Some time ago I had a strange issue getting the car started. Sometimes it would start right up as normal. And sometimes I’d turn the key and nothing would happen. Not “the starter tries” and not “the solenoid chatters” but utter dead silence. While there are many unpleasant (and expensive) sounds that can come from an automobile, silence is perhaps the most problematical as it only tells you “nothing happened” but doesn’t tell why or which nothing in particular happened. The car being “ancient” by modern standards, it has a manual transmission. Thus I could park it judiciously in a place where there is a slight downhill grade and with a push, hop in and have a chance at starting by popping the clutch whilst the thing is in motion. This is officially Not Recommended, but it does work.
And then, curiously, it seemed all worked. Was it warmer weather? But then it worked fine as it got colder. And I got (over?) confident. And then it got seriously cold (double digits subzero F) and.. damn, now? Of course. Automotive troubles happen at certain times: Way too cold, way too hot, or at night in the rain – and then either in a bad neighborhood or Nowhere, Middle of. Car trouble on a mildly breezy warmish afternoon? Riiiiiight.
A jumpstart later, looking things over at home the trouble seemed obvious: Gee, why is the positive clamp loose? *TIGHTEN* and all seems well for several days. Some really bloody cold nights, too. I make a trip to a place an hour outbound and thus another hour return and all seems well. The next day I have need to go across town and… What the?!! Not again. And this time the car has been sitting, protected, in a relatively warm garage. Check connections. Loose clamp again? Tighten it. Correction: Attempt to tighten it. Get vice-grips (or knock-off that works the same) and get the connection solid enough to get going – remove tool to avoid a possible really high current short. Go on. Repeat as I need to get the car started. Make only short trips as I don’t know how the charging system is taking this – I don’t need to burn out a regulator as well.
Once home, tell $HOUSEMATE of the issue and ask that any outing include a trip to automotive supplier for a new battery clamp. I really only need one, but I wouldn’t argue with a pair (but the negative clamp doesn’t get replaced unless it really needs it, or it gets outright balmy – which means somewhere well above freezing. That is, probably April). $HOUSEMATE acquires new clamp, but work is more pressing – and it’s still Rather Cold. Use the vice grips to get started to go to work. And again to return. Shower, “breakfast” (supper.. relative time makes definitions awkward) and then set out to work on the car – at least 30, possibly 40 degrees warmer than not long before. Still freezing out, but … not being too nasty about it. Not great, but far less craptastic.
Removing the old clamp is perhaps too easy. Freeing the positive cable from it takes only minor cussing. Alas, the cable assembly is an assembly and ends in a wonderful terminal setup… for the original (flimsy) clamp. Ponder a moment and connect it to the new one in a workable, if non-standard, manner. Connect another line (there are some items that… are not factory-original to the vehicle – but need power and the accessory connection simply will not do) similarly. Finally put slightly strange connector on the battery post (after having cleaned it well) and tighten the clamping nut.
Check for power. Huzzah! Check that it stays even when higher current is called for. Huzzah!. Pile tools onto passenger seat floor (putting them away proper means needing them again – if you’re not nodding in agreement, congratulations on always having a new car or not needing one at all). Turn garage lights off, close trunk, hood, etc. Open garage door. And now the real test: start engine. Engine starts. Stop engine and start it again, to be sure. And again. Damn, I could get used to this (again). Take car for a nice long-ish highway drive. Stop someplace for a few minutes and chat with someone. Get in car, which Just Starts, and drive home. Park in garage. NOW stow all the tools. Celebrate with an Applejack Sazerac — which is hardly a Sazerac, really, but it sure is tasty – especially made with Du Nord rather than Laird’s.