Saturday, January 19, 2013

College Student Car Challenge #1, The Battery

My daughter is away at college and has a 2006 Suzuki Aero. We bought it used with 30k miles 3 years ago, and it has been a superb little car. The only thing we have had to do to it is put on new tires.  This week she called me from her apartment parking lot and declared that the battery was dead.  She had her girl friend come over with jumper cables and with her friend's dad on the phone, who instructed them on how to use them to jump the battery, they gave it a shot. I verified their procedure, which was spot on.

I remember watching my room mate Ron, in college try to jump a 1955 Cadillac and cross the cables. I told him he had them crossed but machismo prevailed and he imploded his battery, they were all very lucky; he was an exceptional artist though.

My daughter and I went over some of the tell tale signs of a dead battery;

  • Battery year: we couldn't find a date sticker on the battery, so we assumed it was the original and would be over 5 years old, we bought the car when it was only 4 years, so we have had an extra 2 years of battery life.
  • 29 degree temps for the last few days
  • No lights of any kind and
  • No success at jumping it.
I told her she had two options, one was to call our insurance company and have them attempt a jump then tow it to a shop, dealer or store like Sears or Pep Boys. Or she could replace the battery herself.

She is a petite young lady working on a Physics Major and a Napoleonic Complex, so she opted for door number 2: do it herself.

Napoleon Bonaparte
I told her to remove the battery from the car and take it to her apartment till tomorrow morning when she could get to the store to exchange the old one (for core credit) and get a replacement. I suggested this so she wouldn't be out there in the cold morning trying to get it out of the car for her first time.  I mentioned it is heavy but should have a handle on it, which it didn't. There was also a "T" bracket holding it down and she needed to remove that also. First disconnect the battery cables, negative first then positive (reinstall the new battery in reverse order) We had a minor discussion about the direction of polarity and how even Physicists aren't sure which direction it actually flows - but we needed to take the practical approach and get the thing out of the car.  She could contemplate the workings of the universe later.

After borrowing a wrench and removing the bracket and the battery cables she brought it to her apartment for the night.  She noticed the "Do Not Tilt" and "Acid" warnings on it and was concerned about its volatility in her apartment.  I told her if she could refrain from harassing it over night it would be fine. I think in her mind this was a miniature particle combustion chamber and it required a level gauge to keep it from spilling acid everywhere. I think there is a "Mad Scientist" in there somewhere imagining world conquest. 

Dr. Evil, from Austin Powers.

I told her to look up a local O'Reillys or Napa store. She found both near by, and checked their reviews which were both equally bad for customer service. I suggested the O'Reillys as they usually have more of her generation working there, better to be annoyed by your peers.

The following morning her friend picked her and her unstable acid box up, they went to the store and bought a replacement. After some light talk with the manager about Pug puppies they took the new battery back, reinstalled it and, voila, Fire in the Wire.  High 5s all around.

(Note: the sales person did not mark the date sticker on the new battery, and my daughter reminded them to do so. The manager stated that it has been a problem to get the staff to remember to do this. Is that really so hard? I think it is a reflection of the manager not of the kids.) 

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