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Do you know about cars? I don't & need some help

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#1 PEART10

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 12:48 PM

Dear Authors and Automotive Experts,

 

    So my character is running away (via car) and stops at a rest stop to sleep. When he wakes up he finds his car doesn't work. In modern cars (let's say a 2004 Honda Accord) does this still happen? My thought was that since he sped for hours to get away from his hometown something happened to his car, and while it was running it was fine, but when he parked it for the night the car wouldn't be able to restart. 

    Anyone know what could cause this? If so, are there symptoms that one could hear/see/feel when attempting to start the car? Would the hood just be hot even if parked overnight?

    My character is "saved" by his soon-to-be romantic interest who doesn't know much about cars, but knows how to jump start one. Unfortunately, they do it wrong and the battery explodes. My internet research wasn't super clear about whether or not this actually can still happen. Apparently it used to be able to, but modern cars are equipped with preventative measures. 

    I know NOTHING about cars (and neither does my main character). The only thing I can do is change a flat, and only because I changed like 5 of them in college. When people pop the hood of a car I could essentially be looking at a a lawnmower engine and have no idea. 

 

Thanks!

 

 

    



#2 Lanette Kauten

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 03:27 PM

Could be a problem with the alternator, battery, or maybe even the starter. As far as jumping the battery, I don't think they blow up anymore. There'll be sparks if the person using them switches the cables, but it won't blow up.



#3 Russell

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 03:27 PM

Hiya Peart10. Most of my expertise extends to cars during the late 60s and 70s. I grew up on my grandfather's farm where he had a lift. I was doing #2 details on older cars and other maintenance work. Mostly muscle cars (Ford and Chevy specifically).

 

What you seem to describe is that the battery seems to have died. Well I will let you know that if you leave the car overnight it will cool down and no longer be hot. This is key for when working on the radiator, which if the engine was running for a bit the steam can burn your face (so many warnings by my dad and grandfather on that one). Whenever doing maintenance on those sections, or on the car in general, best to do it when its cooled down overnight.

 

A lot of times when the battery gets old it develops a white crusty substance over the battery terminals. When this type of corrosion (due to electrical resistance and is normal for cars not cleaned properly or kept up on maintenance) happens, fixing that is as simple as wiping it off. Technical term for this is sulfation. Keep in mind that the white powder (lead sulfate) is EXTREMELY toxic. Do NOT touch it. If you do, rinse your hands for 15 minutes and have someone call your local poison control. Trickle charging a battery will prevent further build up. As well you will have to fix the leak on the battery case that allowed acid rain to come into contact with the battery terminals.

 

Now an explosion of the battery typically occurs by overcharging it. This happens with any lead acid battery. Also, your theory on whether a battery can explode when crossing the cable during jump starting (not putting them in the right terminal) can cause a battery to explode. This is due to the hydrogen gas (released by the lead acid, hence the name acid) being ignited by the sparks.



#4 Russell

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 03:32 PM

Also, would like to note: I have had the small 9 volt batteries explode on me in the past (did not use the right resistor in the electrical circuit). They are filled with little cylinders that contain the actual mechanism of the battery. The casing of the 9 volt battery connects them in a circuit. However, the build up of heat from high electrical resistance and release of water vapor inside of the battery is what caused the battery to explode. Sounds like a gunshot.



#5 thom71gt

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 07:52 AM

I can assure you that car batteries can still explode. I can tell you this from personal experience. However, it is quite rare these days. If it's a Honda, several things could happen to make the car not start.  You could have the main wire from the coil come off. The coil is what generates spark. It sends the electrical current through the wires to all of the spark plugs. If the plugs aren't getting a spark, then the car will just crank and crank and never fire up. It will eventually get flooded from all of the fuel going into all of the cylinders.

 

The alternator is what charges the battery. While the car is running, many components still run off the battery, the coil that generates the spark, the lights, fan motor, blower motor, radio, etc....   The alternator charges the battery while the car is running. If the alternator is bad, then the battery will eventually lose it's charge and then the car won't start. An alternator can be tested once the car is started by either looking at the volt gauge in the car, or by putting a volt meter on both of the battery terminals to see the output. The battery is a 12 volt battery, but while the car is running, the gauge or volt meter should read 14 volts.

 

I had an 89 Prelude and one time the rotor came off and the car died. It wouldn't start. I removed the rotor cap, put the rotor back on and replaced the cap. It fired back up. Don't know if the newer honda's have rotors or not. Everything is electronic.  

 

I'd probably go with the coil wire or a bad alternator.



#6 PEART10

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 09:59 AM

Thank you all! This is so helpful!!! 



#7 Eli Ashpence

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 11:55 AM

I had this happen a while back (not the runaway part or the explosion part, but the stopped working all of a sudden part).  Turns out my battery needed water.  There's a cap on the top that pops off, and you can refill the water to re-liquify the battery acid if it dries out.

