Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 14, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CAR CONVULSIONS....I went out a couple of hours ago to buy some groceries and put gas in my car, and when I tried to start up the car after filling it up it went into convulsions. The windows went up and down, the blinkers went on and off, the dome light flashed, and engine itself did — nothing. Bummer. I don't know if this is just what my car does when the battery goes dead, or if it's something more serious. Probably the latter, right?

Anyway, I bought my groceries and then walked home, so here I am. Tomorrow I'll call AAA and have the car towed down to the dealer to get the bad news. I can't wait.

Kevin Drum 4:29 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (92)

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Comments

Or you're out of gas ... Seems more likely (since a dead battery wouldn't have the power to convulse).

Posted by: Ottoe on January 14, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

What kind of car?

Everybody makes fun of us redneck types until their cars break down :).

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on January 14, 2008 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...The windows went up and down, the blinkers went on and off, the dome light flashed, and engine itself did — nothing...."

Did you look around for the hidden camera ?

Sounds like some Hollywood stunt for a reality show.

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." - Ansel Adams

Posted by: daCascadian on January 14, 2008 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

If you're looking for possible diagnoses, then the make, model, and year would be helful.

If you're just looking for sympathy, consider yourself sympathized with.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on January 14, 2008 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Was Hugh Hewitt near your car?

Posted by: CarlP on January 14, 2008 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Were you wearing your tin foil hat and hearing voices, that happens to me all the time.

Posted by: Chris/tx on January 14, 2008 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Get on Car Talk. Those guys will love you.

Posted by: CarlP on January 14, 2008 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I bet it's a Volvo. ;)

Short in the electrical system I suppose...

When you start the car, all the extraneous electrical systems are supposed to be cut off from juice, so the battery has maximum power to turn over the engine.

If there's a short, then it could cut in and out, in and out until it's fried.

Posted by: stm177 on January 14, 2008 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like an exorcism is in order.

Posted by: abi on January 14, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

I bought my groceries and then walked home

A smartass would ask why you needed the car. Lucky for you there's none of those around here. ;)

Posted by: thersites on January 14, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Irrational Bush Hatred?

Posted by: absent observr on January 14, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

For a minute I thought I was still reading Huffington Post.

Posted by: Wataru on January 14, 2008 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody makes fun of us redneck types until their cars break down :).

That's because you're too stupid to know how to fix it because you're too busy trying eat a fried banana out of a paper sack at the county fair, chumley.

Is it really so difficult to figure out? Mr. Drum, your car's onboard computer has short-circuited and the resulting confusion caused the various electronic functions of the vehicle to perform as if in concert with a bad diagnostic sequence. Was it a blasted Honda? Because, chances are, someone has also removed your catalytic converter and sold it for the platinum so that they can buy crystal methamphetamine from the one legged boy down at the truck stop.

Do not take it to the redneck garage on the edge of town. Only the dealership mechanic for the make of your vehicle is qualified to do this kind of work. Do not let anyone sell you a new car while you are there.

They sit around, praying for a fresh faced mark to appear on the property, and their entire operation is designed to distract you with automobile repairs while they try to move the latest crap sandwich of a four door lemon out the door.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 14, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds a bit like the bizzaro way modern cars respond to a failing battery. In the old days you always knew it was a crappy battery, as it would barely turn over the starter, the modern vehicles have fooled me -with strange electrical behavior.

Posted by: bigTom on January 14, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Golly Kev, were your driving the Batmobile?

Posted by: troglodyte on January 14, 2008 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

This happened to me once when I was driving down the PA turnpike...it turned out to be a failing battery.

Posted by: cheryl on January 14, 2008 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

If you can walk to/from the grocery why drive? You southern californians :-)

Posted by: rashad davis on January 14, 2008 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming you mean that you still appered to have battery power and the car wouldn't start, it points in a couple of directions. IF you didn't at least get some clicking from the area of the starter, you may have a bad solenoid. (The solenoid works as an electromagnet to engage the starter to the engine.

BTW, it takes considerably more power to run the starter than other systems.

So, it is entirely possible that your battery has discharged so far as to not to able to run things. That could be that the battery can't hold a sufficient charge, or it might be the alternator or the regulator (the items responsible for recharging the battery). Or it might be a short in the system, tripping up the recharge.

The AAA guy may be able to "hotshot you to get you going, however, it may be shortlived.

