Charge!

For some time now Neddy has been having problems starting.  Despite a longish run the battery would be flat, and the engine would hardly turn over.  Most of the time there has still been just about enough charge to start the engine, if reluctantly, but there have also been a couple of times when it’s failed, and this morning was one of those occasions.  Not great timing, considering I’m due to be driving across the country to get married this weekend.  There were several possible causes to the battery charge problem, one of which was the battery itself, and other main possibility being the alternator, and I could find no sure fire way of finding out which it was more likely to be or how to find out for sure, and neither looked particularly cheap to replace.

For those who don’t know these things, the alternator is what charges up the battery while the engine is running.  It’s connected via the fan belt, so when the engine is running it’ll be turning the alternator, which is effectively a dynamo, and which send charge all around the car and also to the battery to keep it topped up.  There are circumstances in which even with both the battery and alternator in fine working order the battery can be drained.  You can of course leave the lights on overnight, which is careless but easy to do.  Something else often overlooked is that it takes a certain amount of charge to start the engine in the first place, and a certain amount of time for the alternator to replace that energy.  If you make lots of very short trips, turning the engine off each time, you can actually use more battery power starting the car than gets replaced by the running of the engine.  However, running the engine for 5-10 minutes should be enough under normal circumstances to make sure the battery stays at a healthy level of charge.

My problem was that the ‘normal circumstances’ didn’t seem to be playing on the same side as me.  True, I had driven a few short journeys, but I had also done some more substantial drives too, with little if any effect on the battery charge problem.  For instance, last night I drove out to Cowdray Avenue to go bowling with some friends from church, and the car only just started when I came to go home, and this morning it wouldn’t turn over at all.  The fan belt hasn’t really be slipping, so that wasn’t the cause, and the engine was working fine once running, which means that there was enough electricity being generated by the alternator to power all the electrical bits in the car (spark plugs, ECU, headlights, fuel pump, etc), but none of that was finding its way to the battery.

So with this in mind I deducted that it had to be the battery, and without enough time to properly test the battery or see if it could be resurrected I opted to just buy a new one.  That at least means that we should be fine for our journey across the country this week.  I don’t really want to be stranded anywhere with a car full of luggage – extra weight makes bump-starting something of a challenge…

Incidentally, I shall take this opportunity to inform you all of my movements over the next couple of weeks.  Today I am working from home again, and packing my bags and generally getting ready for going to the wedding.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) I drive down to Torquay to see my family, before going up to Gloucester on the Thursday.  Saturday I get married (YAY!!!!), after which my darling wife and I will be off to the Isle of Wight for our honeymoon.  We shall be there for a week, before coming back to our new house.  I can’t imagine you’ll see much of us for the first few weeks though, we’ll be enjoying being together for a while… heehee!

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