Monday, July 25, 2011

David and Goliath

I’m two blocks from home with Big Green’s trunk full of groceries and in the left turn lane the car goes dead.  It doesn’t sputter to a halt, no big bang followed by a cloud of smoke.  Just dead, like in that scene in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” (The original 1951 one with Michael Rennie, I never saw the Keanu Reeves remake.)

I turn the ignition key and nothing, not even a click.  When I open the door not even those little marker lights in the door, which take little to no electricity, are on.  Like someone just pulled the battery out of the car. 

I pop the hood thinking that maybe one of the battery terminals came loose.  Nope, but the battery came loose from it’s holder, which makes me think that it may have bumped up against the side of the engine compartment and shorted something out.  Crap!  Could cost anywhere from 35¢ for a new fuse to $600 for a shop to find the $2.65 part that fried out.

First step was to get it out of the middle of traffic.  Which, for a car this big, is pretty much impossible for one person.  Fortunately a really nice young man (named Steele, believe it or not) and his wife stopped to help.  After realizing that even with the two of us we couldn’t push it uphill and flip a U-turn into the car wash parking lot, decided to roll it backwards and try to push it into the Chevron parking lot.  He stood in the road and blocked traffic while I rolled the car to the entrance and when it hit the uphill part he tried to help the momentum and push it into the Chevron driveway.  Just as it got in the perfect position to block exit of the gas station, Big Green started rolling forward and I thought it best to hit the brakes before Steele became my new hood ornament.  Or worse, the grit in the tread of the tires.

We got his wife to get in the car so that the two of us could push it up the hill so that we could roll it into a parking spot.  Just as I thought the two of us were going to spring mutual hernias, a guy in a Corvette pulled over and joined in, along with two other customers from the Chevron.  It took 5 people to push the beast, and it really isn’t that bad a hill.

Once in one of the official parking stalls, I thanked them all profusely (and again here, if any of them are reading) and assured them that there really was nothing more that they could do.

I walked the two blocks to my house, grabbed the battery out of Christine (the convertible), hopped in Old Blue and headed back to the Chevron.  With Christine’s battery in, I still got nothing out of Big Green.  Damn!  My next thought was that I must have fried the main fusible link, but had absolutely no idea where that would be.  So I called The Gearheads to see if they knew.  They weren’t sure, but Mr. offered to head down and have a look-see with me.

When he got there he looked at the solenoid and we decided it looked like it could have been fried when the loose battery made contact with the car’s body.  So we headed back to my house and borrowed Christine’s solenoid, got back and started hooking it up.  While switching the wires we noticed a loose wire that wasn’t hooked to anything, one that looked like it had broken off the grommet that was still on the post of the old solenoid.  We hooked everything back up and the car started right up.

To make a long story a little less long, it was that one little wire which broke off it’s grommet that brought Big Green to his knees.   I’ve returned all of Christine’s parts to her, Big Green has his back, so the only difference between a working car and a dead car was that one wire.

Coulda saved me a lot of trouble if I had noticed it in the first place.

Now, this part may be even less interesting than the 704 words you’ve already read, unless you are a mechanical nut.

Old Blue, Christine and Big Green all use the exact same solenoid, which isn’t surprising since they are all Ford LTDs and were all produced within 4 years of each other.  What is surprising is that the ‘72 (Big Green) has the wires hooked up opposite of the ‘69 and ‘70.  I know they’re hooked up right on Big Green because whenever I switched the solenoid I did it piece by piece, leaving the rest hooked to the old solenoid.  I know Old Blue is hooked up right because I never unhooked them.  And even though I hooked up Christine’s opposite of Big Green’s, not only do they match Old Blue’s, but I started her up and she runs just fine.

(And Battlecruiser’s bizarre setup, just for fun)

Same solenoid, different hookup.  Go figure.


Alexia said...

This may as well have been in Swahili, Max... but I enjoyed it anyway :D

Max said...

LOL :) There must have been enough English in there for you to get the main story line, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

The English Teacher said...

Battlecruiser's Solenoid -- uh, are you SURE you didn't swipe this off the Millenium Falcon? Because Han Solo's gonna be pissed if you did...... And, to me, that's exactly what it looks like. And sounds like.

As for one little wire making the entire car die like you pulled a plug, oh yeah. Ringo (you know the make and model of my first car) and I were cruising to a cast party in the Avenues after a show back in my high school days -- 1300 East over by about 200 South (ish) at 11:30 at night (before cell phones). I was in the left hand lane going along at about 35 mph when everything went completely POOF! no lights, no engine. no hazards to flick on. Nada. I managed to coast to the side of the road and into a spot in front of a gas station or a 7-11 (what the heck would've been there in 1983??? I can't recall) and parked it quite well, considering. I found a pay phone (remember those?) and called Dad, who came with a big chain and the Cadillac and I got the adventure of steering Ringo IN THE DARK WITH NO TAILLIGHTS home. (Okay, I hit the brakes once in panic when Dad accelerated and we ripped one of the bumper bars in the front. Oops.)
And, of course, it was some little wire that had jiggled loose. That was it. A wire. We reattached it and everything was fine (except the bumper bar).
However, Ringo was one heck of a lot easier to move than Big Green. In fact, I could move Ringo myself at age 17 -- but I couldn't move it and steer at the same time, not far anyway.

My sympathies on your adventure. I'm glad that it was an inexpensive one, at any rater.

Max said...

Ah yes. Ringo. The infinitely repairable vehicle. My little brother had one back in high school, probably around the same time as you. They went camping down in Capitol Reef and the alternator belt broke on them. Again, in 1983 there wasn't much there, so they took one of their pants belts, tightened it on and made it all the way home.
And certainly a lot easier to push than Big Green. By the way, she's running good as new now.

The English Teacher said...


Alexia said...

*wonders if Ringo might have been a Fiat Bambina... that was my first car. Broke down indiscriminately, but often at intersections...*

Karen S. said...

I just love how a woman almost got to bring life back into him once he fell to his knees! Crazy how that one little thing can become such a major big deal isn't it?! Your story also brings to mind (if you've heard it) the Jesus clip, which too has it's importance in the car running or not world....and isn't great to have such helpers come to your rescue, imagine pushing him in the snow as well....I've been there before! Great story Max all the way through! ;) glad it all came out so cheaply too!

The English Teacher said...

No. :)
Ringo was a '66 VW Beetle. (May he rest in peace.)