of, in my spectacularly rudimentary understanding of cars, was that something was draining the battery while the car was off and parked. I once owned a used station wagon whose glove compartment door didn't always shut, so the light in there stayed on. That was fun to come back to that time we'd left it at a parking lot at O'Hare for a week.
But that wasn't the issue here. Trash's glove box doesn't have a light, and her interior lights weren't staying on, and we'd quit recharging our laptops on her cigarette lighters weeks before. But what about the trunk light? Could that be staying on all the time? If the car even has one? Which I didn't remember it having?
I popped the trunk and found the little bulb assembly. It felt really hot, hotter than it should have felt after being on for less than a minute. And it didn't seem to be turning off, even as I peered at it through the tiniest of cracks before the trunk lid actually shut. That must be it. I figured out how to unlatch it from inside the trunk and unplug it from its cable, then brought it inside and set it on Trash's desk.
"I think that's your problem," I said.
"Go jump my car," she said.
I went jumped her car. At least it started after only a few minutes of charging, so I knew the new battery wasn't a complete waste of money. The old battery, by contrast, was totally dead. After being constantly drained by something mysterious for two months, that is.
But I still felt I should test my theory. I popped the trunk light back into place, where it started glowing obligingly. And then I got in the trunk of the car and pulled the lid shut.
People find themselves shut in car trunks all the time on TV, at least on the shows I recap, but this was my first time (as an adult, that is; I can't say for sure whether I've ever ridden in a trunk before in my life, but your blood would freeze at the stories of how my siblings and cousins and friends and I were sometimes driven from place to place in the days before car seats). It's not comfortable for a person my size, especially in a bulky overcoat. I hadn't really cleaned it out, so stuff was poking into me. Plus it was really, really dark.
Yes, it was dark. So much for my theory.
I lay stuffed in there for a minute, wondering what to do next. There I was, no closer to the solution of the problem, and now I was in a trunk. It was a dark Thursday morning of the soul. Would my cell phone get reception in here? Could I even reach my pocket to get it out in this position?
But then I popped the trunk button on my car remote and climbed out.
I think I know what to do now. It's clear that electricity is going somewhere it's not supposed to when the car isn't running. So all I need to do is crack open the fuse box. I'll remove the fuses and then replace them one at a time, and each time I take one out, I'll stick a pair of metal tweezers into the empty slot until I find one that shocks me. And then I'll throw away the fuse that went into that slot. Problem solved!
Honestly, I don't know why people complain so much about the cost of car repair when it's so easy to do it yourself. posted by M. Giant 7:16 PM 1 comments
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