Friday, January 02, 2009

Jump Start Yet Again

My office has a few company vehicles that we can use when we need to drive somewhere for work matters. The newest of those vehicles is a Toyota Camry hybrid and that tends to be the hardest one to “get”. I’m also very absent-minded, so I’ve done things like left the car keys inside office cars. Most recently, I was going to put gas in one and get it washed so I still had the keys. The problem was that I’d forgotten that I had the keys and realized it while we were on our way to the airport for a nine day vacation to the other coast. On the other end, the cars aren’t perfect. One of them had a brake problem and I got to find out once as I was driving towards a red light in the middle of town. I couldn’t get the car stopped until I was well across the intersection. They fixed it, but I still refuse to drive that particular vehicle.

Despite that, I decided to take the Camry to an appointment that was well out of town and in a remote part of the state. The town itself was so small that the courthouse and the police station were in the same small building. I had assumed my appointment would be very brief. It wound up being close to four hours. I left the headlights on (mountain roads, etc.) when I parked the car. I found myself having to jump start a car that had some seventy batteries in it.

My client was very helpful. He stayed and offered me his jumper cables. A woman who worked at the courthouse there who drove an old version of the Prius was very helpful as was a man who had nothing to do with any of this. The big question was why would anyone have to jump start a hybrid car?

Anyway, I opened up the hood and the car had a big fat battery in the engine compartment with carefully sealed cables and leads. I wiggled them a little bit and it occurred to me that if it was this hard to figure out how to get the seal off I probably shouldn’t be messing with them. I called the office. Everyone there, even the Prius owners laughed at me. We talked about the virtues of Triple A which I’ve never joined. Besides, this place was very isolated.

The lady who worked at the courthouse had the bright idea of looking at the owner’s manual. The Camry hybrid has a battery in the trunk for its “12 volt system”. I take it that means it’s separate from all the batteries used to help power the vehicle. You take off the cover over the wheel well and it looks like a conventional car battery. We hooked it up to my client’s pickup truck and the vehicle started right up.

Other than the fact that my client may now think I’m an absent-minded idiot, I’m not sure what I learned from yet another experience with automotive batteries. Okay, people are surprisingly nice, it sure doesn’t hurt to read the owner’s manual, and virtually anything can happen if you let Chancelucky drive your vehicle somewhere.

So, yes indeed one does sometimes have to jump start a hybrid car and yes it’s not that hard as long as you know what you’re supposed to do.



At 1/02/2009 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Jenny Jenny Flannery said...

My battery is in the trunk too! And I've had to jump it a lot recently for unknown reasons. Alas, it's a Saturn Ion, not a Prius, though. I've found people to be especially nice too when I'm stranded. But I thought I ought to get my own jumper cables just in case my luck or their good will runs out.

At 1/02/2009 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for stopping by. I was thinking of getting my daughter a Saturn, so now you really have me scared.
I've always carried jumper cables in my own car....this was an office car and I was surprised that we didn't have them. On the other hand, whoever thinks about a hybrid running down its battery?

At 1/03/2009 11:30:00 AM, Blogger AHP said...


I just lost a long comment so I'll try to re-type...

Good thing you didn't try to jump the hybrid through the powertrain batteries. You could have gotten shocked and/or fried something.

Some car companies save fifty cents a car to not have the dome or headlights turn off automatically when you forget. Many GM vehicles, (including the Saturn ION?), have this feature so that that the battery doesn't run out.

As a former Saturn employee, I must say that I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Saturn based on a sample size of one. She may just need a new alternator or a new battery. Check the bulletin boards on to see if there is a battery issue with the car. The ION has been replaced by the Astra which is a new hatchback that looks cool and handles well.

OK, Enough with the sales pitch.

Happy New Year!

At 1/03/2009 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks, that makes sense. We wanted to look at the Saturn Aura at least partly because you recommended them. We'll have to look at the Astra though.

We can't do anything until summer at the earliest, so I hope that Saturn is intact then. I'm assuming it wil be.

At 1/06/2009 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Jenny Jenny Flannery said...

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my Saturn. I had a sport coupe years ago and I was t-boned on the driver's side by a truck...I walked out of that accident without even a scratch.

They are very safe and other than the intermittent power issues I'm having, I have no complaints. I may check out that message board.

At 1/07/2009 03:15:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for the further explanation.

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