Do yourself a favor. Find out who is considered the best car elecrric diagnostian within reach and have the car towed, or drive it there. Most of your other choices are "parts changers" and can run you up a hell of a bill without ever finding the real problem.

I once spent over $700 at various parts changers, (battery, alternator, regulator etc) before the diagnostican found a short in of all things, the alternator warning light in the dashboard! That cost $60 (1979 dollars).

BTW, most people don't know, but virtually all the electical supply in a conventional car comes direct from the battery (even spark plugs etc). The other systems are rechargers.

Posted by: RickG on January 14, 2008 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I had a car -- a 74 Mustang -- that did something like this once. The windshield wipers starting wiping, washer fluid squirted on the windshield, the radio turned on and off. It was like a car possessed. I had the car towed to Four Brothers -- I mention this name as a warning to others to avoid the place should it still exist -- where my car sat for a month as the mechanics tried, not very hard, I thought, to replace the entire electrical system. On one of my periodic visits to the shop, I asked one of the four brothers (exactly which one I've now forgotten) why the repairs were taking so long. He showed me a tangle of wires under the hood of my Mustang and told me that his mechanic had to figure just where each one of them had to go. "Isn't there a manual that tells you where the wires go?" I asked incredulously. "My guy's so good," the brother said, "he don't need no manual." I wish you better luck with your car, and if not the best possible luck, at least a good story.

Posted by: Jan on January 14, 2008 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

If you know the make and model of your car, Kevin Drum, google it up. No doubt you'll come across one or several boards or forums dedicated to your vehicle. Chances are, other owners will have experienced similar symptoms and will have shared those experiences with the board.

Tomorrow, when you visit the dealer, you will not be visiting unarmed.

Posted by: Model 62 on January 14, 2008 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think it means that you didn't get an engineering degree.

But that's just a guess.

Posted by: dan robinson on January 14, 2008 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

First thing to check, and the easiest, is to get out and wiggle the battery connections as best you can. Suddenly dead batteries with no previous symptoms are almost always a fritzy connection with the battery terminals. A fritzy battery, on off on off, might confuse your computer, dunno.

Also, the system in the car that is supposed to recognize the chip in your car's key might have glitched.... Mine did, and things flashed, etc. It thinks someone is trying to steal it.

But see if the horn sound is strong, lights etc. If so, battery is fine, and it's more difficult.

Posted by: luci on January 14, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't ever leave comments on this website, despite being an avid reader of the blog entries. But I checked out the comments for this posting because I wanted to project my "Car Talk" fan-status onto this website.

So is it really this common for people to leave comments that don't actually answer any questions? I mean, if Kevin asks a question like, "Can someone walk me through this really complicated social security whatever?", would most readers just say, "Well, Kevin, I get social security checks every month, and this one time I got two!"

Yes, I'm being a bit facetious, but, no, I'm not asking just to be a troll. It just seemed sort of funny. =P

Posted by: Jeff on January 14, 2008 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

There's a bad short. Either in the dash panel harness, the car alarm, or the computer proper (possibly in the diagnostic circuit).

The windows wouldn't go up and down otherwise.

max
['You are so hosed.']

Posted by: max on January 14, 2008 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

So is it really this common for people to leave comments that don't actually answer any questions?

In a word, YES.

Posted by: Dawn on January 14, 2008 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'd been having trouble for a while with my car frequently stalling at lights, and the beeper and overhead going off randomly. Had my smog test and failed because my computer had gone bad, which I'd suspected from searching cartalk.com. So I took it to the dealer and they ordered a refurbished computer, 'cause they don't make them any more. The computer was no good, so they ordered another one. That was no good, so they ordered another one. That one was no good, so they ordered another one. That one was OK! In the meantime I had to get the car towed, because one of the bad computers made the car die, and I also got a parking ticket because I couldn't get a new sticker on my license plate until they managed to get a good computer.

Now, wanna hear about my shoulder operations?

Posted by: godoggo on January 14, 2008 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight; When you turned the key, the blinkers flashed and the windows went up and down.

If so, you've got a fried on-board computer.

If you are saying that you could still turn on the blinkers and roll down the windows, then the problem is likely one of the following: 1) Failed alternator with a mostly depleted battery; 2) Defective battery that can't hold a full charge; 3) Bad Solenoid or starter; 4) Loose wire.

Let us know.

Posted by: def on January 14, 2008 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Norman,
Go fork yourself. You couldn't find the OBDII port to save your life. You don't have to be a dealer mechanic to have a clue about cars...unless you really like fucking consumers over.

