Car woes

26 01 2010

I’ve been having problems with my Mini Cooper lately. It actually started last summer. While driving, typically while idling or at low speed, the electrical systems would just kind of… hiccup. The lights, radio, indicator, etc., would momentarily turn off, the needles on my gauges would all dip into negative territory, and the power steering would get tight. The car wouldn’t stop running, though, and within a second or two, everything would return to normal. Occasionally, the hiccup would seem a little harder than normal, and this would cause the clock and trip counter to reset.

Once, I went to start the car, and everything lit up and then it went completely dead. I tried jump starting it to no avail. I took the battery out, assuming it had gone bad, but its indicator showed that it was still healthy. I put it back in, and magically, the Cooper started again.

These problems have continued intermittently since then. Recently, the power steering started randomly going out while driving. Turning the car off, removing the key, and then starting it again would fix this problem. Occasionally , when turning off the car, all of the electrical systems would go dead again, but always, within a few minutes at most, it would suddenly start working again. Always, that is, until last night.

When I got home from work, I shut off the car, and I could immediately tell that it had died. I tried restarting it again, but nothing happened. “Fine, I’ve seen this before, I’ll come back out in a little bit, and it’ll start.” A half hour later, I tried and… fail. Another half hour, an hour, a couple of hours… fail, fail, fail. At that point, I started to think that in the morning, I’d be calling a tow truck to have it taken to the dealer, but that maybe I’d get lucky and that after a good night of sleep, it’d start working again.

At this point, I should probably explain my aversion to just taking the sumbitch in and having it fixed. First of all, it’s long out of warranty, so I’ll be paying for it out of pocket. Second of all, I’m doubtful that anyone other than the dealer is going to be able to figure out what is wrong with my cooper, and the dealer, besides being freaking expensive, as you’d expect, is also highly incompetent.

So I get up this morning, optimistic that it’s going to work, and walk out to my garage. I use the key fob to try to unlock the car remotely, and nothing happens. Not good. I get in and try to start it, and once again… fail. Still not wanting to take it in to the dealer, it occurs to me that when this happened the first time, maybe disconnecting and reconnecting the battery caused the system to reset somehow, so I decided to try that again.

First problem: the battery is in the boot, which is unlocked via the fob. I don’t know of any other way to open the boot. But since that’s where the battery lives, surely there must be a way to open the boot when your battery is dead, right? So I climb into the back seat, start reaching around in the boot, and find a ring. I pull it, and the boot opens.

Second problem: disconnecting the battery requires a wrench, and all I have is a screwdriver. All of my wrenches are still at the house. I try just twisting the terminal connectors off, but they are on there good and tight. As I start to think about how far I’m going to have to walk to get to a hardware store, I notice the jack kit. Unfortunately, it didn’t contain a wrench, but when I put it back, I noticed a small foam container next to the battery. I pulled it out, opened it, and sure enough there are several tools, including a wrench of just the right size! So I get busy loosening the terminal connectors, but just then, I happen to look up and notice that my dome light is on.

Really? That’s all it took?

Turns out, yes. I got in, tried to start the car, and… success!

I’m not mechanically inclined at all. I really have no idea why just messing with the battery a little fixed my problem, but it did, and for now at least, my date with the dealer has been postponed.

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2 responses

26 01 2010
Melissa Astle

Sounds like the battery cables rattle loose when you drive. Or that there’s a short in one and jiggling it around is fixing it.
Your cheapest option right now is buying new cables and installing them yourself. then, see if it fixes it. Let me know if you need help.
That might be why it’s having issues around corners mostly as well.

9 02 2010
Dave Mark

I was just clicking over to respond the same way… but found ‘Lissa beat me to it. I find it very amusing that you just got car advice AND electrical advice from a woman. 😉

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