Aug 14, 2007

Late for Work

This morning, I pulled up to the gas pump at Wal-Mart, got out, filled up the tank and then got back in the car. I turned the key and heard that sickening sound that every driver hates to hear – absolutely nothing. I tried the key a couple of times, but it was no use. I wasn’t even hearing a click. I tried to put the car into neutral so I could push it out of the way, but it wouldn’t allow me to press the button in to move the gear shift. I tried the key in every position, and no luck. I was pushing the brake in and everything! I think that's the thing that frustrated me the most - not being able to move the car. As long as you have the key, you should always be able to put the car into neutral. I got out, raised the hood, and hoofed it over to the main store where I got some change and started making calls.

Angela’s dad suggested I make sure the steering wheel wasn’t locked, and then try the gear shift. I called Angela, left a message, called work, told them I wouldn’t be in until at least noon, and then walked back out to the car. The wheel was already unlocked. I disconnected the battery and rubbed the terminals with sandpaper, but that didn’t do any good either. I walked back to the main store, and went to the auto center. I asked the clerk if they check batteries for free, and she told me that they do. I walked back to the car (again) disconnected the battery (again) and started working on getting it out. This was a real pain in the neck because the battery has this annoying nylon strap that holds it in place. The strap is fastened in with a bolt, and all I had was a crescent wrench. I had to reach down in there, get on the bolt, and turn the crescent wrench like a screwdriver until I got the bolt out. That sucked. The bolt was WAY longer than it needed to be!

Once I had the battery free, I took it back to the auto center. (I failed to mention that I brought a cart with me to the car, and that was a real lifesaver – the battery didn’t have a handle!) I took it around to the bay, and one of the mechanics tested it for me. The conversation went like this: “You got 17 cold cranking amps.” I’m thinking, what does that mean? Is that good? Bad? He said it in a way that didn’t give any indication. So I said, “Okay…is that bad?” He replied, “That’s out of 590.” I tried to clarify. “So it’s a dead battery and I need a new one?” He said, “Yep.” Not wanting him to think I’m a complete moron, I threw in the following nugget: “Okay. I can just take this old one in for the core charge?” He said, “Yeah.” (Note: If you’re ever dealing with a mechanic and you don’t want to sound like you have zero mechanical skills, always mention the core charge. That lets them know that you’ve got at least a smidge of experience working with car parts.)

I bought a new battery (the new one also had no handle) and took it out to the car. I put it in, and said a prayer. It worked! The car cranked up and I was elated. I DROVE back to the phone, called everyone back, and went home.

I stayed home for the rest of the morning, ate lunch with Angela and then went to work. I got here at about 12:45.

Oh yeah, and after standing by the gas pumps for over an hour I learned something important - now is the best time to start saving money with Additech!

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