Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Last month I took our car to the dealership for "A Service", which amounts mostly to changing the oil. Mid-morning, the agent called and listed some additional work the agent suggested. I agreed to all, until she got to replacing the battery, which would have cost $200. That I thought exorbitant.

On Saturday morning, returning from another errand, I stopped at AutoZone. The battery prices suggested that my savings would be less than I thought. I left with a $140 battery. Still, ignoring the time standing in line, and the time spent changing the battery, I figured to clear $60. Replacing the battery did not take long.

However, this model of car has anti-theft logic for the sound system: wholly removing power will leave the readout with an "enter code" display. This requires that one enter a five-digit code with the presets. One has ten tries to get it right, after which one must take the car to a dealership. We could not find the code. We found one for the previous car, which I tried on the ground that it was in with some other material for the new car. Of course it did not work. With no better ideas left, we went running.

While running, both of us thought where the card might be. It was there, and I tried it. It also did not work. I went to the company website to confirm it: it was correct. Yet it did not work. I suspected a bug in the technology.

On Sunday morning, a bit of looking on the internet suggested that interference from the FM radio might prevent recognition of the code. The remedies suggested were to disconnect the antenna, or to enter the code in an underground parking garage. The antenna work did not sound like something I could do cleanly. We drove to Columbia Heights first, where the garage wasn't deep enough, but where my wife picked up a shower curtain. Then we drove to a lot in Friendship Heights, where we continued to the fourth level underground. There the code worked the first time.

From the $60 savings, I deduct $3.70 in parking garage costs. There was also the matter of a couple of hours spent looking for the card and driving to the garages. On the credit side, we got rid of a certain amount of useless paper from the glove compartment--old registrations and insurance cards, etc. Still, next time I think we'll have the dealership change the battery.


  1. Your experience reminds of why I loved my ‘51 Ford, which I owned in the mid-‘60s; it was simple to fix, even by a dunce like me, and it was a mighty fortress on the road. Ah, the good old days.

    1. I don't really regret the old cars: they were dangerous, they often had terrible gas mileage, etc. But as you say, a lot of what went wrong with them was more easily fixed. The AM radio was really fuzzy, but it didn't lock you out when you changed the battery.