Keep being a sheeple, dipshit.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on January 14, 2008 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's the end of times, predicted by Nostradamus.

Just to be on the safe side, Repent! Then call triple A.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 14, 2008 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Get a Mac!

Er, I mean, get a Smart Car!

Posted by: djangone on January 14, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

My WAG is water in the gasoline.

Between the fact that nothing is what an engine does if water gets in the gas line, and that this happened on starting the car after filling up, it seems the logical explanation. I'd avoid buying gas there in the future.

As for the electrical stuff, damned if I know. Possibly some weird reaction to a situation where there's supposed to be electricity coursing through the system from the alternator, but there's not.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 14, 2008 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton did it!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 14, 2008 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a mouse chewed thru the wiring Kevin.

No, I'm serious, really.

Posted by: Tosh on January 14, 2008 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Modern cars have considerably more computing power than the Apollo lunar module did. Increasingly a computer module runs the ignition and fuel and throttle while doing the climate control and power windows and other such stuff on background. If you have a weak battery the low voltage when you crank the engine my send the computer into the equivalent of a nervous break down. My own cars have a cutoff the kills everything when the voltage goes too low, but I am not sure if this is universal.

By the way, Norman's experience is pretty much limited to Hummers and crew cab duallies.

Posted by: fafner1 on January 14, 2008 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all are about as good at diagnosing car problems as you are at predicting the primaries.

Posted by: Brautigan on January 14, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think the car finally smelled the residual Hewitt on you from the other day, and quite reasonably registered its discontent.

Posted by: Anna Granfors on January 14, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a Tommy and Rayme answer: you have a bad motor mount!

Posted by: tommy harper on January 14, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

It could be out of juice. Just to make sure, take a crowbar and scrape off any rust (or even better use something made out of silver or gold) and use it to touch the negative battery terminal to the positive battery terminal. If you see sparks, that's not it.

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on January 14, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Most likely it's the battery.

there's probably enough of a surface charge left for it to kick var. systems off & on.

I've seen this happen before with a number of modern cars.

Charges should be minimal.

Posted by: TB on January 14, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

You should have called and had one of us come pick you up. We owe you the favor(s).

Posted by: Steve Drum on January 14, 2008 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight; When you turned the key, the blinkers flashed and the windows went up and down.
If so, you've got a fried on-board computer.

That's exactly what I tried to tell him, but, alas, he never listens to me and I am easily the smartest person who leaves comments here. EASILY. I went to Princeton and Duke, and I have a Masters degree.

First, the grease monkey looks under the hood. Then he scratches himself, trying to figure out how to rob you. He gets a friend to opine. They discuss. You're out four hundred dollars before the sun goes down.

Go fork yourself. You couldn't find the OBDII port to save your life. You don't have to be a dealer mechanic to have a clue about cars...unless you really like fucking consumers over.

Go "fork" myself? My, you're quite the potty mouth. Is Grandma sitting on your lap, telling you what to say, little girl?

I'm wealthy and I put people to work for me. I don't NEED to know these things. What I need to know is how to make people do things for me at the lowest price possible. That means I keep more of my wealth.

Keep being a sheeple, dipshit.

You're the one claiming to be a "redneck" and you call me a "sheeple?" I have no idea what that means. I think it means that you wet yourself trying to come up with an insult you could manage. Too bad. You didn't. You, sir, need a pop in the nose to get you to get BACK in line, because what you are is a raging, 'roid crazy, arm flapping nitwit.

Somewhere, a failure in the computer system of the vehicle has caused a catastrophic failure. No greasemonkey with a leathery red neck is going to help you--you need someone educated and literate who has attended certified computer training and mechanic's school.

And, for goodness' sake--watch those catalytic converters people. The world platinum shortage is causing them to be stolen from vehicles all over the world.


Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 14, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I wouldn't take my advice, if I were you.

Posted by: ferd on January 14, 2008 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I saw that movie! Did you notice any strange lights in the sky? Feel an oppressive alien presence?

A modern car is actually a small LAN of processors, intercommunicating via low-rate serial protocols. They all communicate with each other, and one especially powerful computer has a connector that the service shop can hook up their own diagnostic computer to and pull off codes which supposedly tell what's wrong. This assumes a certain level of functionality, of course, beyond which little can be done but blindly replace parts until it works. Hopefully you won't be in that situation, and repair will be fast and effective. But it isn't likely to be cheap... If they can't get the codes out for some reason, or what they get isn't diagnostic, you're in for much deeper pain.

