Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rat-a-Tat-Tat

That was the sound my car made this morning, when I tried to go to work. I tried a few times, but got the same result: turn the key in the ignition, and a rapid fire machine gun noise was all I got. My battery wasn't dead - I had the radio and lights - but the car wouldn't start.

I called up my local Toyota dealership, and described the problem. They said it was one of two things: a) low voltage battery - enough juice to power the extras but not turn the engine over, or b) dead starter. In the first case, a jump start should suffice, but for the second, I would need to have my car towed in.

My poor car, it has served me extremely well for 9 years!

Anyway, I called up Francis at work and he came over to jump my car. Fortunately I always back into my garage so the hood was facing out and we had no problems connecting the cables. After hooking everything up, I turned the ignition and my car started up just fine, after a moment's hesitation. It looked like my battery was indeed low.

I let the car idle for a few minutes, but wanted to get outside instead of pump more exhaust into the garage. I drove around for 20 minutes or so, stopped by work to check mail for another 15 mins, and came back out. The car barely started again - I thought I was going to need another jump. But it did start and I drove to the Toyota dealership and just waited there while they fixed it. Two hours later, after $160 for a new battery and oil/lube, I was set.

In the grand scheme of things, I was fortunate. My car battery died inside my garage, I live less than 2 miles from work and am even closer to a grocery store. So in the worst case, I could get by without the car for a while. Having it die late at night or far from home - that would have been crappy.

While at the dealership I thought about getting a new car again. My car has a little over 128,000 miles and still runs well, for being 10 years old (9 years of ownership for me because I bought the car as a 1 year old used car). Since the Camry has been so great over the years I want another Toyota. Maybe I'll get one in May 2007, when my Camry turns 11 (10 years owned by me). I'm leaning towards the Prius, a hybrid.

I do enjoy not having a car payment (since early 2002!) but on the other hand I don't want to "drive" my car into the ground. ;)

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