It Had to be Dragged . ..

  • December 30, 2023

This is an update – a final report – about the issue I experienced with a new car (2024 Dodge Hornet) I was test driving last week. It should have been a small issue, easily dealt with.

Just a dead battery.

And not even that, actually. The battery in this car was merely a little weak. For whatever reason (and we’ll get into that shortly) its charge was less than the 12 volts  most modern cars won’t start without. More about this, here. Anyhow, the fix – or so I thought – was to charge up the battery or replace it. As it turns out, that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

The car had to be flat-bedded to the dealer to deal with it.

According to the service advisor at the dealership – which I visited to try to get what I assumed was the secret series of tapping the “panic” or “lock/unlock” buttons on the key fob – or some similar process necessary to get the car’s computer to recognize the battery, and to recognize I wasn’t trying to steal the car – once the car’s computer registers a voltage fluctuation it can (and did) trigger a cascading series of electronic apoplexy that renders the car undriveable.

It is an issue that cannot be dealt with by the owner or even by roadside assistance (we tried that, too). The vehicle must be taken – that is, hauled – to a dealer, where the  Big Time Cray-type supercomputer equipment that is the only way to reboot the computer is on hand. And that is where the little Dodge is. It is where it will sit, too, for at least several days – because the dealer is back-up with other work that’s ahead in the queue.

You cannot – as the saying goes – make this shit up.

Mind, all this over a weak/dead battery. Something as simple – or used to be – as changing a flat tire. It is now something elaborate that you cannot do anything about when it happens – other than call someone to come drag the vehicle to the dealer.

My friend the professional mechanic says “most people don’t change their batteries anymore” and that’s probably so. But now they can’t even have someone else (who isn’t a dealer) change it for them. Car won’t start?

Call a truck!

The question naturally arises: What is the benefit of this – to the car owner, that is? Does a hypersensitive, elaborately overteched new car such as the ’24 Hornet start better than a 2000 Charger, say? Well, the Charger sure starts up easier if you have to replace its battery – which is something almost literally anyone is capable of doing. The job typically involves loosening two clamps and a hold-down bracket that keeps the battery in place.

Well, that’s all it used to involve.

Now, it involves much more. And it’s not just this Dodge. It is important to state that this is how they all are now. Do not assume you can just replace the battery when the car won’t start. Or even that you can trickle charge it, if it’s a little weak (that’s all I did).

That brings up another question – one my friend the professional mechanic had an answer for. How is it that a brand-new 2024 model year car (presumably, with a brand-new battery) could already have a weak battery?

And the answer  – drum roll, please! –  is that there is a draw on the battery. From a second (auxiliary) battery. The latter is a small one that is apparently a component of the engine stop-start “technology” that shuts off the engine automatically whenever the car isn’t moving and then restarts it when the driver takes his foot off the brake/pushes down on the accelerator pedal. If ASS comes on/off often enough, it can deplete the main battery enough to weaken it such that the engine won’t start – triggering the cascading apoplexy that led (in my case) to a flatbed-hauling to the dealer.

This is what comes of turning cars into devices. They glitch. And when they do, what are you going to do?

Call a truck is what.

. . .

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