Car Trouble – Dead Battery

Wow, it’s been awhile since my last real blog post.

So on Friday, I hit into some car problems. As you may have guessed from the title, I had a dead battery. It was a rather interesting ordeal and I definitely had a very unexpected day.

As I was leaving for work around noon, my car would not start. When I try to start the ignition, it would flutter/click a lot. I’ve experienced dead car batteries before and know the sound they make when you try to start your ignition. It sounds like it’s trying to start, drag on, but would finally die and retry. This was a very different sound, but I really had nothing else to go on. The radio/lights still worked, but that doesn’t really mean anything. I had a car battery jump starter, but unfortunately it had been sitting in my garage for some time and was fully drained and needed to be recharged. While it was recharging, the thought of using AAA popped into my head. I wasn’t sure if they covered jump starting cars, but if they did, it’ll probably be faster for them to come and jump start my car than to wait to for my jump starter to recharge. And if it’s not the battery, I could probably have them tow my car to a servicing center.

I looked on the website and it did indeed have this service. I pulled out my AAA card and noticed it expired on 2/28/2009. Thinking to myself, “Crap, did I forget to pay? Did my credit card on file expire?” I checked my account status online and it appears that I am still an active member. I guess I must’ve misplaced my newest card. Conveniently, I was able to submit the request online and it said it’ll take about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I had a meeting at 2pm which I sort of needed to attend. I sent an email to work notifying them of my car problems and was hoping I’d still be able to make it in time, but worse case, I’ll probably call into the meeting from home.

I tried to start up my car a few more times to see maybe if I’d get lucky. That’s when I noticed the flashing green key on my dashboard. I looked up the manual and it said that the flashing green key meant the immobilizer system was activated. To quickly explain the immobilizer system, Honda and other car manufactures are putting computer chips into the keys, so only a legit key can start the car. I thought maybe I damaged the key chip in some way, ran up stairs to get my 2nd set of car keys, but that didn’t start the car either. I even tried the valet key (key that can start the car, but can’t open the trunk), but no luck. I decided to call Bellevue Honda, but while I was on hold waiting for a service tech, my AAA guy showed up.

Apparently I got sent a giant tow truck (one with those flat beds where the whole car goes onto the back). I’m surprised he actually managed to weave his way through my complex. I mentioned that it might not be a dead battery as the starting sound was weird and may actually need to be towed to a servicing center. He said, let’s give it a shot first and pulled out a super long jumper cables and connected one end to his giant tow truck and the other end to my car battery. I turned the key and VROOOOM, my engine roared. So it was indeed a dead battery. My only explanation for the flashing green key/immobilizer system is that the immobilizer system needs electricity to verify the computer chip and when there wasn’t enough to start the engine, it presumed I had a bad key and stopped it short before even trying to start the engine, creating the clicking/fluttering noises I heard.

The tow truck guy told me to leave the car running for 30 minutes before turning it off so it can charge my battery. I asked him if I could drive it and he said that’d be even better. I thank him and he left. After he left, the thought of tipping him popped into my head. Since this was my first time dealing with AAA for car related issues, I’m not sure if I was actually suppose to tip in that situation or not. But oh well, it was too late to do anything anymore.

I left for work pretty much soon after. I took along my car jump starter (75% charged at this point) with me just in case. I phoned Jan Lyk to let him know that I’ll be a bit late to the meeting and was wondering if he could take point until I got there.

So yada yada yada… no it’s not the end of the story quite yet.

Anand (my former lead) was having his moving to a new team party and I got out of my meeting a bit late, so I missed the car pooling. When I got to my car and tried to start it, I encountered the same issue this morning. I pull out my jump starter and barely managed to jump start the car in the parking garage. The question now was do I go to the farewell party or do I go to Sears (where I bought the car battery from) and have it looked at. After some contemplation, I decided to get the car battery looked at first and if there was still time, I’d join the party.

I got to Sears and parked. I thought about leaving my engine running, but thought worse case scenario, Sears auto center probably can jump start it for me. I was then told to drive my car into the Sears auto servicing center. It took a few tries to get my car started again and the tech started diagnosing the battery. Since I wasn’t originally planning to have my battery replaced this morning, I didn’t have my Sears battery receipt on me. I only hoped they still had me in their system. The tech told me my battery was completely dead, but the alternator was working fine, so I began the process of getting the battery replaced.

I knew I only had my battery for 2-3 years and they were able to find me in their system. Apparently I had it for 3 years and 2 months, 2 months over the free replacement warranty period. I was now on the pro-rated warranty period which reduced the battery price from $90 to $30. Still good I guess, though I was really shocked that their best battery (DieHard Gold series) would die so quickly. The battery replacement would take about 45 minutes and I went into Sears to watch Ratatouille in the mean time.

When it was done, it was already close to 6pm and too late to join the party. I went back to work since I had to leave around 7:15 to meet some friends for dinner and games.

All in all, as I mentioned earlier, it was definitely an interesting and unexpected day.

One thought on “Car Trouble – Dead Battery

  1. I glad AAA was able to help you out. You know if your membership had lapsed they would have given you the opportunity to renew it on the spot over the phone and you would have still been covered. Depending on where you live AAA has battery service where they will actually come to you and change the battery where ever you are. I worked for the battery service for a year. It’s a good service and not a bad price considering they are coming to you.

    I’m putting together a discussion group to learn what people want to track about their vehicle, and see if there is an opportunity to build a solution to meet those needs.

    If anyone is interested in participating please sign up here: http://bit.ly/fivbYv

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