So two weeks ago my car died in the middle of the intersection directly under the freeway overpass. You know, the one with cars going every which way? Yeah, well, it just cuts out and I throw it in neutral to get over to the side where there's some space and start trying to ask someone to give me a jump. It was about 10:45 pm though, and I was wearing my fedora and Michael Jackson-esque jacket, so I must have looked kinda scary. No one wanted to help me.
It was sad.
Then this police officer pulled over and asked me what was wrong and I told him and he pulled around to give me a jump. I got my car running but it died again the moment the cables were disconnected so I figured the alternator must not be providing voltage like it should. He was kind enough to wait a while and let his system charge mine up a bit and I was able to get down the hill and to the gas station, all with a police escort mind you! That was pretty cool.
I had to leave it there overnight and get a ride from my mom back home. I called a few people the next day to see if anyone would be able to help me and had to finally call my cousin (what's family for right?) and he was able to lend a hand. I really didn't want to get towed somewhere so I instead spent that 100+ dollars on a new battery to get it home and then go from there. I have a friend who offered to help me if it turned out to be the alternator and I called him up and made plans to fix it the next day.
We went to AutoZone and got the part I needed and started in on the repair. In many a car the alternator is pretty easy to get to just sitting on the side of the engine and all you do is take off the belt, unplug the wires, remove three or four bolts and ta-DA! you're done. Then you just put the new one in and bolt it, plug it in, and put on the belt and then you're really done. And that should take an hour or less. But does anything ever happen the way it "should"? HAHAHAHAHA that is a good one, NO of course not! My alternator is right under the engine and above the A/C compressor and right behind the fan, so it's super awkward to get at. Unless I have a winch I ain't getting at it from the top and I ain't got no winch. So, the only other option is to jack up the car and get to it from the bottom which means you have to pull off the A/C compressor but not let it hang by the hoses or if they come off you'll have coolant and crap all over the place. Then you have to fit a wrench in there and blindly take out the bolts and the last bolt is sort of resting in a little groove so you have to lift the bottom of the alternator while rocking the top down and forward. By the way, your arm is in this weird position so lifting and holding and moving a heavy object is reeeeeeaaaaallllyyy difficult. Then you have to put the new one in by reversing the process.
Now, usually it is pretty easy once you have all that done to just throw on the belt turn on the engine and check everything. However, the belt tensioner, which is a little pulley on an adjustable arm that provides the tension necessary to hold the belt on and at a comfortable working tightness, was not moving. the bolt head that you would put a socket wrench on was stripped and so we had to pry the belt on using multiple screwdrivers.
And so we completed the job and it only took three hours. That's only three times longer than it "should" have taken. I drove home and was pleased that I wouldn't be doing THAT again.
I drove it to the trax station twice and to church and then I went on vacation and my car sat there for a little more than five days and then I noticed my lights were a bit dim on Monday when I got back and it started doing that same pre-dying sort of stuff that it had done the first time. I got home and cleaned the battery terminals and that seemed to get rid of the problem, a bit of corrosion had probably gotten in the way of the connection. The next day I got the same reluctance when I started the car and I started checking the voltage on the system. Turns out the battery was being drained which means I was probably running off the new battery the whole time I had the new alternator, and the alternator was probably bad! *Primal yell!!!*
Are you KIDDING ME?!
I could only hobble down to Big-O and they said they would check it for me. I was already late for work and my mom, bless her for her patience, took me to the trax station. The next morning I got the car and sure enough the alternator was bad. Oh. My. Goodness. I was going to punch something. I had had plans to go out to a movie with someone, yes a girl, and this was like throwing several wrenches into the works. My good friend said he'd help me again since we would know what we were doing this time and it wouldn't take as long. This was good because I wanted to see about catching a late showing of the movie if possible.
I had called the AutoZone and told them what was up and how I needed a new alternator, preferably one that worked, and they said they had one that they would test and hold for me. When I got there just a few hours later, they said they didn't have it anymore. Good one guys, nice. So they called the store a few miles up the road. They had one, yay! Before taking it, I asked them to test it and it failed. The guy said he had never seen that happen before, and we were like, "We have. Twice." I asked him to call one of the other stores to see if they had one and to make them test it before we drove over there and he said that he would as long as they weren't busy. I said that I didn't care if they were busy make them test it because if I walked through that door, I'd be making them test it anyway. They said it passed and we went to pick it up. So, now we were only two hours behind schedule.
The process went much the same only this time it only took two hours to do, which would have been a great thing and I could have gotten home and cleaned up before the movie, but as it was with the extra two hours tacked on I wasn't going to get home until the movie had already started. That was a bummer.
Stupid car parts not working.