17 September 2009

Hello, my car won't start!

Once upon a time and long ago when I worked in a gas station (yes I did) I would have to go to work very early on really cold Chicago winter mornings. I had to go early to start taking phone calls from all the people whose car wouldn't start and needed someone to come and give them a jump. As soon as my boss would arrive I would grab the list and hop in the service truck to go and get everyone started so they could go to work. Everyone of them would be waiting for me with a cup of hot coffee and I drank so much coffee that I had to pee like the dickens. This morning I went out to my wonderful PT Cruiser to go to work and guess what...my car wouldn't start. The battery was deader than the proverbial door nail and by definition that means that it was unquestionably dead. The culprit was a certain somebody whose name I won't mention for fear that she will get mad at me. Last night when it was raining she borrowed my car to run to the store for something and when she got back she somehow left the parking lights on. She often takes my car when it is parked on the street and hers is already parked behind the gate.

I called her at work to ask her what happened to my jumper cables. It turns out that she lent them to her brother-in-law who in turn lent them to his boss who in turn lent them to his neighbor and so on down the line. By the time she tracked down the jumper cables and brought them to me almost an hour had passed. All is well that ends well I suppose and I hooked up the cables from her car to mine and got the old PT running. While doing so I noticed that the battery posts were all corroded and that I really ought to get them cleaned. The battery is less than a year old but battery posts tend to corrode rapidly no matter what you do and especially when you don't keep an eye on them.

As I was finally on my way to work I got to thinking about battery post corrosion. This has been a particular problem for motorists ever since long before I was born. You would think that by now with all of the technology available there would be a better way to hook up a car battery other than by a hunk of lead on the end of a copper cable with a steel bolt running through it in an area that is subject to corrosive gases from the battery cap vents. How embarrassing this must be for all of those engineers who design cars. I am not a rocket scientist and I don't even remotely have that potential as all of my former science and math teachers will attest. However, I think that anyone who has ever taken a look at this problem will agree that there must be a better way.

Oh, yes, and if you live in Mexico and you run into the situation where you need a jump start here is some vocabulary that you can use:

Necesito cables pasacorrientes (pasa + corrientes).
I need jumper cables.

¿Traes cables pasacorrientes?
Do you have jumper cables with you? (Are you carrying jumper cables?)

¿Puedes pasarme corriente?
Can you give me a jump start?

Mi coche falta corriente.
My car (battery) is dead.

Technically an automotive storage battery is called an "acumulador". Sometimes people use the word "batería" instead but this can also mean a set of musical drums or a group of military cannons. The word "pila" is commonly used to mean the dry cell battery in your photo camera or flashlight but the word "pila" can also mean "baptismal font". Go figure! Your car alternator is called an "alternador" That is easy enough to remember but an inner tube for a tire on a bicycle, car, or truck is called a "cámara" which is derived from "cámara de aire" or "air chamber".

If you really get in a pinch and you can't readily locate your brother-in-law you can always call a taxi cab company and just say to them "Necesito pasacorriente" and they will send a cab to give you a jump start. They will usually charge you the cost of a normal cab fare which is generally between 20 and 30 pesos depending upon where you live.

¡Happy Motoring!


GlorV1 said...

I guess I'm lucky that my husband is a qualified Master Diagnostic Technician with Toyota and has been for the past 20 or so years. My car is always up and running. knock knock.:) glad you got your car running. Yes do clean off those cables once in a while. Also I checked out that site, MexicoCooks and that recipe looks great except for one thing. I don't think I would like the boiled egg in the middle. I'll stick to arroz y cebolla. Thanks for the link. Take care of that car and yourself. Regards to the battery cable lender. heheheee

Nancy said...

I just found out this morning that a timbre isn't just a doorbell it is also stamps. Our paper had a story about the post office here in Mazatlan (really) being out of stamps for ages!

Just goes to show and all that! Thanks for the lesson, I hope I never need to use it.

Calypso said...

Bob - A good woman is well worth a battery discharge or three. ;-)

In the end she will keep you charged up!

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

Man, I miss having car troubles. having car troubles means that you have a car. :) I am glad that you got it going again. And for the phrases as always.

I am so jelous that you have fresh milk. I would love to get some fresh fresh milk!

Bob Mrotek said...

Yes, Gloria, I will give your regards to Gina now that we are speaking again :)

A "timbre" is also a "campanilla" but a "campanilla" is also an "uvula", the little flap that hangs down in the back of your mouth and a very loud door buzzer is called a "chicharra" which also means "cicada" and on and on it goes. There is no end to it :)

Yes but the only problem is that she is 220 volts and I am only wired for 110 :)

Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes I think I would be happier if I could walk everywhere that I need to go or ride a bike and yes, fresh milk is very nice but it is also fattening. Seems like there is always a trade-off :)

1st Mate said...

A pila is also the big concrete sink in the bodega that women used to have to wash their clothes in. Better than rocks on a river, I guess.

We have a little portable charger we carry in the trunk, and occasionally charge with house current. It has saved our tocino more than once when we had a dead battery. And, for backup, we have a set of jumper cables. The Capt recently lent the charger to a neighbor. He's just lucky we didn't have a dead battery, Murphy's Law being in effect lately.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.