Monday, June 05, 2017

power drain

The  moment I saw the blue light on my cigarette lighter, I knew I was in trouble.

My brother had warned me not to leave my telephone charger plugged in while the car was not running. The equation did not look good. My car was at rest -- and the charger was blinking away.

I needed to pull the car into the garage for the night. So, I steeled myself and pushed the start button.

My dash lit up like an F-111's when targeted by an enemy missile. But the only sound of ignition was a sotto voce series of clicks and an ominous warning on my video panel that my battery saver had turned off.

I knew the next day was going to be one of those days that has drawn me to Mexico -- not having any idea how I am gong to get through the day when I get up.

The next morning I headed off on my first daily hike -- with the additional destination of my favorite mechanic. I told Cruz my problem. He agreed to come over to the house to give me a jump. And all went well. The car was now in running mode.

I needed to go to Cihuatlán to pay my annual bank trust fee on the house. The twenty-minute drive would be sufficient to charge the battery -- assuming that was the problem. If not, I either would need a new battery or to have the alternator examined.

When I got back in the car, after taking care of another annual duty for the benefit of the Mexican government, I pushed the start button with every expectation that my car would start. It didn't. That meant relying on the kindness of a stranger -- a mechanic I did not know -- to get Mexpatriate back on the road.

I drove directly to Cruz's shop. Out came the battery onto a charger. After two hours, it barely moved the meter.

That was relatively good news. It probably meant I did not need a new alternator.

One of the things I have not quite adjusted to in Mexico is not knowing where to find things. That, of course, is true of anyone who moves to a new area. The trick is knowing people who do know those things. Like Cruz.

When the battery was stolen out of my late Shiftless Escape in San Miguel de Allende, I ended up walking across town to find a replacement. Here, Cruz drove me to one of his auto parts suppliers.

Finding auto parts shops in Mexico is rather easy. I admit I still have a kernel of prejudice from the early 1970s on that score, when driving through Mexico without spare parts in the trunk was an invitation to long-term breakdowns.

No more. Mexico is now the prime provider of auto parts to the United States and Canada. And unlike tomatoes, where all the quality produce heads north, Mexico keeps a prime lot of auto parts for its own use. The reason is simple. Mexico is almost as car-crazy as the United States.

The supplier looked up the specifications, and I was the proud owner of a new battery for about $2000 (Mx) -- $109 (US).

Alas, this is Mexico. There had to be some drama to add to this tale that was going along far too well in my favor.

Like many after-market parts, the battery did not quite fit as well as the old one had. It fit in the frame without a problem.

But the top of the battery was too high to allow the bracket that holds the battery in place to be screwed down. In fact, the screws would not even reach the battery.

There was some loose talk of cutting a hole through the top of the battery, but it was short-lived. Probably due to the look of horror that froze my face.

Ford had designed a very clever cover, for its Escapes, that goes across the top of the battery after it is installed. Of course, it would not now snap into place because of the preternatural height of the new battery.

Cruz and his assistant set to work with a drill and several screws. I walked away in the same manner a father would if his child had been under a LIston knife.

And, then, it was all over. I had power restored, and I was ready to roll down the road.

Now, I just need to get two new wheels and a bent tie rod replaced -- all from the infamous Gibraltar strike last January. And I will be done with car work for awhile.

And thus are the gods tempted to punish hubris.

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