Over the last week, my Honda CR-V (aka The Excelsior) had been starting up just a little more sluggishly with each trip. Eventually, it got to the point where it just barely started, but as is human nature, I figured that it would last just long enough to get to get the battery looked at.
Of course, I waited one trip too many and eventually it didn’t start at all one night. Click-click-click-click-click was all I heard.
After getting a jump-start from a neighbor (always have cables in your vehicle, folks) I went to the auto parts store where I had replaced the original battery a few years prior. I had a strong suspicion that the battery was dead, but when the gentleman asked if I would like to have it tested, it placed just enough doubt in my mind to make me think that might not be the case. I didn’t want it to be something else, because as far as car repairs go, replacing a battery is on the fairly inexpensive scale, and it can be done by one’s self, assuming the vehicle can be taken to a good battery or vice-versa.
The gentleman grabbed a tester and followed me out to my noble (if not currently unreliable) steed. I popped the hood and proceeded to let the gentleman do his job. He attached the clips to the battery terminals and proceeded to push some buttons on the device. After a few moments he told me the battery was good and asked if I wanted him to test other ‘start the car’ parts. I said yes, and he asked me to start the vehicle. I made a crack about ‘I hope it starts,’ but much to my surprise, it started with no hesitation. A few moments and button presses later, the man told me that the alternator and starter were probably okay, too. I thanked him for his time and went on my merry (if slightly worried) way to the grocery store, where the car started again without issue. What the heck was wrong with my car?
As folks are oft to do these days, I went onto social media to share my ambivalence over the situation. Friends offered advice and their own tales of automotive experiences, both good and bad. One friend mentioned that a similar problem had been caused by loose terminal connectors. This idea sounded intriguing to me, as I had recalled my interior lights flashing during the process of having it jumped, and so I resolved to investigate them come the morning. I didn’t park the Excelsior in the garage because I had a feeling I was going to need another jump-start.
The next morning, I hopped into my trusty steed to go have some breakfast and was greeted by the clicking noise again. No big deal, it’s the terminals, right? Wrong. Nothing was loose and there was no corrosion to be found. It has to be the battery, I thought, but what the guy last night told me it was good. I frumped for a while as I searched for nearby mechanics and groused over the pile of money I anticipated I was going to have to spend.
Finally, I decided to get a second opinion.
I got a jump-start from a different neighbor, and observed that both times we had to let my vehicle sit for a while and charge up. The thought of it has to be the battery kept bouncing in my head as I drove to a different auto parts store. I walked inside and asked to have my battery checked. This time around, the tech got a frumpy look on her face when she saw my terminals. The connectors to the Excelsior’s battery have these plastic covers that were getting in the way of the clips, meaning she could only reliably attach the clips to the screws that kept the connectors attached. “I don’t like taking a reading from the screws, the reading is sometimes wrong,” She said. The tech did her best to adjust the tester clip, but was not completely satisfied with the result: “I’m not getting a good reading, can you take the battery out?” She asked.
I said sure, and proceeded to do so, with the tools I keep inside the vehicle. I also had to borrow a pair of pliers, but eventually dislodged the battery and took it inside the store. The tech did her thing, and sure enough, the battery was bad. Fortunately, I had purchased the ‘three-year replacement’ battery the last time and I received a new one free of charge. I installed it myself, which was only fair since I had taken the old one out, and now my trusty steed is trusty once again.
I figured that it would be a good idea to let the tech know about my experience the night before. We both agreed that the other guy just didn’t know about the screws providing unreliable readings.
And thus we have the difference between somebody who only knows how to follow instructions, and somebody that actually knows what they are doing because they have learned how things really work.
Whether they are fixing cars or computers, a good tech will have more in-depth knowledge about the things that they repair than someone who is only taught how to fix things or is working off a script. When the ‘usual steps’ don’t work, a good tech can think things though and improvise to find a solution. A bad tech only knows how to follow instructions, and when those instructions don’t do the job, they’re stuck, and so are you.