Bright and early Thursday morning I woke up, got ready, and casually left my apartment. I got in my car with just enough time to get to work, turned the key, and…. nothing. Like nothing at all. It didn’t click, ding, light-up or flicker in any way. It was full on dead.
Now I knew my battery was nearing the end of its life. I’ve been expecting it to start having trouble soon. But dead? I thought I’d have a few mornings of hard starts, of begging my car ‘just this once!’ as it groans to life. Anything. Something to tell me ‘hey, get a new battery!’. Nope, it just died. Full on dead. Like can’t get any deader.
Now I was annoyed. Of course I was. But it was worse that that day, I was supposed to drive all the way to the north shore to teach a class at a local university. I quickly got out of the car, knowing I didn’t have time to deal with this right now, and quickly got on the bus. Luckily I had change.
A quick Google search and a talk with a mechanic friend told me that I had killed the battery. I could try to jump start it, but it would probably need to be replaced.
Here’s where this experience is all new. I don’t have any car experience other than driving. I’m not even sure I could replace my own washer fluid. They do that when I drive in to get an oil change. It’s not that I’m totally ignorant of the way things work, it’s just that I’m aware enough of the hundreds of tiny parts I could potentially ruin because I have no knowledge of it. But my mechanic told me I could change the battery myself. It’s easy. Negative, Positive, Post – Post, Positive, Negative. As long as I remember that order, I’ll be fine.
So I went to the local repair shop and bought a ‘fricken heavy’ battery! Holy crap those things weight a ton! Thankfully my mom had driven me there, otherwise I never would have gotten it all the way home. Wow.
Cautiously I opened my hood and peered in. There it was. The battery, all crusted and old. And it was pretty easy to figure out. Positive, Negative and post. They were all right there. All I needed was a wrench. And because I’ve been fixing my bike, I had the necessary tools.
I got my hands absolutely covered in grime. I mean black. But I carefully did negative, positive and the post. It was disconnected. I reached in to pull out the ‘fricken heavy’ battery from it’s awkward position, and put it to the side. I slide the new one into place, thinking I should start hitting the gym to build up my upper body strength. I struggled with the post a little because that thing is meant to be tight. I screwed it all in as best I could, doing the negative last once more. I was afraid of the new battery. The old battery was dead, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t accidentally electrocute myself, but the new battery was full-juiced. Everything went fine though, and I was looking at my new battery.
Moment of truth. I got in the car, put the key in the ignition, and right away things started to light up. I had power. The car started extremely easily.
Holy crap, I seriously just did work on my own car successfully!
I know that changing a battery isn’t like building an engine form scratch, but I’m used to being afraid to do things by myself. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to fix my bike myself. I’m always afraid I’m going to screw something up. But I’m learning that I’m fully capable of figuring things out. I can get through foreign airports where nothing is in English. I can think through an unfortunate event calmly and figure it out. I can figure out what’s wrong with my car and maybe fix it myself. I can do this.
That small event gave me such confidence. My hands covered in grease and a smile on my face, I felt strong. I am capable. I can do this. I am smart enough and strong enough to face the world without fear. Today was just a car I conquered. Tomorrow I’ll face something else.