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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thanks Pop

Thanks Pop

Almost 40 years ago, I had a problem with an early 70’s AMC Hornet Station Wagon, not one of the greatest cars ever produced…possibly the reason there is no longer an AMC car of any kind produced.  The car was not a luxury car, but it did provide transportation for a family of five.

When it was about five years old, it started getting ornery.   Sometimes she would start right up, sometimes there was no juice to the starter at all.  At first, if I let it sit for a while the electrical problem would resolve itself.

Once it got stubborn when I made a stop at a store on the way to my folk’s house on the Eastern Shore Md.   We were maybe ten minutes away, and she would not turn over a lick.  I called my Pops for some assistance (must have been from a pay phone, cellular did not yet exist.)  He asked one question,

“Are the battery terminals clean.” 

I assured him they were and that I thought the electrical system was just defective.

“Be right there.”

Pops showed up with a pair of pliers and some emory paper.

“Should we try and jump it?”

“Let me try something first.”

Pops pulled off the cables and cleaned the terminals and the insides of the cable connectors until they shined.

“Sometimes even the slightest bit of corrosion will disrupt any connection.”

Dad was smart, but this solution was way too simple.

When the connection was cleaned, I turned the key and the car fired up like the battery was brand new!

Yes, Pops knew stuff.

Cleaned Terminal
Corroded Terminal

The other day, my youngest drove down to the shore in his mom’s old Lexus.  He parked it in the driveway and the next morning went to move it.  The car had no electric at all.

“It has been doing this lately, it should start later, the electrical system is all screwed up.  Maybe we could jump it.”

“Let me try something first.”

I found a wrench and some fine sand paper.  We took the cables off the posts and shined them up along with the insides of the cable connectors.

When I put the connectors back on, there was a small spark.*

“That’s a good sign, give it a try.”

The car fired up like the battery was brand new.

“Well Grasshopper, you now know everything I know about cars!”

Thanks Pop!

*I always forget to hook up the positive terminal first.


  1. Have no idea how often we had to do that. We had a long list of old cars that we had to keep alive.

    1. It is nice to be able to show the 'kids' we are not so stupid. :)

  2. There was a time when men like your dad were much better at dealing with car issues. Our son shakes his head at how little I know or care about cars.

  3. That's a great walk down memory lane. Very heartwarming, thanks for sharing!

  4. I can get gas into the vehicle and maybe change the tire.

    That's about it.

    My dad is really good with any vehicle made before about 1994. Anything later than that and he claims he doesn't know a thing.

  5. It's good to pass on your knowledge. You know, it was about the same length of time ago that we purchased an AMC Gremlin. That car lated for 12 years and was a b***** to drive in the winter. The thing drove like it was on skates.

  6. I learned that same lesson when I was younger, and like you have "saved the day" by passing that tip along to the kids.

  7. It had to have felt good to pass on that magic from your Dad. Perhaps someday your son will pass that trick on to his son, if we still have batteries and terminals.

  8. That's a good tip! My husband swears by pouring Coke on that corrosion. I think I'll suggest the sandpaper method. I really like Coke.

  9. This Grasshopper will try to remember the lesson next time a car doesn't start.

  10. I've done that myself...good advice. But the problem is today cars are WAAAAAY more complicated than when we were kids, and some of our old tried-and-true trick won't work. Now you need a laptop, an IT degree, and a diagnostic book the size of a phone book (look it up, kids) before you have even a fighting chance.

  11. I love it when you tell "family stories" ...Your dad was special!

  12. Almost every time I ask my husband to fix something, he takes it apart and cleans it up and puts it back together. Usually that's all it needs. I am still surprised even after all these years.

  13. I remember my dad doing the same thing.Later my brother with his motorbike. Take bits off, shine them up, head on down the road again.

  14. i find such people very interesting who can fix almost anything even they did not learn it technically .
    My husband and my late brother are one of them .
    your dad was great !

  15. Good to know! I'm always amazed at people that seem to be handy with everything. Sounds like your pop was one of them.

  16. That is a sweet story of what gets passed on.

  17. I left a comment on this last night but it apparently didn't save. One of the most important things my dad taught me was to fix things. Also, which things to leave to professionals. I don't fool with gas or anything electrical that could potentially burn the house down. I'll,give everything else a shot.

  18. That's a great tip and I'll be passing it on. Thanks Cranky! :)

  19. I've impressed people with the fact that I drive a stick shift; sadly, I couldn't impress anyone with my knowledge about cars. I bet your son was impressed with you!