Tuesday, December 30, 2014

HistoryDiva vs. The Electric Car

Several months ago my roomie finally replaced her very old and very decrepit Pontiac (it was a 1999, held together by Gorilla glue and duct tape…and I’m not kidding about that) with an old-ish Prius (it’s a 2007). 

She was looking for a small car (she’s seriously short) that gets excellent gas mileage since her work commute has more than quadrupled in length and she has concerns about the size of her carbon footprint and blah blah blah. 

Me, I don’t worry about things like that.  I drive a ‘regular’ car…the type that runs on gasoline and makes a satisfying growling sound when I rev up the V6 engine under the hood.  I like it that way. 

Now, I’m not a car person by any stretch of the imagination.  I have some very basic ‘car stuff’ knowledge, like knowing how to check and add oil, how to add coolant, how to add windshield wiper fluid, and most importantly when to take my vehicle into the garage to be serviced.  But along the way I have learned one really useful skill which I feel every woman should learn and that is: how to jump start a car.  This singular piece of knowledge has proven itself to be both useful and valuable many times.  It’s simple, straight forward, and only truly intimidating the first time.  
And now for the story…
Yesterday morning my roomie alerted me to the fact that her car wouldn’t start.  For those of you who don’t already know, the Prius has something like twelve different batteries, any of which might lose their charge at any time. Now, we didn’t know which one was dead but since she couldn’t even get the doors unlocked I was leaning toward ‘all of them.’  Asking my opinion on her options for the day I recommended that she call my mom and hitch a ride to work and worry about the car that afternoon.  
During the evening hours it was decided (read that as ‘demanded’) that I would provide a jump start to get the car moving this morning and that she would drive it ‘somewhere’ to get checked out and have a new battery (or twelve) installed. 
Dutifully, at the crack of dawn this morning we headed out to the garage to start her car.  I popped open my hood, wrestled off the battery cover and hooked up my jumper cables. Roomie seemed to be struggling with her version of this task and finally threw up her hands in frustration and asked if I wanted to give it a try.  It took me about 15 seconds to locate the release and open her hood.  
Then I got my first look at her engine and I just want to go on record and say that the engine of the Prius is ridiculous.  I think it’s actually installed sideways.  I didn’t recognize ANYTHING.  So I turned to my roomie and asked the most obvious question… 
“Where are your battery leads?” 
She blinked at me owlishly and replied “I thought you knew how to do this.” 
“I do…on a regular car.  But this is an electric car and since I don’t want to blow it up, how about you go find out?” 
Roomie promptly disappeared into the house to do a quick web search.  Upon her return she announced that the positive lead was inside the fuse box and the negative lead was just outside of the fuse box. 
“Excellent.  Where is the fuse box?” 
More blinking.  And then she scampered away to find out. 
“Here it is!” She chirruped as she pulled open one of the myriad of flat black boxes that litter the engine compartment.  Underneath the cover was a cluster of switches and buttons but nothing that looked like a battery lead. 
“Hang on, I’ll go check.” *insert swooshing sound as roommate runs back into the house again
“Okay…on the diagram online it’s labeled with a big plus sign.  But…I don’t see a big plus sign.” 
“Well…” at this point I picked up the cover of the fuse box and turned it over and found a helpful diagram.  Matching up the pictures I was able to locate the positive lead. 
“Okay, it means that one is the negative lead.” *helpful pointing from roomie
“Alright then.”  I attached the positive jumper cable clamp, made a bit more difficult by the fact that the positive lead is buried in the middle of the fuse box rather than being conveniently located near the side, and then attached the negative clamp to the negative lead…jumping backward when the thing sparked dramatically.  But hey, the car was alive again, all the little lights on the dashboard told us so.  
(Serious side note: when jumping a car you are supposed to attached the positive lead to the battery of the car needing the jump and attached the negative lead to an unpainted metal surface within the engine block. There were no such surfaces within reach of the jumper cables...every single surface was plastic, meaning that my ONLY option was the negative battery lead.) 
I instructed roomie to start her car and just let it run for a few minutes while I wandered back into the kitchen to get myself a much needed cup of coffee.  I headed back out and had her rev the engine a few times to really get things moving and disconnected the leads, returned the fuse box cover and shut her hood.  I then wandered over to my car, removed the other end of the cables and turned my car off so I could put the battery cover back on without getting injured by any of the moving parts of my engine.  
It was then that I noticed the eerie silence in our garage. 
That’s right.  She’d turned her car off.  
“What are you doing?”  
“Well, I wanted to…” 
Thankfully the Prius started up again but none of the dashboard displays would work.  I encouraged her to just bite the bullet and take it into the dealership rather than a discount oil change place because the guys at the dealership are actually trained on the maintenance of her vehicle.  Reluctantly, she agreed and headed off. 
I sighed, packed up my jumper cables, and went to work. 
Now…don’t you wish your life were even half as exciting as mine??? 
- HistoryDiva