- Cold weather starting, batteries n' wires - | A fun story of mythical creatures and your car | Batteries n' Wires http://www.edsanders.com By: Ed Sanders E-Mail: email@example.com Warning! This story is incomplete. Auto repair, while fun and economical, can be dangerous. There is no way we can warn you of each and every hazard. How can we tell you that while installing a hub cap, don't smoke and have a bucket of gas nearby? Don't wear jewelry around car batteries or wires. If you have no common sense, stop reading! If you have some, invest in a shop manual and read the warnings in the front of before you proceed to follow any advice given here. The battery is what supplies the power to start your car. It's a chemical storage tank for electrons. We'll refer to these electrons as "Little Ralphies". From now on, we'll refer to the battery as the "Little Ralphie House". When you turn the ignition key to start your car, most of the Little Ralphies are sent to your starter. The starter is an electric motor that has a gear on one end of the shaft. This gear slides along the shaft so it can mechanically connect the starter motor to a thing called a ring gear on the engine. Some of the Little Ralphies are used to make this gear slide along the shaft to engage the gear. The thing that makes this happen is an electro-magnet, called a solenoid. At the same time, what Little Ralphies that are left run off to the ignition coil, through the distributor and plug wires to the spark plugs. The spark plugs make a spark which is supposed to ignite the gasoline vapors in the cylinder and make them burn. (Hence the term ignition key.) Why then, isn't an ignition key called a starter key? In the early days of cars, there was no starter. All the ignition key did was allow the Little Ralphies to go to the spark plugs. The driver or the driver's assistant was the "starter". A crank was inserted in the front of the engine and the person cranked! A lot less to go wrong, until the cranker got tired! Back to our modern winter. A LOT of things can go wrong when trying to start a cold engine today. First, the Little Ralphies have to get into the battery to be stored for starting. Your alternator makes the Little Ralphies. When your engine is running a belt transfers power from the engine to a pulley on the alternator. The alternator then turns, making Ralphies. Most of the Ralphies are sent around the car to make things like the lights, radio, horn, heater blower, windshield wipers, and a lot of other stuff work. The Ralphies that are left over are sent to the Little Ralphie House for use later. The next characters in our story are the Gremlins. The Gremlins are in a constant battle with the Ralphies. The Gremlins want to stop Ralphies from being made, from getting to the Ralphies House, from staying there, and from doing their job. The Ralphies travel around your car on a maze of paths. These paths are called the wiring harness. I think the reason it was named this is that when the automobile was replacing the horses, people were using terms that applied to horses and carriages for things that seemed similar in cars. Harnesses for horses transferred the power of the horse from the horse to whatever it was pulling, as a wiring harness transfers the eletrical power around the car. The horses' harnesses were often complicated mazes of black leather that only an expert could figure out. Wiring harnesses are wrapped in black tape or pass through black plastic tubing, and are even more complicated. In any event, the Gremlins lurk along these paths, and all over your car trying to stop the Ralphies. Sometimes the Gremlins employ their friends the Crudmakers to stop the Ralphies. The work of the Crudmakers is one of the most common things that will stop your car dead. It's also one of the easiest to fix or prevent. The Crudmakers are deathly afraid of grease, vaseline, baking soda, and some little purple rings you can get at most auto stores. Here we go off the subject again! Many people have believed that you can protect yourself from poisonous snakes by making a ring of rope around you before you go to sleep. Supposedly snakes won't cross a rope!? The first place the Crudmakers like to attack is at the doors of the Little Ralphie house. In common terms, these are the battery terminals. You can stop the Crudmakers by removing the Ralphie roads (the big wires that attach to the Ralphie house), and cleaning the inside of the Ralphie road ends, and the Ralphie terminals with a solution of baking soda and a old tooth bush. Be sure not to get any of the baking soda and water solution inside the Ralphie house. If you do, you'll ruin some of the Ralphie food, some of which is sulfuric acid, and starve some of your Ralphies. After cleaning put a couple of snake rings on the terminals (those purple rings), or coat the terminals and Ralphie road ends with grease or vaseline. Place the Ralphie road ends back on the Ralphie house terminals, and