Learning With Maya, Episode 3: How to Fix That Dead Car Battery
By Maya Malan-Gonzalez
There are things people learn just in case. Just in case because you will probably need to know them at some point. Then there are people who learn things in the moment as the need comes up. When it comes to me and cars, I’m the latter.
This is my journey learning how to deal with a dead car battery ar the age of 28.
It’s a rainy morning when I drive over to meet Alexandra and Jessica at Casa Luna where we have our staff meetings, just around the corner from Studio Luna for a work session followed by a rehearsal for filming of The Times (Alexandra Meda is our fearless leader and one of my best friends). I’m driving my superbly adorable 1991 Dodge caravan. I love my minivan.
She came into my life two years ago when my grandfather moved from his house in San Diego into a senior community in Portland to be closer to my mother. After clearing out his house, we decided I should keep his minivan with 47,000 miles.
A little background on me:
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. A city that is known for great public transportation and empowered bicyclists. While most kids in the US get their driver's permit at 15 and a license at 16, that was not my high school experience or my sister’s or any of my friends really. If we needed to go somewhere we walked, we took the bus or we rode our bikes; a car just wasn’t necessary. So at the age of 26, I was inheriting my grandpa’s minivan, which meant I finally needed to get a driver’s license.
Honestly, I really don’t know shit about cars. I failed my drivers test three times... so it’s a miracle I drive and we’re all still alive. It is amazing how having a driver’s license and a car can be really empowering. You can go wherever you want, literally, just drive- be safe- but drive…. not too late at night, because…. bad vision….
Anyways, back to the story! I’m driving to meet some Lunas and it’s raining, like super hard, which makes things kinda dark and everyone driving has their lights on… so I turn my lights on. This feels funny to me, because living in Los Angeles, there are rarely mornings in which the weather makes it so dark people need to turn on their lights. By the time I get to Casa Luna the rain has let up a little and the sun is coming out. So I park my car and head inside to get to business. I notice my car’s beeping when I opened the door…. But I’m not a morning person, so I don’t really think about it.
Fast forward a few hours later when Jessica Perez (an awesome ensemble member, last seen in The Times) and I go to get in our cars to caravan to the studio.
I turn my key….
I knew instantly- that fucking beeping came blaring back to me. I turned that key again and again hoping I was crazy.
She was very dead- I killed her battery!
Jessica and I needed to get to the studio, so we would have to go back later to give my darling a jump. Luckily Jessica had jumper cables!
So here’s the crappy part.
And the part where I am in awe of how amazing my friends are.
After rehearsing at the studio Alex and I hop in Jessica’s car and we head back to Casa Luna where my minivan and her dead battery wait for us. It’s still raining when Jessica pulls her car up to the minivan, Alex grabs her phone to confirm steps and tells me to open the hood.
I’ll be honest, it took me a minute to find the little lever, then it was kinda hard to pull up, so Jessica came to the rescue and yanked that thing up.
When we open the hood I learn I have a light under my hood that turns on when you open it! I was super jazzed about this. But super confused looking inside that thing.
Both cars should be in parked. The red jumper cable connects on the good battery’s positive terminal and the other red cable goes to the dead battery’s positive terminal (It definitely took a second to find the label on my battery). Then with the other cable, connect it to the good car’s negative terminal and a piece of metal on the bad car (How to Jump Start a Car on Dummies.com suggests connecting to the metal strut that holds the hood open). Once you’re connected, run the good car’s engine for a few minutes…. Now for the real test, try starting your dead baby.
Terrible starter sounds are happening and no…. My minivan is not starting.
So we let Jessica’s car run a little more.
Then I try turning the key again… ay no bad sounds still.
So we let Jessica’s car run a little more.
It’s pouring rain by the way. Like hard. My dear friends are getting soaked.
I turn the key again and it’s like the car is telling me owwwwwwwwwwwww.
And there’s a slight burning smell…
Time for a new plan!!!!!!
The Other How:
If your partner has AAA, have them come to you and your dead car and call AAA!
Cue the arrival of Lakin and Mr. AAA.
AAA guy has this cute little generator with the two cords, he attaches them to the car like a pro (‘cause he is one), we hang out for a few minutes, then he tells me to start the car.
I turn the key and oh, the bad sound is still there!
Now at some point, someone asks me if I’ve been pressing the gas.
I’m like, “of course not”
And they’re like, “what? Why not?”
And I’m like, “WTF are you talking about, why would I press the gas? The car is in Park, aren’t I supposed to keep it in park???”
This is where I learn, if the car isn’t starting you give it a little gas when you turn the key in the ignition to basically give the engine like a shot of adrenaline. Otherwise if you keep turning the key with no gas, you might burn out the starter…. Hence that burning smell from earlier. Also, apparently you’re not supposed to turn the key for more than 3 seconds.
Success! This little gas dance brings new life to the minivan!
Once the car is on you’re not supposed to turn it off, drive around for at least 15 minutes, some people say 30.
Mr. AAA informs me that my battery is just over four years old and there’s a chance once I drive it back to my house and park it, the battery may just die again…. Or it could maybe last a week driving around, but eventually I’ll need to get a new battery. Ok… that sounds like a bitch. BUT WAIT! Mr. AAA can put in a new battery right now with a 6 year warranty! Thank you Lakin for being a AAA member. So bingo-bango, The minivan has a brand new battery!
Now I just need to get new windshield wipers so I don’t crash in the rain!
It’s really empowering learning about your car, but the most incredible part of all this was my amazing friends who stood in the POURING RAIN to try and help me and my awesome man for being on that AAA shit and coming to the rescue.
Really, in the end the most important lesson here is:
Always make sure your lights are off!
….Drive safe and check back in at the end of the month to see what I learn next!