The Battery Goes Where?

For twenty years I have traded one Buick for another.

Talk about brand loyalty!

I love that they feel solid, spacious, comfortable.  And combined with gas mileage that is advertised at 28 mpg but that I often find gets closer to 30, what is there not to love?

Then one morning I got up to discover that the battery was dead.  I knew this for fact because there was just enough battery left to tell me through the diagnostics window that my battery was dead.  It’s great at telling me things after the fact – not so good at nudging me when they are close to going – such as suggesting I check tire pressures when one is already flat against the ground.

I raised the hood and called for my husband to come out to the garage.  I can still see the two of us in my mind, looking down into the thick mechanical structure of this massive machine.  And even though I actually knew what a battery looked like, I couldn’t find it.  Neither could he.

I suggested looking in the owner’s manual, which is blasphemy to some male egos.

My husband was certain he didn’t need help finding the battery and was busy taking apart the trunk.  There had to be a battery in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, I slipped into the glove compartment and retrieved the manual.

“It says it is under the seat,” I chimed.

“I’m looking behind the seat and it isn’t there,” husband answered, a swath of carpet from the floor of the trunk laying against the side of the car.

“No – not behind it – UNDERNEATH it!”

He looked at me as though I had grown tentacles and had begun to speak a foreign language.  “That’s a solid bench seat,” he retorted.

“I’m just telling you what it says.  We have to take the entire bottom of the back seat out.  Look!” I said, holding the manual out to him.

He hates moments like this.  He never reads instructions, counts the parts of a project, or looks at manuals.  Once when putting together a swing for our son, he tried to make two metal ends fit into each other for close to an hour.  I picked up the instructions, read the part about soaping the slightly smaller end, and slipped them together as easily as plugging in a cord to a socket.

But we needed to find the darn battery.  So he looked at the manual and grasped one side of the seat while I pulled on the other, and low and behold the whole bottom of the bench just popped out revealing the battery and a another thing or two that wasn’t of particular interest to me at that time.

Fast forward to Wednesday evening – the day before yesterday.  It was one of those hot, humid, southern days that feels like summer even if the calendar says it is still spring.  I ran the air conditioner as I stopped for things like filling up the gas tank, picking up some garden supplies, stopping at the office supply for ink and paper, etc.

I backed into the garage, and began unloading the items from the floor board, smelling something terrible as soon as I got my nose close to the back seat.  My husband asked me to pop the trunk lid and began to unload the huge bag of potting soil, and he too noticed the ‘burning’ smell coming from the trunk.

“Did you get your brakes hot?” he asked.

We popped the hood and found nothing smelly there, so we assumed it was brakes and went about the usual business of caring for the animals and fixing dinner.  I drove the car yesterday.  It still had an odor.  By the afternoon I realized that the air conditioner wasn’t working.  It came on, but the fan wasn’t blowing.

Aha!  I have found the burining smell I thought and took it to the dealership for repairs.

My son picked me up and a little later the technician called me.  He wasn’t really sure what the problem with the fan was, but the bigger problem seemed to be that the entire fuse block had been smoldering and melted through the casing and into the foam underneath the back seat.

“I can’t really explain why this didn’t catch fire.  You are seriously lucky to have escaped without having a major blaze here.”

Those words didn’t really sink in.  He couldn’t have the parts to repair it until Monday, so in my ignorance I asked if I should come and get it and bring it back then.

“Absolutely not!  I wouldn’t be comfortable with it leaving the lot,” he replied.  “You should come by and look at the bottom of the seat.  Please.”

That’s when it dawned on me how close I came to disaster.  And last night, I felt so odd as I realized the battery was on one side of the smoldering fuse block and the full gas tank on the other.  One spark could have blown up the back end.

I suppose we all live with the tight wire of disaster holding us just above the fall.  But at times like these, I think the essence of the preciousness of life flashes into our minds like never before.

Was it divine intervention, luck, fate, or just coincidence that kept me safe?  Who can say for sure?  But I’m feeling pretty lucky and extremely thankful right now.  Which I suppose I should enjoy because after I get the bill for the repairs, I may feel differently.

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  1. Good Lord! What a horror story! (Will you keep stll be loyal to your “brand” ?)

  2. I’m so glad this didn’t turn into a disaster! I really want Alex to just take the cars to the shop. This macho “don’t need any stinkin’ directions” can be asking for so much trouble! Scary business!

  3. What is with this hide-the-battery-under-the-seat thing? Things may change in the world, but is there no respect for tradition at all? You open the hood and there is the battery, as things SHOULD be.

    Any way, I’m glad you got it into the dealer while it was still a burning smell and not a conflagration.

    1. And people are telling me that their batteries are in other weird places. I wonder if they think it will eliminate corrosion on the cables, or if they just want a tow bill because the darn battery can’t be found.Yikes.

  4. So very glad that there will not be a hospital bill to go along with the car repair bill.

    Years ago I had a volkswagon beetle with the battery under one of the seats. The sensibility of the location has not improved with time.

  5. Oh my goodness: I’m going with divine intervention, and thankful for it. That was a close one. The last car I had, the front driver’s side tire had to be removed to change the battery. True. Hopefully the bill won’t cause you to faint when you get it!

    1. Dianna, someone else told me that their battery was underneath a wheel rim. What in the world is going on with the placement of batteries in our automobiles?

    1. Very wise words indeed. Nothing is more important than one’s health. And a car fire can be disastrous for not only the one inside, but the people trying to extinguish the flames. Thanks.