Oh, and if you try what Lonewacko suggests, you may as well call the paramedics ahead of time (though I'm sure you're savvy enough not to try anything so foolish as shorting out your car battery).

Posted by: idlemind on January 14, 2008 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

JUMPING JEEBUS . . . when I tried to write in a comment the image on my monitor screen starting jumping up and scattering!

Whatever Kevin has, it must be supernatural and viral at the same time.

In the old days, before computer modules, we could have blamed this all on the UFOs. Now we have to find something else to justify burning the giant sigils in gasoline out on the softball field.

Posted by: Berken on January 14, 2008 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

It could be out of juice. Just to make sure, take a crowbar and scrape off any rust (or even better use something made out of silver or gold) and use it to touch the negative battery terminal to the positive battery terminal. If you see sparks, that's not it.
Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on January 14, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

You, sir, are a criminal and you will be held accountable for your dastardly advice. To put something so vile and crazed in a public forum is to ensure that, at some point in the near future, every door and window in your house will be blasted open at the same time and dozens of helmeted, vested men with fists and guns will enter and beat you senseless.

Jail, prison, oblivion. That is your future. For shame, sir, for shame. And all because that pretty Hispanic girl wouldn't go to the prom with you because she refused to date someone with bleeding acne and a raging fever blister.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 14, 2008 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

It's over. Set the car on fire, call the insurance company, collect the money, get a new car. Kumbaya.

Posted by: jbk on January 14, 2008 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Does your car talk to you ... much?

She didn't start singing "D-d-d-daisy ...", did she?

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on January 14, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's the battery.

I had a Datsun go beserk once just as you describe.

Frickin' battery.

Posted by: DanZo on January 14, 2008 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers: yes, when Hillary becomes president I'm sure The Raids will commence. And, if the fact that my suggestion was so over the top that no one would or should take it seriously, I'll make it clear that it was over the top and no one should take it seriously.

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on January 14, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers: yes, when Hillary becomes president I'm sure The Raids will commence. And, if the fact that my suggestion was so over the top that no one would or should take it seriously, I'll make it clear that it was over the top and no one should take it seriously.

Bwah hah hah hah hah hah!

Peed yourself again, eh?

You and Mr Roid Rage ought to shack up and build yourselves a bunker in the middle of town and declare yourselves king of the world.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 14, 2008 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Figured out why Mr. Drum needed the car. To carry more than a day's worth of cat food, he needs the big-ass pickup truck. The one with the double wheels in back.

Beyond that, I vote for the battery.

Next up -- replacing Norman's battery.

Posted by: thersites on January 14, 2008 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

There's a very large chance it's just the freakin' battery. How old is the battery? It takes much more juice to turn the starter than to run anything else, so the lights etc may still work, although the electrical system and computer may be confused. In modern cars, you can get very little warning before the battery dies. No slowness to start - it just craps out one evening in the supermarket lot, as mine did.

Before you have the AAA guy tow it to the dealer, have him jump it and see if it runs OK. If so, you can drive it to Sears or wherever and have them test the charging system and put in a new battery, if that's what you need. If the AAA guy has sense, jumping it is probably the first thing he'll do anyway.

Posted by: Ben on January 14, 2008 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid you're going to have to shoot it. If your aim is shit use a 12 gauge shotgun.

If you're not too squeamish, fresh it'll be good eatin.

Posted by: jerry on January 14, 2008 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think you need a new Johnson rod.

Posted by: godoggo on January 14, 2008 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

My Saab 9-3 did something similar while driving - the car just stopped working, coasted to a stop. All the electronics in the car worked, just the engine wouldn't turn over. It was the Ignition Cassette that went bad, apparently its a common problem in Saabs.

Posted by: Joe on January 14, 2008 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Important Note: if the battery is "dead" and the AAA guy jumps it, it will probably hold a small charge that will run the car for a few minutes before it dies. Therefore, if he jumps it and successfully gets it running, do have him stick around for 5 minutes or so before you declare victory and go home!

Posted by: NK on January 14, 2008 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a suggestion that I'm sure even Norman Rodgers would agree with: it might actually just be the spark plugs, and that can be dealt with by Kevin himself. Just buy a cheap wrench and remove them, then look for soot or corrosion. Then, sand off any of that and put them back in. Note: for maximum efficiency, the plugs have to be screwed in very tightly. So, after turning them as far as possible by hand, use a mallet to hammer the wrench or ask a couple other people to help you tighten them as far as they can. Some people even use a winch to make sure they're in there as tight as possible.

