Roni went to jump start a car... and the battery was AWOL. What's going on?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

The other night, I came out of a function that was 99 percent women and 1 percent men (a quilt show, to answer your question). In the parking lot, two women asked if I had jumper cables, since their rental Chevy wouldn't start. I pulled up my Suburban, popped the hood, pulled out my jumper cables and stopped two men to help us. The two men, myself and the two women stared at the engine of the rental car and had no idea where to place the jumper cables. We think it must have been a hybrid car, but the renter was never told this, and none of us had ever seen one. All we could do was tell her to call the rental firm. Question: Where were the battery terminals, and how do you tell a hybrid if you've never seen one? -- Roni

TOM: The way you tell that a car is a hybrid, Roni, is that the word "HYBRID" is plastered all over the vehicle -- usually once on the back and once on each side. People who buy hybrids like other people to know that they bought a hybrid, so they can smile and feel smug about their decision. I would do that, too, if I had a car to feel smug about.

RAY: So, companies that sell hybrids aren't shy about plastering them with labels. In fact, I can't think of any hybrid car that Chevy makes yet, so I don't think it was a hybrid.

TOM: More likely, the rental car was a Chevy Cobalt. The Cobalt's battery happens to be located in its trunk, near the spare tire. There are other cars that have the battery in the trunk, or under the rear seat, usually to create more room for other stuff in the engine compartment ... like the engine!

RAY: And in almost all such cars, there's a set of auxiliary battery terminals under the hood that are attached by wire to the battery. Those are there for jump-starting the car. In the Cobalt, the remote terminals are attached to the fuse box, which is up near the firewall, close to the windshield.

TOM: So that's the explanation, I think, Roni. It was dark, you didn't know to look for the remote battery terminals, and the guys you stopped to help you weren't experts on battery placement either. I'm just guessing. I mean, I don't want to stereotype anybody, but knowing that they just came out of a quilting show, I'd be surprised if they're also big readers of Automotive Battery Digest.

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