Join the Car Talk Community!

I am a student in Boston with a car that...

RSS
Dear Tom and Ray:



I am a student in Boston with a car that is originally from Texas. I have a 1996 Chevrolet G Van that has more than 150,000 miles on it. The car had been working really well until last fall. This was its
first real winter. Basically, I have to jump-start my car every time I want to turn it on. It starts very easily and reliably with a jump. So I bought one of those portable jump-start boxes, because I got
tired of praying that someone would be in the parking lot whenever I needed to go anywhere. I am hoping that you might have an idea of what is going on with my car and what I can do to fix it. -- Hannah

TOM: You must have made a lot of new friends, Hannah. That's a great way to meet people when you're new to a city -- drive a car that never starts.

RAY: Two things come to mind, Hannah. The first is very simple to fix. I think you might have a dead cell in your battery.

TOM: A car battery is made up of six cells -- kind of like the unit where my brother did time after the IRS caught up with him.

RAY: If one cell in your battery is dead, the battery might only be producing 10 volts instead of 12. That's enough to work the lights, the radio and the 40,000-watt stereo system. But the starter motor
needs a full 12 volts, or it just won't move. When you turn the key, you might hear the starter lurch, or you'll hear a clicking sound, or nothing at all.

TOM: The solution to that is a new battery. That'll cost you 75 bucks. Just flag down one of the guys in your parking lot and say: "Excuse me, my car won't start. Would you mind putting in this new battery for me?" Then go hide behind a building in case he crosses the cables and sets your car on fire.

RAY: Or just go to a gas station, and have them do it, Hannah. Because they can check for the other possibility: a current drain. It could be something like a light in the glove box that's staying on all night.

TOM: Or a fellow student running his laptop all night from your cigarette lighter so he can sell term papers.

RAY: It's very easy for your neighborhood mechanic to test your battery and your charging system, and to check for a current drain. That shouldn't cost very much. But I'd bet on the battery. Good luck, Hannah.
Tags (Browse All)

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login / Signup
Support for Car Talk is provided by:

Donate Your Car,
Support Your NPR Station

...and get a tax break!

Get Started

Find a Mechanic


Go



Submit


Rocket Fuel