[Note: the preceding advice is just for Kevin Drum.]

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on January 14, 2008 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Not to sound gloomy....but I once owned a Nissan Stanza that had some electrical issue that would make the engine cut out...or not start, and so on...I took it to about 10 different mechanics, including dealers and the best guys recommended by the couple of motor-heads I knew at the time, and they never figured it out. Finally one guy just did something (quite illegal) to hardwire the fuel pump or something, and after that, no worries.
But electrical issues can be a real pain. And on today's newer computerized cars, even more.

And when you replace computer stuff, it ain't cheap.

Good luck Kev!

Posted by: Sarah on January 15, 2008 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Good lord.

Kevin left out so much information its not possible to diagnose.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on January 15, 2008 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin needs one of these (less expensive) or else one of these (better for cats).

Posted by: dr2chase on January 15, 2008 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Wait while I catch my breath...

This is the funniest bunch of stuff I've read all day. Kevin didn't mention what kind of car this is. It sounds a lot like the '54 Ford I had in college in the 60's. The extra symptom is smoke pouring out from under the dash. I replaced the Ford with a '63 Plymouth 225 cubic inch Slant 6. Try that.

Posted by: Gray Lensman on January 15, 2008 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Somewhere, a failure in the computer system of the vehicle has caused a catastrophic failure. No greasemonkey with a leathery red neck is going to help you--you need someone educated and literate who has attended certified computer training and mechanic's school.

Huh? Have you been in a coma for twenty years? Virtually every car on the road today that isn't a rusted out ancient junker uses electronics and computer modules. All the repair shops that don't hire educated mechanics and train then to use computers went out of business in the late eighties. A redneck the guy might be, but if he's been a mechanic more then a few months, he probably has more practical knowledge about computer controlled machinery than anyone on this forum

Posted by: Berken on January 15, 2008 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Is it a Yugo?

Posted by: Luther on January 15, 2008 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

So that's where Herbie went!

Posted by: Amit Joshi on January 15, 2008 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, using your cell phone inside the car caused massive disruption in the "Electronic Control Modual". Is there a prize if I right?

Posted by: Artemiscal on January 15, 2008 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

The most important thing about owning an automoble is who to service it? I've heard that of important people to invite to dinner, ie your boss, your banker, your preacher and yes the mechanic that excells in electronics and computers.

I'm thinking retainer fees. What do you think?

Posted by: Artemiscal on January 15, 2008 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ah... love the comments. From car battery to Hillary to..? WWIII! Cmon!

Posted by: Daro on January 15, 2008 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

The wonderful thing about living in Boston is you don't need to have a car--in fact, it's a positive drawback. It's been years since I've had to worry about misbehaving vehicles and this post reminds me how well off I am. Thanks, Kevin!

Posted by: Keanna King on January 15, 2008 at 5:21 AM | PERMALINK

If you could walk home with your groceries, why did you think you had to drive your car in the first place? Trying to warm up the planet, are you?

Posted by: Darvon on January 15, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when Windows is installed on automobile on-board computers.

Now you know. Just be glad you didn't get the "blue screen of death".

Posted by: Snarkilicious on January 15, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Did it ever occur to anyone that Norman Rogers is a disgruntled car mechanic?

Either that, or Princess Marie of Roumania.

Or both.

Posted by: joanbeach4 on January 15, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Car Talk? Why does Kevin need to call these guys since his readers have already offerred just about every comment the Car Talk brothers would have. BTW - I love Car Talk in part because we get to hear all sorts of bizarre stories like this one. Thanks Kevin! Hope the garage bill isn't too steep!

Posted by: pgl on January 15, 2008 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

muffler bearings
Happens all the time
cost a lot to replace
Probably equal to the mechanics monthly payment on his vacation cabin, if your lucky his fishing boat.

Posted by: lost in the woods on January 15, 2008 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Your car has "crashed" and needs to reboot.

It must be running some flavor of Windows...

Posted by: Ranger Jay on January 15, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Oh - sheesh. Muffler bearings. How about rotating the canoodle valves.

In case anyone didn't catch it, these are the 'leet-speak' of mechanics to catch the newbie and they've been around since at least the 60s.

I'm an electrical engineer making a living programming computers and how can so many people be so wrong about how something pretty simple works? I wonder if that is what I sound like when I talk about politics? Yikes.