  6. So glad you’re ok! Nothing like such moments to put things into perspective, even if it’s after the fact.

  7. Gah!! Thank God! I am shocked that this happened, by the way–sounds like a design flaw!

  8. This is why I don’t get an American car. Frightening. This is also why I believe in God…and put my trust in Him. Your Guardian angel was watching over you. When we see cars burning on the sie of the road…it may be due to something like this. Horrible. Please be careful with this car. This is a defect…it should have been repaired or recalled until it was repaired. Product liability…problems. Thanks for sharing. What’s the year and the type of Buick? I will make sure to WARN people about this.

    1. Guardian Angel indeed. I’m waiting to hear what they think caused the fuse block meltdown. As soon as I know, I’ll tell you what to warn about. I’m not ruling out that it could be something on my end. I once had chipmunks steal birdseed and ‘store’ it in the breather. And I leave the garage door up a smidge so that my dog can come and go as she pleases. So it’s possible that a wire got chewed or something else got stopped up. I should know the first of the week.

  9. That is just scary. Talk about a close call, my heart would have been in my mouth. Thank God you and your family are OK. Whew!

  10. Whoa. Scary. Any hope for defective part or warranty?
    Dogs don’t chew on cars usually – but mice and rats do and can cause big problems.
    I’d be looking for a simple design car with mechanical stuff where it should be…manufacturers seem to be designing for their convenience and cost cutting measures – not the owners’ safety and maintenance?
    Scary. HUGS!

  11. Wow, that was a close one! So glad you are safe! The close calls can really make you think, and make you appreciate living. What a great response…looking on the bright side and feeling grateful for your safety rather than ranting about the problem. That’s a sure sign of a healthy outlook on life…not surprising, coming from you! ~ Sheila

    1. Thanks Sheila. I do feel lucky that it wasn’t worse and that it was discovered before becoming a full blaze. I appreciate the compliment on my outlook toward life. No rantings today.

  12. Talk about close call, Renee! That sounds horrible! I’m so glad you’re okay and I’m glad the mechanic had the sense to tell you NOT to pick up the car. I think your story is a good lesson for all of us.

    1. Yes, I’m starting to think I should have titled it – Do you Know where Your Battery is Located? People have shared some strange places for batteries.

  13. Certainly a major dose of life that calls for gratitude! Phew. Thank goodness you didn’t have to experience such a horrendous happening.

    Congrats on being the Blog of the Week on Arindam’s site. Well done.

  14. Renee, thank goodness for divine intervention! I’m so glad you’re okay! I think fear sets when we realize what could have happened. This post serves to remind us that when something smells weird, it generally means something is wrong. And that we should listen to our mechanic! 🙂

  15. You are so right Bella. I should have listened to my nose from the very beginning. At least I did before it was too late. And it’s hard to stop the chatter at night when the house gets quiet and I wonder what could have happened had it caught fire.

  16. Good grief what a close call! It always amazes me the things these manufactures do. Some times they just don’t think ahead when building things to see what the consequences would be if something were to go wrong! Dude never reads instructions either or asks for directions. I think it’s something missing on the male gene 🙂

    1. And from the replies, I think they have all gone out of their way to find hiding places for things that should be straight forward. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with a man who feels he doesn’t need instructions.

  17. My nameless man always pops the trunk and looks around inside like he knows what he is doing. He stands there looking…like that will fix it. He isn’t kidding anyone as we are both aware he doesn’t even know how to change the windshield wiper fluid. After the obligatory 12 minute stare under the hood he just says, “I can’t see the problem. We better call CAA”. I am willing to wait that 12 minutes just so long as he never touches anything. 😉

  18. Wow. That’s a close call. I thought this was going to be a funny post about the different ways that men and women solve problems. It took quite a left turn. Glad you had lady luck on your side.

  19. So thankful for your safety, Renee! I have a Buick, but my battery is under the hood–where it belongs! lol I have heard of it being under the rear seat in some cars. I’m a GM girl, too; though I favored Oldsmobiles until they stopped making them.

    1. Believe it or not, the car I traded for the first Buick was an Oldsmobile Toronado. Remember those? Boat sized and no transmission hump in the front? Loved it!

  20. Very, very scary. We have two Toyota’s and really like them. All cars have their “special” problems. I’m very surprised at the placement of the battery by the gas tank. That doesn’t make sense.

    Glad you had no catastrophic issues, my friend.

  21. writingfeemail, I’m so sorry to hear you experienced this! I’m happy you’re alright, and please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime if you’d like me to follow-up on concerns for you or if you have any lingering questions after consulting with your dealership further. Hopefully, though, your Buick can be home, safe and sound, quickly!


    Katie, GM Customer Service
    (GM Social Media Team)

    1. Thank you Katie. I’m impressed with your response and with my dealership. I am indeed back on the road and will take strange smells seriously from now on.

  22. You have me smile, to imagine you & your husband in these situations – I’m thinking of him making the swing & trying to join two metal rods!!

    Actually, I breeze over manuals because they are all pictures these days, but I must admit, I don’t count the parts either. I imagine doing it as I look at the pics, & then I set to task. Your husband sounds lovely/funny 🙂

    I do actually believe in perservance of a life by Divine intervention. I actually believe I have experienced Divine intervention re Daniel & me. You’re right though “who can say”, & it’s open to interpretation/belief, but I have to admit, I said “Thank God”.

    I really enjoyed this post – cheers!

  23. Beautiful writing. I can see you and your husband working through these car issues — sounds like you are a great pair. And yes! I agree — what a lucky strike to have escaped the catastrophe that could have been. I enjoyed your humorous take on this scary situation.

  24. I had a Toyota van in the late 1980s that had the battery under the driver’s seat. I don’t know what the logic of that was, but it never turned out to be a convenience. I had to unlock and tip the seat back to check the oil, too.

    Great post, Renee. I especially liked this: “It’s great at telling me things after the fact – not so good at nudging me when they are close to going – such as suggesting I check tire pressures when one is already flat against the ground.”

    I’m glad you’re both okay.

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