Why didn't they tell me this during driving lessons?

Tags: real life, other.
By lucb1e on 2012-06-29 02:58:45 +0100

There is a "too long; didn't read" at the bottom of this post. In the first paragraph I already get to one of the two points I want to make, but they're both summed up at the end.

In the category 'good to know': Don't start a car, drive 10 meters, and switch off the engine again (for example to get it out of the way for something). If you do, you might have some trouble starting it next time. It's especially annoying when you want to rob a bank, but on the other hand it can be advantageous against car thieves.

About half a year ago my grandmother wanted to start the car, but the only thing it did was making a noise like the battery was dead. I don't know where she got it from, perhaps it works on older cars, but she tried something with both pressing the gas pedal down and starting it. It didn't help.

We ended up calling 'roadside assistance' as Google translates it for me (Dutch: wegenwacht), but they'd be there in 2 hours and it was like 9PM. I drove her home in one of our cars, then waited for the.. let's call it the assistance. When they arrived, the guy gets in the car, simply tries to start it, and there within 2 seconds it runs.

What? :o
"Wow, honestly sir, two hours ago it wouldn't start like that no matter what!"
"Did you by any chance drive a few meters, then turn it off again?"
"Yeah, to get it up the driveway, why?"
"Well right after a car starts, it pumps a lot of fuel to the engine. If you kill it too quickly, all that fuel remains there and next time you start it, it chokes and you get this. The fix is to simply keep starting, and the fuel will eventually consume."

And so it ran again, great. It was freezing cold outside and getting slippy (and 11 'o clock in the evening anyway), so I wait for the next day to drive it back. The next day, still freezing, I drive the car to my grandmother's, and get in with my mother who was driving with me (how else would I get home).

That evening we get a phone call from my grandmother. The car was at the garage for repair. While driving it made a weird noise, although it ran alright if I remember correctly, and she drove there to have it checked. Turns out the cable from the handbrake was frozen and broke.

I, being trained to do so, had followed the routine when dropping off the car. Foot on the brake, turn off the lights if applicable, turn off the windscreen wipers if applicable, turn off the air conditioning if applicable, put it in neutral, pull on the handbrake, kill the engine, carefully release the brake and check if the car doesn't roll. Alright? Okay, keys out of the ignition and get out, checking both in the side mirror and over the shoulder if nobody is approaching. Also don't forget to pull the door handle with your left hand and push the door open with your right: if it catches wind or if somebody approaches unforeseen you have better control over the door to close or hold it.

Yeah I had my licence for half a year, I just did what I was taught.
Turns out the handbrake was a mistake. As you've understood by now, it can freeze fixed. Instead, put the car in first gear and it'll stay put even on a hill (and my grandmother's driveway is a hill).

So from a non-issue to something that needed to be fixed. Great.

Why do I bring this up now? Tonight I had the same problem with my own car. My mother had put it on the side of the street because it was in the way, and now it wouldn't start. I was already running late (no, not robbing a bank) so instead of messing around I just asked and took my mother's car. Upon returning, I tried starting the car and timed how long it took.

Trying to start it, it sounded like there was no life in it, but it kept trying to start so it surely wasn't the battery (yet...). After a second or 10-15, which is really long when you're listening to each attempt the engine makes at starting and feeling it shake slightly, I started wondering how long I should go on. Approaching 20 seconds I doubted, but decided I'd let it rest for a second at 30 seconds. Perhaps it helps to.. let it balance out or spread the petrol or something? I really don't know... The only thing I do know is that after 2 hours my grandmother's car suddenly worked.
At just over 21 seconds though, it killed itself. It gave up.

I turned the key back, then forth to start again; a little life this time! It shook very slightly, almost imperceptibly more with every time it tried, and the sound of a running engine was returning just as slowly. Having no idea how long it's supposed to take or how long the battery holds, I'm doubting whether I'll make it. Also I wasn't entirely sure it was really this problem, perhaps I was breaking the engine? Well I was certain enough that I wasn't breaking anything, got 6 years of warranty left anyway, and if I needed to call assistance they'd be able to recharge the battery.

Stopping at 15 seconds, then retrying, it sounded more alive every time the engine revolved (or, that's what it does right?). Then, trying again another time, it almost started. Releasing the key (like I normally would after starting) to see if it ran, it died again. Did I have to step on the gas? I knew the theory was that there was too much fuel in, so at first I didn't. Tried again. More life. Kept starting. After a few seconds of 'hmm it seems like running' I decided to carefully test the gas pedal, and it made the RPM gauge go up.

Stepping a few more times on the gas, there wasn't really any sign that it was going to turn off. But to put it in drive I had to get off the gas... Deciding there was no other option, I did, and it kept running. Put it into gear, carefully tried if it drove. Yes! Movement! It auto mobile'd!

Driving a block, it still ran. Drove around for a kilometer or five, then turned it off.

I guess it'll run tomorrow (or whenever), but who knows :P

TL;DR / Summary:
1. Don't drive for 10 meters and then kill the engine, it causes some problem with too much fuel in the engine or something. Always drive a block around or so. If you do have the problem though, keep starting. If it dies on you, try again. And again. It can easily take a minute, all tries combined. If it sounds like it started, try the gas. If this works, it'll probably keep running, but drive a block before killing it (or go whereever you were going) to not make the same mistake again ;)

2. Don't use the handbrake when it's freezing or going to freeze. To keep it from rolling off a hill, just put it into first gear. Make sure to get it out of the gear when starting though, it might jump forward or something (or so my grandmother said, I don't have any experience with this myself). For automatically shifted cars, the parking mode should be fine.

PS. They taught me neither of these things during driving lessons :(
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