09 August 2007

a little help here?

I need some car help. (Where are my brothers when I need them...)

Something is draining my battery and I think it's the starter. Or something ignition-ish. I had my car jumpstarted the day before yesterday (note: it won't be jumpstarted by an ordinary car, only by the AAA equivalent--maybe my battery is too big?) and then last night it wouldn't start! Now, I only drove it to the store and back (about 30 minutes each way) so maybe it didn't get charged enough...but it still seems wrong to me.

Now, and the last two times I had to jumpstart it (the first jump lasted longer...maybe two weeks), it doesn't turn over. It sounds a little like a machine gun when you turn the key. The lights and radio still work.

Any ideas? I could use the help because now I'll be dealing with people in two languages I barely speak--Russian and car.

p.s. Do you find it helpful or redundant to have the parenthetical remarks in a smaller font? I think both...but redundancy is bad and helpfulness is good. Oh! Just heard my friend Scott's voice in my head saying, "Kate, don't be helpful." Hmm...

Edited to add: The person in charge of vehicles at school and I had a brief pow-wow. He agrees that it's my battery, that it wouldn't start because the other battery was too small, and that I need a jump. He also said if I brought it to school he'd hook it up to a charger. Great! Let's hope this solves the problem.


Jim said...

This could be one of several things. From simplest (cheapest) to most complex (most expensive):

You may have a corroded terminal on your battery. Sometimes the corrosion gets bad enough that it interferes with electrical conduction to the starter motor. So, check the terminals (where the big fat wires attach to the battery) and see whether they are clean. If they aren't (you'll see a lot of whitish, vaguely chalky-looking buildup), you will need to clean each corroded terminal with a wire brush after carefully disconnecting the big fat wire attached to it. Then reconnect and tighten the wire connection and try to start the car again.

It might also be a battery that won't hold a charge anymore (how old is the battery? If it is more than three years old then it is a suspect). That would be a fairly easy repair-- just replace the battery.

If that doesn't fix the problem permanently, then you may have a broken or defective alternator. The alternator is the device that runs while the car engine is running and recharges the battery. If it is defective or broken, then the battery will not charge properly, no matter how good the battery is. If this is the case, you'll need a repair shop to diagnose and repair or replace it.

If it isn't any of those things, then you definitely need a mechanic or a repair shop instead of Internet help (especially mine).

kate said...

Jim! Thanks for the help.

It's a new battery as of...February or March. And, there's no corrosion.

So, maybe it's the alternator? The vehicle man says it's because I don't drive it enough.

Now I'll go look up "alternator" in my dictionary...

martha said...

i just learned that i know more about cars than i tho't! b/f i read the comments, my tho't was that if it wasn't a simple fix, it was probably the alternator! i guess i have learned a little over the years...from some of the things on our cars that have given out:) m

Jim said...

Kate - I never thought of that. If your car moves more often because the militsia tows it than because you drive it, and if you drive for a very short period of time after each start, then you could be using more charge with each start than you're replacing by driving. If that's the case, then you just need to take a little joyride once a week or so, for about half an hour. Alternately, you could sit in the car with the engine idling for a while. As long as the engine is turning, the alternator should be charging your battery.

Deb said...

If your radio and everything still work it's probably not your battery. Probably the alternator or starter.
Mine did the same thing last year and it was the alternator.

Anonymous said...

I know NOTHING about cars but do hope you get all the issues with it work out quickly.


Suzanne said...