How to fix your car’s stupid electrical problems

This has happened three times already, but this time I fixed it. This is especially important if you drive an old car that has no insurance on it, aside from required insurance that says that if you hit someone and kill him or injure him with your car for any reason, you can charge the bill to other people that have nothing to do with it.

So about 5 years ago my car wouldn’t start. I took it to the musach (garage) and the clip around the battery terminal was loose. He fixed it for free and I drove off. I could have done it myself. I just didn’t check.

Then about 3 years ago we were at Ikea in Netanya, and I tried to start the car but I heard sparks and fire. So I quickly shut it off and opened the hood. I was too scared to start it again, so we called the grar, the tow truck guy, who could only come the next day. We ended up getting a ride back with some random guy in a big van and I lost my backpack and earphones that day. That was annoying.

The next morning he tried to start it too and saw one of the wires caught fire. There’s this group of three wires in some kind of six-holed electrical breadboard thing. They are each covered with rubber casing, as wires tend to be. The middle wire was bare, so when the car started, the wire caught fire. I had it towed to the nearest garage and the mechanic was very busy, but looked at my car anyway, and immediately gave me a new 10 shekel wire to put in the middle. That’s about $2.60 or so. That was it.

This past May the car wouldn’t start again. Every time I’d try to start it the clock would reset. But I could pop the clutch and roll it down a hill and get it started. I checked the battery terminals to see if the clips were loose. They weren’t. I spent the whole weekend rolling the thing down hills to start it with a lot of near stalls. We finally got home from Zichron Yakov, where we were staying with my father and brother who had just moved in. I got it to my local garage, and the electrician found that the port connecting the battery clips to the wires was loose. So he tightened them for free. That was it. I could have done that myself.

Then, just before I left for the US (I am now back) I got my car fixed for the yearly government test. I got it back just in time for my wife to do her pickups, but it stalled randomly with kids in the car. This time it wouldn’t start even by popping the clutch. But there would be a long start, just no full engine start. Clearly the battery was fine. We called a tow truck, again, who took the car a few blocks to the garage. When the car got off the truck, I tried it one more time. This time it started just fine.

I was pissed. The garage people told me that there was nothing wrong with the car. So I drive it two blocks home.

We get back from the US and we go shopping for food. A hard right turn and the car stalls, same thing, kids in the car, Friday before Shabbat. I disconnect and reconnect the battery, and it starts. On the way back, it dies again. Same thing, won’t start by rolling either. Long start, but no engine run. I disconnect and reconnect the battery again because it worked last time. It starts.

Then we get home, thank God, and on Sunday night I have to go to a neighbor’s house to sign some checks and give some receipts over. I try to start the car, but same thing. Won’t start. It’s dark, but I open the hood anyway, and remember the wire thing from Ikea, and check if they are all securely in the six-holed breadboard thing. I see one of them hanging loose, barely touching the terminal but clearly not in. So I stick it in. And the car starts.

The reason the car kept vacillating between starting and dying is the wire, by inertia, kept moving and either touching the metal terminal or disconnecting, just by the movement of the car. Which is why the big right turn killed the car. The reason I “fixed” it twice was probably just the force of the hood shutting or the serendipity of me moving wires around had moved it enough that it accidentally touched the terminal again.

So an hour ago I take the loose wire out, take some pliers and bend the metal so it catches the terminal more snugly and won’t move out. The same exact wire that the guy had replaced for 10 shekels.

And now the car works fine.

So, if you think you have a stupid electrical problem, first check the battery terminal clips and tighten them.

Then check the battery terminal connection to the wires leading out and tighten those.

Then check that breadboard with six holes and make sure all the wires are securely in there.

If none of that works, you probably need a new battery or fuse.


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