Car Thoughts II

Spent part of my weekend replacing the battery on the Stratus in hope that its starting problems are due to a dead cell and nothing more.

There are many reasons I’ve grown to dislike the vehicle, so I was surprised to get yet another: opening up the hood, I couldn’t find the battery. I could see a couple jump terminals (I’ve used them a few times now), but there was no battery in sight. And it’s not like a battery is easy to hide. It’s a big cubish block with big thick wires attached to it. Yet there I was, staring at the engine, helpless.

Now, understand that my mechanic skills — small though they are — were formed on Jeep CJs, those “classic” Jeeps where failure of the engine to start often meant the solenoid was stuck. (And the solution to a “frozen” solenoid, as everyone knows, is to take a hammer to it.) Under the hood of one of those CJs the battery is right there in the open, clear as daylight, easy to grip and rip. Same thing in my current LJ.

Not so in the Dodge Stratus. Tracing back the cables from the exposed jump terminals led me to a couple little holes in the driver’s side wheel well, a fact that sent me to the owner’s manual (insert comment about men not looking at the directions before taking action). Thus I found, at last, the battery: hidden behind a hard-to-remove wheel well fascia within a cramped cavity in the left front fender. Not only did I have to take this stupid fascia off, but ultimately I had to jack up the vehicle and remove the tire to replace the battery.

I’m still astonished.

And sore, actually. Squatting is hell on my knees these days, but the biggest problem was getting the lug nuts off. The last folks to mount the tires apparently did so with air tools. On top of that, the nuts were rusted to pink. Even with copious bolt-breaker sprayed atop ’em, I was nearing the limits of my strength to get them to start turning.

The verdict is out on whether all the misery was worth it, whether the problem was indeed the battery.

Oh, and the Nissan Versa has moved ahead of the Honda Fit in our lukewarm search for a replacement.

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