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DEAR TOM AND RAY:
I HAVE A 1963 BUICK WHICH I FONDLY CALL SARAH. I HAVE TAKEN GOOD CARE OF IT, BUT IF I DON'T START IT UP AND RUN IT EVERY FEW HOURS, IT WON'T START. IT'S THE SAME IN COLD AND WARM WEATHER. WHAT COULD THE MATTER BE?
RUBY

RAY: GEE, RUBY. IF YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND START THIS CAR EVERY FEW HOURS, THAT HARDLY LEAVES YOU TIME FOR A GOOD NAP, LET ALONE A VACATION!

TOM: ACTUALLY, WE'RE GOING TO ASSUME THAT YOU DON'T GO OUT AND START IT EVERY COUPLE OF HOURS. BUT WHEN YOU DO GO TO START IT, IT HAS TO BE JUMP STARTED.

RAY: IF THAT'S THE CASE, WHAT'S HAPPENING TO YOUR BATTERY IS THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENS TO YOUR CREDIT CARD WHEN YOU GO OVER YOUR LIMIT; IT JUST WON'T HOLD A CHARGE. WHEN YOU RUN THE CAR, YOU ARE CHARGING THE BATTERY, BUT YOURS IS RUNNING DOWN VERY QUICKLY. IN THE SPAN OF A FEW HOURS, IT LOSES ITS ABILITY TO START THE CAR.

TOM: THERE ARE A NUMBER OF THINGS THAT COULD CAUSE THIS TO HAPPEN. AND FOR THAT REASON, WE'RE GOING TO SUGGEST THAT YOU TAKE THE CAR TO SOMEONE WHO SPECIALIZES IN AUTOMOTIVE ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS. BUT IF I HAD TO GUESS, I'D SAY IT'S PROBABLY EITHER A WEAK BATTERY OR A CURRENT DRAIN.

RAY: IF THE BATTERY IS NEAR DEAD, IT WON'T BE ABLE TO HOLD THE CHARGE THAT THE ALTERNATOR IS PRODUCING. YOUR MECHANIC CAN "LOAD TEST" THE BATTERY TO SEE WHAT KIND OF SHAPE IT'S IN. IF IT'S WEAK, THE SOLUTION IS TO GET A NEW ONE.

TOM: THE OTHER POSSIBILITY IS THAT THE BATTERY IS FINE, BUT SOMETHING KEEPS DRAINING IT. IT COULD BE THAT A SHORT CIRCUIT OR A MALFUNCTIONING ACCESSORY CONTINUES TO DRAW POWER FROM THE BATTERY AFTER THE ENGINE HAS BEEN TURNED OFF.

RAY: IF THAT'S THE CASE, YOUR MECHANIC WILL HAVE TO TRACE THE WIRES TO FIND OUT WHAT'S DRAINING THE BATTERY. UNTIL THE CURRENT DRAIN IS STOPPED, REPLACING THE BATTERY IS FUTILE; YOU'LL GO THROUGH BATTERIES FASTER THAN MY FAVORITE PAIR OF BRONKO NAGURSKI ELECTRIC LONG UNDERWEAR.
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