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   water and car batteries?
Sunday, January 9 2011
A couple years ago when I had to buy a new battery for the Honda Civic, and, tired of having to buy a new battery every couple years, I'd bought the most expensive battery Autozone sells, which comes with a three year warranty. I was careful to save the receipt and put it in some place safe.
Well, two years have passed, and just like some sort of alarm clock going off, yesterday that damn battery didn't have enough juice to start the car. I went looking everywhere for the receipt, but naturally I couldn't find it. So then I had a different idea: I've bought a lot of car batteries over the years, but I've never thrown any of them away. What if the only thing wrong with the old car batteries was the level of water inside them? I don't really know how this hunch occurred to me, so I did some internet research.
When it comes to car batteries, it's hard to get a straight answer. Some sites claimed that all modern car batteries are "maintenance free" and adding water would be pointless. But then other sites described in detail how water was to be added, as if it was a routine thing that every suburban soccer mom knows to do. The batteries themselves didn't say one way or the other what sort they were, though amid all the inevitable cautionary verbiage, there was nothing saying that water should not be added. So I took one of the old batteries and added water to the cells that seemed depleted. Though even those cells looked like they had fluid in them, I managed to more than 12 ounces of water to the battery. I then charged it for several hours (by hooking it up to the 12 volt rail of a caseless PC that I mainly use for its power supply).
When I used the battery to start the Honda, there was a moment's hesitation and then it roared to life. That wasn't a good test; the battery wasn't fully charged and it was at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. More telling will be how it performs when it is cold and fully-charged. But for now I'm cautiously optimistic.
By the way, one is supposed to use distilled water when topping-off a battery. I didn't have any such water and was forced to use tap water. We draw our water from a well, but the layer of rock from which we get our water is relatively poor in dissolved salts such as calcium, so hopefully this won't cause too much trouble.

Just before Gretchen took the freshly-fixed Honda Civic out for the night, she complained that her computer (Badger) was crashing all the time. Usually such serious computer problems result in hours of diagnostics and repairs, but not in this case. I immediately suspected a memory issue, so I swapped memory sticks between it and a similar computer (the basement computer Aardvark), and, interestingly, both seemed to work. It's possible that the "bad" stick had been running just a little too fast in Badger. Or perhaps its contacts just needed to be exercised.

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