Dead Battery

March 8th, 2009 by Potato

Last weekend when the wind was blowing and it was -20 in the sunshine I had the unfortunate luck to not be able to start my car on the first try. There was no second — the key turned but the engine didn’t. Luckily, in a slow, painful-sounding third attempt the engine did turn over and I was on my way.

By Wednesday night though, that was it, the battery was dead. Luckily I had an eliminator emergency jump kit in the trunk so with just a minor delay I was off and made my curling game. It’s pretty clear that the battery has been run down by all the short trips I’ve been making — I haven’t gone further than the grocery store or curling in 2 months, and it’s been cold and miserable. I drove around for a half hour to charge it up again and things seem to be working ok for now, but I know that I’m going to have to replace it pretty soon, it was coming due next fall anyway. Fortunately having that eliminator in my trunk will buy me some time to get around to it at my convenience, though I’ve lost the confidence to do things like shut the car down at long lights or railway crossings to save gas.

More bad news with the car though: when I had the hood up to jump the car, I noticed that my coolant was nearly empty. My radiator has been “weak” according to my mechanic, and obviously has some rust issues, and is another thing that’s on the list to get fixed at some point in the future. However, at the time the leak was first noticed I was losing less than a litre of fluid per year. Now I’m down nearly a litre in three months. I’m tempted to just keep topping it up — as long as the leak stays small like this a tub of coolant a year is a lot cheaper than fixing a radiator on a car that’s probably only got 2-3 years of life left in it anyway — but sadly coolant is both necessary for the car’s operation (whereas a weak battery I can skimp by on as long as I’ve got the backup jumper) and if a slow, minor leak turned into a big leak I could get stuck. Plus it might be a bit of an environmental hazard (though I’m not sure if losing a litre of coolant is any worse than the four of windshield washer fluid I might go through in that time).

Update: While the battery did run fine for a few days after taking it out on a drive and charging it up, it didn’t last. It’s completely dead now (6 days later), it won’t even run the lights after I turn the car off, let alone try to start it. The eliminator looks to be good for 3-4 boosts per charge on it, which has been fantastic. I bought a new battery at Canadian Tire and installed it myself; I have to go back tomorrow to trade in my old one. Unfortunately the battery there wasn’t as cheap as I thought from looking online: the price says “from $89.99” but I suppose that’s for like a motorcycle or something. My car has a pretty “normal” battery (mid-sized 4-cylinder car), and it was $120.

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