As a scientist I've got a couple hypothesis about what is causing this, but they've already been mentioned and they need to be verified by experimentation anyway.

My best advice is what you are already doing, "Get thee to a dealership."

Posted by: Tripp on January 15, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: before you call AAA, check your fuses. My guess is there is a blitzed fuse or relay in the ignition grid. The ignition on-off relay, or another one in the cluster would be the simplest explanation and worth trying to fix on your own. A fried circuit board or bad voltage regulator needs professional assistance. Also: I hope you have one of the portable jump boxes. That is something everyone should carry.

Posted by: Sparko on January 15, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

It must be running some flavor of Windows...
Posted by: Ranger Jay on January 15, 2008 at 9:37 AM

Vista? An Oldsmobile Vista?

Posted by: Zit on January 15, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Car Talk is a great idea! I suggest incorporating more insignificant information into your description. Maybe a little girl kept staring at you from the back of an SUV or goats were present nearby.

Posted by: B on January 15, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like you accidently put diesel in it ... and got a more-than-ordinary response.

Posted by: MC on January 15, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Everybody makes fun of us redneck types until their cars break down :).

And you think that our car breaking down would make us stop?

Posted by: Bob on January 15, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

So is it really this common for people to leave comments that don't actually answer any questions?

Posted by: Jeff

Florida, I think.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 15, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

It's your battery, genius.

And Jesus-H-Christ, could you perpetuate the liberal stereotype a little better? "I was down at Whole Foods, putting my brown rice in my hemp sack, when my car wouldn't start! And then I saw a mouse! Eeeek!"

Your punishment is to watch every minute of NFL coverage this weekend, while eating pork rinds and drinking Coors Light. Be careful not to break a nail.

Posted by: Cazart on January 15, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Typical Norm. Some random person backs up his view, and he says "I told you so." Sorry Norm, until Kevin gets back from the auto mechanic you can't tell us how smart you were.

And for the record, I doubt it is the computer. The computers are built much better these days. How often has your motherboard gone bad?

It reminds me of my days in college building circuits. When somebody like Norm's project didn't work properly they would always claim that one of the chips was bad. The TA would come around and let us know that chips rarely go bad, and then find out where poor Norm put the wrong wire.

Posted by: DR on January 15, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

The windows went up and down, the blinkers went on and off, the dome light flashed...

I witnessed this pattern so often that I had to quit taking drugs.

The decision, of course, is entirely yours Kevin.

Posted by: chance on January 15, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Uh-oh Sebastian-PGP, you'd better watch out.

Norman Rogers, the fightin' machine, the 6'4" man of steel with a Master's in ass kickin', the brainiac with a rippling six-pack is off his meds and on your ass! Yow! You'd best start running and don't look back! Shazam! Pain is his game, and you're at center field, boy! Hoo-ah!

Everyone gather round, because Norm is about to take it to the mat!

Posted by: Everett on January 15, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The things that you mentioned that worked use a lot less power than your car's starter moter. You probably have a depleted battery. Listen when you try to start the car--if you hear a clicking sound, it is the solenoid trying to start to engage, but can't do to lack of power.

Posted by: raj on January 15, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

sir,
i shit you not,you could have left the gas cap
loose.
heard the scenario at my car rental place.
hope so.....cheers

Posted by: t on January 15, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers, the fightin' machine, the 6'4" man of steel with a Master's in ass kickin'

Actually, the Masters is in Business, but thank you for the kind words. Yes, I am 6'4" and I weight about 170 pounds. My arms are a bit skinny but my legs have always been very powerful. I can still jump into the air and do a fan kick that can take a man's head off if he stands still approximately four feet in front of me.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 15, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Norman,

I can still jump into the air and do a fan kick that can take a man's head off if he stands still approximately four feet in front of me.

Youtube is just calling out for this. Keep your face in shadows, I don't care. C'mon, big guy, this I want to see.

Posted by: Tripp on January 15, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Uh-oh Sebastian-PGP, you'd better watch out.
Yeah, gotta love people who figure that after a turd in the punchbowl like assuming everyone who might fit the mockingly self deprecating version of 'redneck' (read: somebody who knows something about cars and the like) isn't smart enough to use a computer.

With deductive powers like, we all better run and hide.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on January 15, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah? Sebastian RoidRage? I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere, sir.

Your ass is the grass and I am the lawn mower.

You big puss!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 15, 2008 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

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