Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dead car battery

Amanda and I both own cars. My commute is a walk, and Amanda's car works better for routine errands, so my car is relegated to "backup" duty. A couple weekends ago we tried to use it while taking her car to the shop for some maintenance, and found that the battery had drained out and my car wouldn't start.

The car was boxed in on an incline in a busy parking lot, so jumping it was impossible and moving it would be a risky feat of strength. According to my Hank Hill-approved maintenance file, the battery is 5 years old; young enough to be salvageable. After some analysis I decided the most prudent solution was to order a battery charger online, wait for it to arrive, then recharge the battery outside the car.

Right now we're on the "charging" step. The charger registered a fault at the fastest charge rate, so I'm trying the slowest charge rate. The battery might be toast -- which would be unsurprising for a 5 year old battery that's been deep-cycled -- but hopefully I can nurse it back.

This whole thing reinforces several rules of thumb:
  1. Keeping (comically) detailed maintenance records has a concrete benefit.
  2. Modern cars are outrageously complex. They are full of limitations (need electricity to start) and patchwork fixes (rechargeable batteries) that may fail (drain out after a month of non-use).
  3. If you can afford to be patient, you save money. The charger took a week to come from Amazon via free shipping, but was a lot cheaper than buying a charger or new battery locally.
  4. Every "thing" in your life has the potential to cost time and money, even seemingly-inert things like parked cars.
  5. Keeping an old car running feels expensive because it amounts to occasional out of pocket expenses, but in reality it's usually cheap. A $31 charger is a lot less than a single monthly payment on a new car.
  6. If my car were parked in my own garage this would have been easier to solve. Houses offer a lot of little miscellaneous benefits.


SavingDiva said...

I had to replace my car battery last fall. It isn't too difficult to, if you buy the battery at Murray's or AutoZone, they'll dispose of your old battery.

Kevin said...

Yeah, it's an easy task. Having the store dispose of the battery is important, because it's usually pretty difficult to find another appropriate receptacle for those batteries.