Jump-starting car takes the power out of me

Every day we see a few more electric cars on the road, and there are already vehicles that mix batteries with gasoline engines. Personally, I don’t want any more batteries in a car than they already have.


If I sound negative, it’s because my back is still recovering from a night of bending over the engine in my wife’s car, trying to jump-start it, and, after all else failed, loosening the battery from the maze of cables, wires and clamps and taking it to the auto parts store. All of that while trying to see through the perspiration as evening darkened into night.

I’ve jump-started cars before, so I figured that’s all her car needed when she called me at work and said, “My car won’t do anything!” I carry cables. Unfortunately, I had left my other tools at home.

I’m an old hand at hooking up the cables. Connect the positive terminal on my car’s battery to the positive terminal on hers. Clamp the other cable to my negative terminal and to bare metal in her engine compartment.

It took awhile for her battery to build up enough juice to start her engine, but after that happened, I disconnected everything and closed the hoods. Mission accomplished!

Until I put her car into gear and the engine died.

I went through the whole routine again before thinking to check the water in her battery. It was low, so I added an entire bottle of water to it. There, that should take care of things. But it didn’t.

I tried jump-starting the car several more times with similar results. I really didn’t want to remove her battery because it was way back toward the firewall and heavy and – did I mention? – I had no tools.

At last, I discovered a pair of pliers in the trunk and managed to get the restraining clamp and the cables off her battery. A quick pop of my spine and I had the battery out. We drove it to the auto parts store, where the man tested it. It was fine.

“This battery is good,” he said. “Don’t buy a battery.”


I took our battery back and scraped the cables with the pliers. Then I tightened the connectors as well as I could. (I remembered that the positive cable had been a little too easy to twist off in the first place.)

Soaking wet, running out of patience and shining a flashlight in the dark, we removed the cables and twisted the ignition key. The engine turned over the first time. My wife and I looked at each other.

“I guess you don’t need a battery,” I said. “You just need a husband who takes better care of the battery you have.”

She still hasn’t gotten back to me on that.


MOORE WORDS: The word battery comes from “batter,” meaning to beat or pound. From bombardment, it moved on to become a unit of artillery; a criminal charge of beating someone; a baseball pitcher-catcher duo; and an electrical cell.

After dealing with the electrical cell in my wife’s car, I felt very beaten down.