25 Feb 2024

A good day’s work down the drain

I got my fingers burnt with a battery replacement recently. Not literally of course, as that would be very painful, and I would have mentioned that aspect first. I have a very low pain threshold, and I am also a talker. This is not a good combination. Anyway, luckily, we’re not talking about an electric car battery either, or else you might be reading ‘Arthur Parkit – in Memoriam’ as written by Mrs P. We are set up for EVs, but I am scrupulously careful around that bay. 

So I was talking about that battery. We had an older car in here recently with a dead battery, well, more than one actually, but I will get to that. The customer, a regular of ours, just couldn’t get the thing to start. I know what you are all thinking. Older car, post-lockdowns, was it the second car that wasn’t getting much use for the last two years due to less travel? Well, it might have been. Whatever the issue might be, as we didn’t know yet, it was completely dead when one of my guys went over to their house and tested it. Our loyal customer was very keen to get it back on the road fast. Our mechanic rang me to tell me his progress, and against my better judgement I said we would just swap out the battery for a new one. Yes, I know, I know.

Of course, almost the first phone call in the morning was our loyal customer, who said despite the car working the night before, it would not start again. Right, I said, let’s listen to that little Arthur in our head this time, and actually get the thing in here. We towed it in, and started going right through the ignition system, electrical system, the whole shebang. 

Getting the answer itself was quite a process. Let’s start with the original battery. First, one of the connectors on that car was loose. I realised this when I was taking off the one we put on, but that was not the only problem. When we went through the options, we looked at the wiring, we checked everything, we had meters going up and down that vehicle. This was an older car, so we could get to the fuses quite easily, and aha, one of them really was ropey. So that was another problem. None of it seemed quite enough though. 

Now, as I indicated, early on in this process I was not that involved. By this point though I was sitting in the driving seat, wondering where to look next. I was staring at, well, nothing. Behind nothing though, was the switch for the headlights, which was on. We changed the first battery in daylight. Then, when we picked up the car to tow, it was daylight also, Why would the headlights be…oh…It was at this point I realised that, while no music was playing, the radio was on. It was turned right down. 

In short, dodgy connections, masses of parasitic drain, and us, diagnosing like first-day-at-college apprentice mechanics. Actually that’s unfair. Our current apprentice does better than this usually. 

See, even old pros like me and my boys get caught out sometimes. You should have seen Mrs P’s face when I told her. We charged for the labour, but we covered the cost of the two batteries we had to put on the car. That hurt more than a burn, and will make me remember for next time.