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Upon the purchase of a new (to me) vehicle, practice changing a flat tire and jump starting the battery . . . BEFORE it's an emergency.


What prompted this was my son's car, a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt. One minute before I'm leaving for work, he tells me his battery's dead.

Sighing heavily, I put down my laptop case and get the jumper cables. Since I jump a battery about twice a decade, I check my Hayne's Suburban manual on the proper way to hook up the cables:

On the working vehicle, hook up the red cable to the positive pole and the black cable to the engine block. On the dead vehicle, hook the black cable to the negative pole of the battery and the red cable to the positive pole.

We pop the hood of his car and . . .

Where's the battery?

"It's in the trunk, Dad," my son says, rolling his eyes at how stupid his old man can be.

"Oh, okay. So pop the trunk."

"I can't. The button doesn't work."

I push the trunk release button. Sure enough, it needs battery power to operate. If your battery is dead, it can't provide the power to gain access to the battery.

"Open it with your key."

"I can't, Dad. It's stuck in the ignition."

I try. Sure enough, the key won't come out of the ignition. I presume this is a security feature of some kind? Say, if a scoundrel steals your car battery, he can't also take your key out of the ignition. Mwah-hah-hah, evil doers!

I suppose we could use a spare key to manually open the trunk. But guess what? The car only came with a single key.

This is sort of becoming comical, except I'm late for work and I'm trying to figure out how to defeat all these high-tech security systems to gain access to my own freaking car while standing in twenty-degree weather.

There's gotta be a way to jump a dead battery! I open the hood again--thankfully THAT doesn't take battery power to pop the hood open! Next to a black cover panel is a red plug with a positive symbol. My son says, "That could be a second battery!"

I've never heard of a car with two batteries, but what do I know? We pry off the cover--nothing but fuses and circuitry. Besides, there's no negative pole anywhere.

We give up. I go to work, he calls AAA, and waits.

When I get to work, I hit Google. And Google tells me that the way to jump start a 2010 Chevy Cobalt is to hook up your red cable to the red positive plug and the black cable to the dead car's engine block. Exactly the opposite of what my Hayne's manual tells me to do. I text my son what I found out, but by that time the AAA wrecker has arrived. He jumps the car in five minutes and silently thanks the Maker for idiot drivers and the job security they provide.

Yep, they don't make 'em like they used to.
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