tighten the nuts that clamp them tight. Use Amsoil Heavy Duty grease, not petroleum grease here. Petroleum grease tends to emulsify water, which Crudmakers thrive on eventually. In order to do their work, the Ralphies have to run in circles around your car. If they can't make it all the way around the circles, they can't do their work. They run from the negative door of the Ralphie house down the Ralphie road to the body of your car and to the metal part of your engine. This is called the path to ground. If your starter won't work, and you've already killed the Crudmakers at the Ralphie doors, this is the next thing to check. You can tell your starter isn't working if you turn the ignition key to start and absolutely nothing happens, except for perhaps a 'click'. The fastest method to tell if the Ralphies are being held up on this path is with a set of jumper cables. (Portable Ralphie roads.) Connect the jumper cables to the negative terminal of the Ralphie house. The Negative terminal will be marked NEG, (-), or Negative. Be SURE you are NOT on the Positive terminal, or you're going to make some BIG sparks, and if there are gasoline vapors or starting fluid in the air, maybe an explosion! Connect the other end of the jumper cable to a part of the metal on the engine. The best spot is a lifting lug if you can find one, this is a piece of the engine that juts out with a hole in it. Try to start the engine. If the starter works, you know you have a bad ground. This means the Crudmakers have been at work where you can't see them easily, either in the Ralphie road (battery cable) or at the other end of it. You may need a new battery cable, or perhaps you can take it off at the other end of the engine and clean it with some sandpaper, Scotch Brite, or what have you. Don't use steel wool! The Crudmakers love it! I don't recommend the next troubleshooting procedure unless you're real familiar with the inner workings of cars. You can get yourself killed if you don't know what you're doing! This is where you check to see if the positive battery cable and connection to the starter is ok. If the engine is a standard shift, make SURE the transmission is in neutral. Make Sure the ignition switch is OFF, the emergency brake ON, and the tires blocked. If you have to jack up the car to get at the starter, make SURE it's securely on jack stands. Connect the jumper cable to the Positive terminal of the Ralphie house. Touch the other end to the starter motor terminal with great care not to touch ground (the surrounding metal). If the starter works, the battery cable is bad, or perhaps the ignition switch, or the Ralphie paths in between. Maybe the Crudmakers have been at work somewhere. These and many more problems can make themselves known in cold weather. They may have been there all along, but the presence of Jack Frost makes their effects known for several reasons. The Ralphies don't like to come out of the Ralphie house when it's cold. They'll use any excuse they can find to stay home.If they encounter any Gremlins or Crudmakers that they might have overcome in warmer weather, they just say the heck with it and go home when it's cold. If the Ralphie house is real old, there might not be many Ralphies there. Ralphies are lazy, and they need to be pushed to make them work. The thing that pushes them is called current. The current is measured in Amperes, referred to as amperage, or Amps. We'll call them Ampies. If there aren't enough Ampies to push the lazy Ralphies, your car won't start. In the summer it doesn't take many Ampies and Ralphies to start your car. In the winter, it can take a lot. Remember I said most of the Ralphies have to get to your starter motor to spin the engine? The Ralphies that are left over from this task have to get to the spark plugs to cause the fuel to burn. In the winter the Ralphies don't want to go out anyway, and there are less Ampies in the Ralphie house to kick them out. (Some of the Ampies go south when it gets cold). If you have petroleum oil in your engine, it gets thick when it's cold, like molasses. It takes a lot of Ampies, pushing a lot of Ralphies to make the starter spin an engine against this thick goo. Even if it does spin the engine, there might not be enough Ralphies and Ampies left over to make Sparkies at the spark plugs. Liquid gasoline dosen't ignite very well. The injectors or carburator are supposed to change the liqiud gasoline from a liquid to a vapor, which ignites easily. When It's cold out, the gasoline doesn't want to turn into a vapor. This of all times is when you need strong Sparkies to make the gas burn. If you have Amsoil Synthetic oil in your engine, less Ampies and Ralphies will be needed to spin the motor, so more will be able to make Sparkies. The Ralphie house will usually last longer too as it won't be used as much. For AMSOIL info, go to my home page or E-Mail me. http://www.edsanders.com/amsoil/
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