This week our car decided it wasn’t going to start on a very random basis. We had been out running errands all morning and decided to stop at Sam’s Club and stock up on our usual grocery staples like milk, eggs and bread. When we got back out to the car 20 minutes later it acted like the battery was dead. Perhaps it was karma coming back to bite me after I muttered a profanity at all the people fighting over who was in line at the only two check stands open. After munching on fresh fruit and potato chips in the parking lot for half an hour, our roadside assistance showed up and jump started our car. Home we went!
Once we pulled in, I turned off the car to see if it would restart. As luck would have it, dead again. I had a co-worker pick me up for the ride into town and I schlepped my battery to the auto parts store. It tested ok (as it should since it was only a few months old) and they informed me it must be my alternator. Fantastic! I knew I was either looking at a very long weekend and close to $300 for one silly part or about $600 to have a mechanic do it for me. I guess I was in vapor lock mode. My girlfriend and I decided we would tackle the alternator together making the experience more fun with the two of us at each other’s side. Four hours later we were steaming hot mad and hadn’t removed a single damn part.
We finally decided we were defeated and that the car was going to have be towed to a mechanic where we would shell out the insane amount of money to have a mechanic do it for us. I reconnected the battery cables and thought why don’t I just try starting the car. I did and it started. We let it run for about 30 minutes while we got ready to head into town, not wanting to shut it off again until we got to the auto parts store. We pulled into the parking lot and the helpful clerks tested our electrical system. Their tests showed everything was fine. The battery was great and the alternator was putting out plenty of juice so they told me to clean up the cables and battery posts.
We did just that and it only cost us $4.00 as opposed to at least $300. We bought a battery terminal brush, mixed up a quick concoction of 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda, grabbed the vaseline and headed to the garage. As it turns out, making sure your battery has a good electrical connection is super easy and takes just a few minutes. First, disconnect the negative battery cable from the terminal and set aside. Next, disconnect the positive cable. With a paint brush, wipe on some of the baking soda solution. As it comes in contact with the battery acid buildup it will bubble and sizzle. This is a natural reaction so don’t get worried. After you let the backing soda neutralize all that buildup, wipe it off with a clean towel. Apply the baking soda solution to the wire rings that clamp to the battery posts and wipe clean. Use the battery terminal brush to help scrape the extra stuff off both the clamps and the posts of your battery. Once you’ve cleaned all the surfaces, reattach the positive cable and then the negative cable to your battery. It’s that simple!
I also ready many anecdotes involving pennies. Supposedly if you place a copper penny near each battery post it will attract the corrosion from the battery acid to the coin as opposed to the posts and cables. I haven’t tried that but I guess it couldn’t hurt. What a weekend! We grew together as a couple once more after getting seriously frustrated with our weekend’s car repair. I guess we were technically successful though since the car is running again!
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