Monday, March 28, 2005

I say Starter, you say Arrancador, Let's call the whole thing off

So I'm out and about in town last week, shopping and getting things done. Stopping & starting, coming and going. Like a pro.
 
After my many errands I picked the kids back up and went home. Stopped at the gate, got out, opened the gate, got back in, discovered my battery was dead.
 
A number of options were considered, even attempted, and discarded. Finally my neighbor had the best idea. Start the car (it was on just enough of a hill to make that easy...for him) drive to PriceSmart and get a new battery, after having the old one tested to make sure it's really dead.
 
I liked that option. I did that. The guy's little machine declared the old battery dead and recommended (on a small printed receipt) replacement. So I bought a new one and they installed it for me. It started up fine, so I shut it down and went back in to buy some stuff and get something to eat, since it was getting to be that time. Came back out, started up, drove down to Yolanda's house to drop off her groceries and when I came out - dead again.
 
Hmmm. That's not right. It was on an incline, so I tried to start it myself, but never having done it before I put it in first and was unable get it going. I have since learned (ten minutes later) that you have to have it in second.
 
A neighbor was prevailed upon and very kindly started it while we pushed. He made some recommendations and we drove home. Getting the key for the gate off of the keyring without shutting off the engine was something of a challenge.
 
So I got in and made sure I would be able to roll it if it still didn't start in the morning. Next day, however, it started fine. (I just had to go out and try at 7:00 in the morning...) Then when I actually had to leave, it still started fine. So I drove it down to José, who went with me down the street to a shop that specializes in auto electrical systems (whatever is that called in English?) However, since the vehicle stubbornly refused to misbehave, it was given a clean bill of health. Carlos explained that the material inside a new battery can "settle" if it's been on the shelf for a long time. Sounded good to me, so I went home to pack and set out on my Easter vacation as planned. (Okay, so we were going over to my friend's who has a pool. Truly, it was as relaxing a vacation as you can ask for with one parent and two kids.)
 
We met at the store. Prudently, she showed me a spot in the parking lot where there was a direct shot to a long, sloping, empty parking lot...just in case. Scoffing somewhat--my problem, after all, was solved--I parked there and we had our lunch and did our shopping. Coming out, we didn't even think about the battery issue, and she nearly drove off without me because the car wouldn't start. So the long sloping empty lot came in handy and I got to push-start my car myself for the first time (in second gear - I know what I'm doing).
 
My friend's driveway has a perfect sloped parking spot, which I took, and we commenced to watch videos and sit by the pool. A lovely three days later, I got in the car and...it started fine. Drove to Yolanda's to pick up the parrot and...it started fine. Drove home and offered to give Mercedes a ride to the bus stop but...the car wouldn't start. Unfortunately it surprised me and I braked - losing my small headstart that would have let it roll back to the nice slope behind me. So Mercedes took the bus. When I needed to go out later I called my big burly neighbor to come over and feel good about himself by pushing the car. Also got my second chance to push-start my own car (in reverse this time) and did fine. I left the car running at the first errand - dropping off a bag of stuff at someone's house - and told the girls we could get a video if the sloping parking space was available at the video store. It was, but we didn't need it...started fine from a full stop.
 
So that was Saturday. Sunday we didn't go out and today the car started okay to take Robin to school. I sent her in without stopping, then drove down to meet Elberth and buy the roof paint (without stopping). Brought him back up to work on the roof, but then it started to rain. So I took him home (car started fine) and stopped back by the electrical shop to talk to Carlos. He said to take it to a battery shop and get them to test the battery.
 
I got Elberth to come with me because he knew where the place was. The battery was declared healthy (at no charge), so it was back to Carlos. But the car wouldn't start. I had left space to roll back, but didn't get going fast enough soon enough and, failing to start the car, had to stop it. I thought maybe the guy in the shop could get it started for me if Elberth and I pushed - there was still a bit of room before the parked car back there - certainly enough to turn out into the street (traffic was very light), if one knew what one were doing and had done it more than, say, twice before.
 
Poor guy was just on his way out for lunch but fortunately for me he took a professional interest and got back under the hood. He did a thing to the battery and had me try it, but nothing. Then he went back into the shop. To get another high-tech tool, I thought. Well, sort of. He came back out with a tiny footstool and a hammer. Right.
 
He got up on the stool and down into the engine and started banging on something. Try it now. Started right up. Well, actually, it protested a bit, but it did start. I figured that was worth something and although he still wasn't charging me, I gave him 2000 colones (three bucks--also two hour's pay for many manual laborers).
 
So now our malady has a name: Arrancador. It's the starter (on which he was banging).
 
I drove back to Carlos and made an appointment for tomorrow, stopped by Yolanda's house to drop something off, and went home, all without stopping. Made sure I had a nice strong slope and parked for the night. Hopefully it won't take days to resolve, but at least now we know where we stand.

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