Friday, July 20, 2007

Does It Ever End?!

It's been a shitty week. If you haven't heard about it, let me fill you in.

We have our yearly camping trip coming up next week (my only week off of the year) and I am sure that there is some greater power out there that doesn't want us to go.

Last week our lawn mower died and shortly after that the starter in our van crapped out and needed to be replaced. That's a lot of expense all of a sudden at a horrible time.

We got the van back 2 days and $305 ago. Not the best time to blow three hundred bucks but at least we wouldn't have to worry about the van not starting anymore.

Today I was enjoying my last day of work before my time off. After the last week I could use a little R & R. I had about an hour to go, when my office phone rang. It was Jules. She said, "You need to get a car and some jumper cable and come and get us."

"WHAT!! Why?"

The van stalled in the middle of a busy intersection. Some police people pushed her through the intersection to safety and she was now sitting at the side of the road with a bunch of stuff from the store and #2 and #3 were along for the ride as well.

This was not the best time for me. I was about to meet with the comptroller to decide who we were going to hire as we had just completed our final interviews. This is a task that needed to be done before I started my holidays, however since I couldn't very well leave them stranded at the side of the road, I located some jumper cables and jumped in the Jeep and headed out.

I jump started the van and just as I disconnected the cables the van died again and wouldn't start. Hmmm. I did it again and as soon as the van idled it died again. The voltage indicator seemed to indicate no voltage. I had no time to fool around right then and there. I had to get back to work so I loaded the bags and the family into the Jeep and dropped them back home. Jules had to work at 5:30 so that was going to be an issue.

Those symptoms would seem to point to an alternator problem. My suspicion, however, was that something occurred when they replaced the starter. The only thing that they do other than put the starter in is disconnect the battery. So maybe it has something to do with the battery connections. They had recommended that we have the terminals serviced a while back so that is what I was hoping for.

One of the guys at the office who I'll call Captain Corporate, offered to help me get the van home. What a great guy! So I left my bike at the office and called Jules to tell her that this was the plan. She'd already arranged to have someone pick her up and give her a lift to work at 5:15 but she said she would get a hold of the person.

Captain Corporate and I headed to the van. We got about 2 blocks away when I realized I didn't have the keys. "MOTHER F$CKER!!"

At this point it was 5:10. There was no way we would have time to go to my house pick up the keys and then go back and get the van before 5:30. So I got Captain Corporate to just drop me off at my house.

I walked in the door and was greeted by Jules. I said I couldn't do it because I didn't have the keys and wouldn't have time to get it done before 5:30. She informed me that she called work and said that she was going to be late and that she would take a taxi. Time wasn't a problem. Meanwhile Captain Corporate was long gone.

"Call CAA. It shouldn't take too long," said Jules.

"But I have to be there when they take it," I replied.

She said,"You can ride your bike."

"No. No," says I, "I left my bike at he office so I could get the van."

I eventually called my hero, Captain Corporate, and he agreed to come back and give it another go.

The plan was to jump the van and then keep the RPM's up while driving down the back roads to my house. He would follow me in case I needed another boost. That worked quite well. Almost made it all the way. We had to jump it again once on the way.

When I pulled into the driveway I noticed that the battery was showing 12V again. It's intermittent. More evidence to support my 'iffy' connection theory. Captain Corporate went on his way and Jules caught her cab to work.

I made supper for myself and the kids and then went to work on those battery terminals. I made the connectors and posts nice and shiny with some sandpaper and I completely cut off the negative connectors and stripped the wires for a nice clean connection.

Everything starts fine for now. I found out via the internet that the voltage reading across the battery should jump up to 13.5V to 14V if the alternator is working. I measure it and found that the battery read 12.5V when the van wasn't started and 14V when it was running. This leads me to believe that the alternator is OK. I hope.

Reasonably satisfied for now I went to put my tools away in the basement. As I turned to go back up the stairs I noticed that the sewer had backed up. Sigh...

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