Alternator Timelines

On Sunday we were driving home from Kohl’s.  We try to limit our budget to essentials, but we couldn’t hold off buying replacements for my falling-apart leather sneakers or getting shoes that’ll accomodate TJ’s leg brace.

The dash lights start going nuts.  The engine light, the battery light, the fluid level and headlight indicators all came on in quick succession.  We stopped at a Fuddruckers, listened for trouble – it sounded as horrendous as usual, but only as horrendous as usual.  We started up the car and drove to a nearby O’Reilly’s.

Ten minutes til closing, and the sotre is full of customers.  The guy’s wife calls him no less than twice in that time trying to figure out when he’s coming home.  He doesn’t want to help us.

Too bad.

He checks the battery.  “It’s probably the battery,” he says when he sees it. “Yeah, this things five years old.”  The reader flashes “DEAD BATTERY!” 

“Yeah, it’s shot.  That’s probably all that it is.”  We only have to pressure him a bit to check the alternator as well.  In goes the new battery, and he runs the test.  “Yeah… alternator’s bad too.”

I pay for the battery and the alternator, and he urges me: “DON’T run the A/C.  Don’t turn on the lights or the radio, don’t run the windows.  Just get home.”  Which we did, before the dusty blue faded to black.

The next morning I set out to change the alternator.  I’d watched some youtube videos, and it looked easy enough.  Well… it wasn’t.  I lacked several tools I needed for the job and so had to run to the auto parts store, then later to the hardware store (well enough away to go by bus), only to discover that my make of car was different than what was used on the videos, and that I wouldn’t finish the job without taking most of the engine brace off.

It was mid-afternoon, and I was defeated.  I called into work for the last time and, unable to push back my starting time any further, called it quits for the day. 

Thankfully, my father-in-law was soon off of work, and was able to help.  In fact, he brought the family, including Kat, and when it was all said and done they bought us pizza.  F-I-L coaxed the serpentine belt off the “wrong” way, wedging it up with hands and screw-drivers and slipping it off.  I braced the belt in place with a screwdriver and we finished the job without too much trouble.  The neighbor from down the way who helped me with the tree, on his way to the church for a meal, stopped and lent some muscular hands to one vital part of the process.  The kindness of strangers.

One final note to what ended up being a happy story.  When F-I-L and I are together, the bad jokes fly like hurricane debris.  We were bringing the serpentine belt up onto the new alternator – him by hand, while I levered it up with a screwdriver.  As I went in with the screwdriver, he joked, “Owwwowow, my finger!” 

Whatever, man.

I didn’t get good purchase, so I brought the screwdriver in for another go.  Again, F-I-L made fake painy noises, but more urgently.  He was really trying to sell it – come off it, man! We’re almost done here!

Then I realized that, while the serpentine belt should have some give, it shouldn’t squish in such a… fleshy manner.  I withdrew the metal poker and he withdrew his hand, shaking the shit out of it.  “Okay, that really was my finger!” He showed me the forming red line.

“Well hell, how was I supposed to know! Man who cried ‘Finger’, over here.”

It was all good.  We both agreed it was pretty damn funny.  I’m grateful to have his help when I need it, though I know the end goal is for me to not need quite so much help in the long run.  Well… I’m working on that.

Speaking of which, we are getting another spring frost tonight! My poor tomato babies.  This may not be their year, and with the car and clothes and other last minute expenses, I don’t think we can afford replacements.  Oh well – if it all fails, we’ll count it as experience for next year.



One response to “Alternator Timelines”

  1. I really cannot imagine being stuck in this type of situation mentioned at the start of the blog. It is so necessary to have the knowledge of our vehicle because problems can occur any time. But what you did with your vehicle is really appreciable. From your blog I learnt that we can try anything at home on our own and it can be really better or fun than others.

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