Frabjous Times


Conducting business in a wintery climate

Things went badly wrong Monday. I discovered when putting my papers into my padfolio I hadn't recorded a pickup I'd arranged last Friday for a pickup of some office furniture where the repair hadn't taken. The good news was that I did find this just in time and would have had the time to go to that appointment, but the bad news was that when I turned the key in the van, there was no sound — the battery was obviously dead. It seems that when the snow started falling like crazy last Saturday while I was unloading the vehicle, I'd left the key in the accessory position, and two days of this kind of thing will drain the life. So I needed a jump start, and Plan A was to find my electric jump starter, in its green box, which I've had for years. Despite all my frantic searching, this was nowhere to be found, neither in the shop, nor in the basement. Chalk one up to disorder.
Plan B was to use our Prius (which I had that morning, having driven my wife to the bus stop so she could avoid driving on snow) to jump start the van. Upon nosing that into the driveway and lifting the hood, I was dismayed by the HV electrical system under the hood unlike any other car I have worked on.
So I considered Plan C: to try starting my gasoline-powered generator in the single-digit temperatures and use its 12V output to charge the battery. This last strategy was stymied by a missing cable which goes between the exotic-looking DC out and the battery terminals.
Then it was back to Plan B, aided by the Owner's Manual pictures from the Prius which revealed the location of the auxiliary battery in the trunk. So it was a matter of turning that car around in the driveway (remember to take off the emergency brake next time!) It took some labor and the right tools to open the battery compartment up and unscrew the covers gain access to the terminals. I was also feeling nervous about causing damage to the HV system connected to the auxiliary battery, so my first attempt to connect the cars with booster cables was with engines off. When I turned the key to the starter position in the Dodge, the gauge needles flew around forward and backward, a strange rattling sound came from the under the hood, and there was no sign of a starter motor kicking around. On the other hand, the dash lights and the radio seemed to be working, so I know I didn't have the polarity reversed.
I gathered my courage and tried starting the engine of the Prius, hoping that the HV system would boost up the amperage on the 12V side. Back in the Dodge, the dashboard looked more normal and the starter started, slowly, to crank, and the engine came back to life.
Other bad things happened that day, but not of this magnitude.
Originally published: 2005/01/25 08:17:10
Previously published: Tue Jan 25 08:17:42 2005