This morning Melanie, my carpool buddy and good friend, called me and said her car wouldn't start. I zipped over and picked her up. She said that when she turned the key on her car, the starter just clicked: "click, click, click, click" and was probably broken.
I called my dad on the phone to see if he had any ideas or could help. Dad said, "Sounds like the battery posts are corroded and the starter isn't getting enough juice. Get a wire brush and clean them off. Take the negative one off first, then the positive. When you put them back on, the negative one goes on last."
Poor Melanie was upset about having to spend more money to fix her piece of trash 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. It only has 130,000 miles and has already needed to have the transmission replaced and a host of other repairs. She really thought the starter was broken, based on what her boyfriend told her when he heard the clicking noise.
I told her not to worry - it might be the starter, but it was worth trying to clean the battery posts just in case it was an easy fix. During our commute to school, Alex called Melanie on her cell phone and she told him what my dad had said. Alex said something dismissing my father's opinion, which really pissed me off. (Oops, my sister Shawna keeps coming down on me for using this phrase. I mean, "which really made me upset.") After all, my dad is 75 years old and has YEARS of experience fixing cars, building engines, dealing with airplane systems, and all sorts of mechanical things. Alex is some young guy. I found his reaction disrespectful.
However, Melanie explained that Alex dismissing my dad's idea was just testosterone-driven territory marking, and that I'm taking it too personally that he "dissed" my dad. Later this afternoon, Melanie and I drove home from school (in my car, obviously), swung by Schucks for a battery post cleaner and anti-corrosive felt things. We then drove up to her apartment. Right at the moment that we popped the hood, it started to pour down rain (figures).
I hate working on batteries. I hate jumping batteries. I hate charging batteries. To me, they are like cooking with pressure-cookers. I am always afraid that I'll do something wrong and they will explode. I may not be a supermodel, but I like the way I look and don't think that battery acid would help my beauty regime. Anyway, I called Dad to reconfirm "negative off first, on last." I was really hoping he'd buy my helpless routine and would offer to come over and do it for us, but, as the father of four daughters, dad wasn't biting. Apparently, the helpless-female deal only works with strangers at auto supply stores. (Remember, my dad made me change the tire on the car before he'd take me to get my driver's license.)
Alex, who was so protective of his territory this morning that he had to dismiss a 75 year old man's advice, came out of the apartment long enough to see Melanie and I start to work on her car, make some comment about him wanting dinner on the table when he returned (I think he was joking) and left without helping us.
I will acknowledge that I'm being sexist here when I imply that Alex should have done this for Melanie. He's her boyfriend. She was worried and scared about her car. And he was in the position to alleviate her stress. Yes, I think he should have done it. There are a few other items I think lie under a guy's providence - taking the trash out is the first that comes to my mind. However, when men start having period-induced migraines and cramps, and giving birth to the human race, I'll gladly trade them this chore. Until then, I think we're square.
Anyway, we finally got the nuts off, no thanks to Chrysler making it impossible to turn the nuts more than a 1/4 turn before having to reposition the wrench. We then took the wire-brush post cleaning thing and scrubbed the posts and clamps. We reattached the clamps and tightened down the nuts again, but not all the way. Melanie tried to start the car. It went, "click, click, click, rrruuuu, rruuuu, click, click." Melanie looked despondent. I said, "You heard it was trying to start. We should tighten the clamps down more." We went back under the hood and tightened the negative one down more, and confirmed with dad that we shouldn't tighten the positive one down more since the negative one was already on. Melanie went back and it started!
I was so happy that I started jumping up and down in the parking lot doing the happy dance and yelling, "Yay!" Melanie was still worried that something was wrong with her starter (I couldn't blame her as she owns a Chrysler that has broken over and over and over again - thank you Chrysler) and wanted to start it again before she was willing to believe that it would work from now on. She restarted the car, and I did the happy dance again. :)
So, instead of having to plunk down nearly $500 to have her car towed and the starter changed, it cost less than $10 in supplies from Schucks, us getting rained on and our fingers blackened, and watching some pretty boy walk away while we toiled under the hood of his girlfriend's car. Overall, considering Melanie's situation of being a single mother of two young boys, who is working her butt off to get through law school, it was a small price to pay for the relief of not having to pay for yet again another car repair. Plus, we got the benefit of knowing that we really are competent and can take care of ourselves, with the advice of a 75 year old man who refuses to be sexist, even if his daughter is.