Now, if someone had already put a powdered explosive in there or something, then adding water could make it go kaboom... I guess.

 

A quick web search found this from '99: http://articles.lati...26/news/hw-3902


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#8 Qwijebo

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 08:37 AM

If it's a standard, it'd be very easy to start it even with a dead battery, one need only to give it a push, preferably down a slope, jump in and then stick it into second gear, popping the clutch. Another way is to add some electrolites into the battery, water is good, but so is urine.



#9 thom71gt

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 08:47 AM

"If it's a standard, it'd be very easy to start it even with a dead battery, one need only to give it a push, preferably down a slope, jump in and then stick it into second gear, popping the clutch."

 

-- I've done that a bunch of times.  Gotta love a manual. :)



#10 Robin Breyer

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:24 AM

If your story relies on the car running fine and then not starting after sitting, some combination of alternator/battery will be your best bet. If it is the alternator, the car will not run, even if you jump it because there is no power to charge the battery to keep it running. You can jump a car with a dead battery because a functioning alternator will provide all the power you need to drive around. Usually when the alternator dies, there are warning lights. When the battery dies, there is nothing to warn you, just your car won't start. Had that happen recently and the car just clicked, wouldn't turn over. It sounded like the starter wasn't engaging.

 

I have no idea about batteries exploding, but if there was something wrong besides the power systems (alternator and battery) that were preventing the car from running, such as a clogged fuel filter, bad gas gauge (so there is not gas), short in the fuel injection system, short in the ignition system, bad starter, etc, then by jumping it you could overcharge the battery. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a car, especially if it isn't new or if it has been treated rough, that might look like a dead battery, but really be something else.


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#11 DHTSFWriter

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 11:57 PM

Yes, batteries draining still happens. Maybe in his extreme emotional state he forgot to turn of the lights.



#12 Russell

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 12:24 AM

I remember one time when my Jeep wouldn't start. Turned out I had by accident hit the gas pedal while getting into the car, flooded the engine. Had to wait in the lovely 20 degree temperature for about 15 minutes for it to dissipate. That was definitely a lovely winter night.



#13 thom71gt

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 06:05 AM

"I remember one time when my Jeep wouldn't start. Turned out I had by accident hit the gas pedal while getting into the car, flooded the engine. Had to wait in the lovely 20 degree temperature for about 15 minutes for it to dissipate. That was definitely a lovely winter night."

 

When that happens, just mash the pedal all the way to the floor and try to start it.  That clears it up.  You wouldn't of had to wait for 20 minutes.  :)



#14 Russell

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:51 PM

Haha, I will remember next time.



#15 PEART10

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 09:08 AM

This is really fascinating. I am super glad I don't own a car at the moment, otherwise I'd be PARANOID!  Thanks so much for the help everyone. 



#16 DHTSFWriter

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 03:05 PM

"I remember one time when my Jeep wouldn't start. Turned out I had by accident hit the gas pedal while getting into the car, flooded the engine. Had to wait in the lovely 20 degree temperature for about 15 minutes for it to dissipate. That was definitely a lovely winter night."

 

When that happens, just mash the pedal all the way to the floor and try to start it.  That clears it up.  You wouldn't of had to wait for 20 minutes.  :)

 

How old is that jeep? I didn't think that could happen in today's cars. The gas pedal is not connected to a throttle assembly anymore but to a potentiometer( something like the volume control on a TV). When you press it, you send electrical commands to a computer to increase or decrease speed. 



#17 Russell

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 07:39 PM

Old jeep cherokee, forget the year model. Think it was mid or late 1990s. Was my first car and was handed down to me by my pops. Sold it about eight years ago.



#18 fabb1963

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 03:14 AM

If you want to keep it easy, have the character fill the tank at some remote old gas station and the quality of gas plugged the fuel filter and the car refuses to start.  Also, 2004 Hondas have a immobilizer system is recognizing your key.  If the character in the story has a key that is not the Master key if could affect it.  But then you would have to explain how the car got to the rest stop with the key working...maybe the character dropped and damage the key.  For reference to fix this problem, to re-initializing your immobilizer, you usually try it in the driver's door. Lock, then unlock, repeated three times. The key's energy source is derived from placing it in the ignition cylinder for a minute or so. If  a backup key is used in these model cars, it sometimes takes the immobilizer system a while to recognize it.


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#19 tabs

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 10:19 AM

cars stop working all the time with no warning.  you could say he saw some green liquid under his car before he left, then drove all the way w/o any coolant.  by the time he stops hes fried the engine.  or say how his oil lights been on for a few weeks now and that hes been meaning to check it out, maybe once he gets to where hes going.  that would fry it too



#20 marialberg

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 09:16 PM

I agree battery and/or alternator best bet, but don't forget spark plugs and distributor cap, also belts. Depending on make and model a timing belt can ruin your engine by snapping at just the moment you start the car and then trying to drive. It's not a normal occurance, but not impossible.






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