Car Trouble

Cars used to break down a lot more in the past than they do today. I take this as a clear sign of progress in quality improvement. Parts are made better and last longer than they used to. I read recently in Scientific American that cars last 12-15 years these days. I often hear someone talking about how they’ve had their car for 20 years and its running just fine.

Incidentlly, our CR-V is coming up on 18-years old and is running just fine. Soon it will be eligible to vote.

I was thinking about break-downs when I pulled into the driveway the other day, driving our Kia minivan. The Honda was parked there, covered in snow, and I wondered if it would start, or if it would need a jump. We don’t drive it often and during the first few months of the pandemic, I didn’t start it at all–and found that the battery had drained and needed a jump.

Getting out the Kia, I was reminded that not everything is perfect. The sliding door on the driver’s side doesn’t always close all the way and you have to give it a little extra shove. I’ve sprayed WD-40 on the mechanism and that seems to help for a time. It’s on my list to ask the mechanic about it the next time I take the car in for its regular service.

Anyway, we’ve had Kias for over 10 years now and they have been great cars, with great service, never a problem.

Yesterday morning I went to start the car, pushed the start button, and nothing happened. At least, the engine didn’t turn over. It is always an unsettling feeling when a car doesn’t start when expected. It’s not unlike a smoke detector chirping in the middle of the night.

The electronics in the car came on so the battery wasn’t completely dead. I looked at the side door, and noted it hadn’t quite shut all the way the previous night. I wondered if that somehow drained the battery enough that it wouldn’t start the car. Kelly was dubious. But I decided to jump the car to see for myself.

Fortunately, the CR-V was already parked facing the Kia (we have a kind of horse-shoe driveway). Unfortunately, it was completely covered in several inches of hard snow. I removed the snow, pulled the car closer, opened hoods, attched jumper cables, started the Honda, and then started the Kia.

Nothing.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve jumped batteries. Whatever that count it, it seems like I never get it right the first time. I get the postive and negative leads in the right spot on both cars. But for some reason, the car being jumped never starts on the first try. I have to jiggle the connections and make sure they are solid at least once each time. I got out of the Kia,adjusted things, got back in, and pushed the start button.

The car roared to life.

It has been fine ever since. Kelly is still dubious that it had anything whatsoever to do with the sliding side door. While it would be nice to know exactly what caused the problem, it was just a relief that it wasn’t anything more serious than a discharged battery. We have enough headaches as parents navigating a global pandemic without throwing car trouble into the mix.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.