If you're wandering in the forest trying to concentrate on the trees,
|photo source: unsplash|
don't accidentally fall down a rabbit hole!
|photo source :Dreamstime.com|
Have you ever convinced yourself that a certain "thing" was causing a particular problem, to the point that you overlooked or ignored another much simpler alternative?
Sometimes it's easy to fixate on a possible solution, even when trying to chase it down hasn't resulted in any progress. The building frustration just makes it even harder to see clearly.
Especially when the first obvious symptoms didn't resemble anything that you've ever seen before. Then the blinders come on! It's kind of funny that even with almost fifty years of experience in dealing with cars and motorcycles I found myself dealing with a "novel" situation.
Once you find yourself in a situation like this, it's pretty easy to become difficult to deal with, the tendency is to dig in, and and to become stubborn, especially when you find yourself in a rut like this.
This is a time when you need to go back to the basics.
We know that an engine needs three things to run;
Fuel, Air, and Spark. Take away any of these elements and the engine will stop. An interrupted supply of any of these three things will result in poor or sporadic running.
Electrical systems need two things; a complete circuit, negative and positive power delivered to the item at the proper points.
They also require an adequate source of power, either household a/c circuit or a battery to send the electrons down the way.
If we can't find these electrons at the end of the line, ready to power a light bulb, or spin an electric motor, we need to trace the route back.
We come to expect certain familiar symptoms to present themselves when problems occur. We build up a storehouse of experience over the years. This usually allows to properly diagnose what is causing the problem.
The difficulty develops when we stray, or are led into a foreign realm.
Mechanical items, nuts and bolts, levers and shafts. All these items are easily visible.
Electrical systems like wires, connectors, switches, batteries, motors, fuses and relays. These are also pretty straightforward.
But what about "electronics?" Those mysterious "black boxes?" Filled with electronic components like transistors, capacitors, circuit breakers, fuses, relays, printed circuits, and other things that can't be easily visually diagnosed?
For many, if not most of us, we have no detailed understanding of what goes on in there!
After the replacement SJB didn't work, I decided that I would just have the car towed to the local Ford dealer. I don't like my local dealership, so what difference did it make where it went? It would surely be less hassle to have it dealt with locally. I put everything back as it was. I would let the dealer test it and sort things out.
I told my Daughter that I had reached the end of my rope and was out of ideas on what to do. I was going to contact the Ford dealer and that I would get back to her.
Before I left I called my Wife to give her a progress report, I ran through what had occurred:
When I arrived, I had checked the battery voltage with my multimeter. The battery was still connected, as my Daughter had tried to run a scan for codes. The voltage was very low, around seven volts. I had wanted the battery to be left disconnected so it hopefully wouldn't have run down any more.
I installed the proper replacement SJB ( Smart Junction Box) and then jumped the car to start it.
The proper replacement worked for a while. Everything, all systems appeared to be working.
Then it died.
I jumped the car again and left it connected, and the car seemed to run fine. I let it run for at least 15 minutes but I was worried that it might damage the battery in my car. I disconnected the jumpers and it ran for a couple of more minutes then died.
At that point I reinstalled the original SJB in disgust.
My Wife focused on a salient point in the narrative, one that I dismissed. The conversation went like this:
She asked, "So it was running okay when the jumpers were hooked up?"
"It died after you disconnected it? "
"Do you think that the alternator is bad?"
"I don't think so, I checked it and it put out over 13 volts."
"Do you think that the battery is bad?"
"I don't think so.
"Why don't you try a new battery, you said the voltage was real low when you checked it, and you had to jump it to start it. And you said the motor died after you disconnected the jumper cables. "
"It's only two years old."
"You've already made three trips up there, with no progress. What can it hurt to try the battery?"
"Well, it will cost 200 bucks, it's only two years old, I think it ran down because of the SJB causing a drain. I guess that I could take it to an Autozone or O'Reilly's and have them test it before I buy a new one."
"Let me know what happens."
I checked and found the proper battery in stock at a local O'Reilly's
So I went back up, got the key from my Daughter- again, and pulled the battery. I took it to the O'Reilly's a few miles down the road. They tested it and the counterman told me. "It looks like it is going to be about 90% bad."
I paid my money, and was glad that I'd pulled the old battery first, so that I wouldn't have to make another trip to return the core.
On the trip back to my Daughter's apartment I started thinking. It's not just the voltage that's important with car batteries, it's also the amperage. Without enough amps the engine can't start, even with twelve volts indicated on a multimeter. In the past, I'd had batteries fail after only a year or two, generally they won't be able to start the engine, that would be the main symptom. I went through a bad run of Interstate batteries with my Seville, years ago, which is why I now avoid that brand.
Maybe it's a low amperage battery problem with the SJB. It just didn't put out enough juice to start the motor and power all the systems. This resulted in the system going bananas. On another occasion, my Daughter had run the battery down before, listening to music in the car with her friends with the motor off. A jump got it started with no further problems. I had replaced the battery shortly after that.
After all the years on the Jaguar forum, where the battery is ALWAYS the first suspect, I just couldn't accept it.
I got back and hooked up the battery. It fired up and everything was working! I let it run, switched on the a/c and went to go buy a burger as a test run. I kept the engine running after the drive through, while I was parked under a tree enjoying my lunch. Then I drove back, parked in the lot and switched off the motor. I tried restarting it and it sprang to life with no problems. I had run the car for almost an hour. Success!
I admitted to my Daughter that I hadn't considered the battery as a possible problem, because it was only two years old! Batteries don't last as long as they used to, now they generally fail in four to five years. The circus of SJB problems had totally distracted me, and resulted in my lack of consideration of a possible battery sourced problem. She had mentioned the alternator several times, but I checked the output and hadn't found a problem. But I didn't take the battery out and have it tested! I just assumed that it had to be okay. In fact I just didn't assume that, I completely accepted it as gospel.
After I "fixed" the car I felt kind of embarrassed, I thought that I should have done it sooner. I told my Daughter, "My head hangs down, my face burns in shame, and I will walk now a little lighter in humility!"
I phoned my Wife with the good news, I admitted that her "fresh eyes/fresh ears" had been an immense help. I just had to repeat the line about walking lighter in humility! ( It's a good one!)
|Don't you hate the always Mr. "Right?"|
I am reminded of an episode of that old Tony Randall/Jack Klugman sit com, the Odd Couple. In it, Felix is lecturing Oscar in front of a blackboard where the word "assume" is prominently written. Felix self righteously instructed Oscar, "Whenever you ASS-U-ME, you make an ass of you and me!
I wouldn't go that far Felix, but we have to be careful not to let our thinking get trapped by assumptions.
Of course I haven't checked back with my Daughter to see if everything is still okay. Sometimes you don't want to think about things like this for a while!
I did enjoy the drive home.