There Are Days When It Just Doesn't Pay to Get Out of Bed
On a particularly wet spring day, the Doctor was riding his bicycle past Dabney's commodious garage. As he rode by, he glimpsed Dabney out of the corner of his eye. Dabney was leaning over the fender of a perfectly-restored 1954 Ford Custom. Doc turned back and rode into the garage.
"Morning, Dabney," Doc said. "Do you think it'll ever not rain around here?"
"I sure hope so, Doc." I got a lot of cars I'd like to take out on the road, but not in this weather. If I could just get this one to fire up..."
Dabney reached into the car and turned the key. The tell-tale "click" coming from the car's engine compartment told the Doctor that there were starting problems.
"Sounds like you got a bad battery, there, Dab old boy," said Doc.
"This is kind of weird." said Dabney. "I just replaced the battery and both cables and now it won't start. I was just thinking that I'd set up the charger and give it a boost."
"Makes sense to me. I'll get the charger." Doc went over and grabbed Dabney's fleet-sized charger and wheeled it over to the Ford. "Nothing to worry about...just that new battery. It's probably low on charge."
"Well, the lights and horn work just fine, and that told me the engine should turn right over," replied Dabney, "But all that happens is that the starter solenoid clicks when I turn the key. Do you think one of these new battery cables could be faulty?"
"No, Dab' old boy," said the Doctor, in a somewhat pontificating manner. "Those cables are nice and fat and the connectors as shiny and clean as they can be. The problem is the battery."
They put the charger's big alligator clips on the battery posts and turned it on, noticing almost immediately that the battery wasn't taking many amps. They turned it off, re-seated the clamps and tried again, only to find a small flow of amperage.
"Looks like the battery is fully charged to me," said Dabney. "I still think the problem might be the battery cables."
"You gotta look at the most obvious thing first!" said the Doctor, impatience showing in his voice. "This battery doesn't take a charge because its low on electrolyte or there might be a "dead" cell. These old 6-volt batteries were famous for these problems, so go find your hygrometer and we'll test the cells for the right level of acidity."
"Okay, Doc." As he retrieved the hygrometer, Dabney had that feeling that another one of Doc's diatribes was about to begin.
And true to form, Doc began is discourse: "In order to troubleshoot batteries, you need to know how they work. The battery doesn't actually store electricity. When charging it converts electricity into chemical energy."
As he was talking, the Doctor was opening each cell in the battery and drawing fluid up into the hygrometer. One by one, the little floating balls in the glass tube showed the proper Ph of electrolyte.
Not to be undone, the Doctor interrupted himself and asked Dabney for a voltmeter so that he could dip the electrodes into the cells and test for voltage.
Doc continued: "Chemical action of the electrolyte, working on active material in the plates causes a transfer of electrons from positive plates to negative plates."
"Confound it!" Doc bellowed. "I spilled acid on my shirt!" He headed to the bathroom to flush the acid off. The bathroom was at the opposite end of Dabney's garage, and Dabney could hear the Doctor mumbling as he went.
Meanwhile, Dabney was looking at the battery cable connections. The cable leading to the starter motor looked perfect and he decided to pull on the end to make sure it wasn't loose on the motor. It was tight and secure.
Dabney then pulled on the ground cable connection where it was bolted to the engine block. It was firmly fastened, but as he yanked on the wire its strands pulled out of the copper "lug" in which they were crimped. Dabney decided to pull off the now-empty copper lug and re-crimp the cable into it. He did so in a couple minutes, just replacing the cable securely before the Doctor returned.
Doc's shirt was wet, but still intact. "Okay, Dabney, as I was saying, when the battery is placed in a closed circuit, surplus electrons at the negative post flows....."
"I think I'll give her another try," Dabney interrupted as he moved into the drivers seat. He was grinning ear to ear.
"Why!" said the Doc, starting to get a little agitated. We haven't changed anything yet, so what makes you think it'll start now."
With that, Dabney turned the key and the motor sprung to life.
"All you had to do, Doc, was get some of those electrons to the starter....it was the battery cable all along." said Dabney.
"Well, if you'd only replaced the battery cable like I said when I first came in, I wouldn't be all wet." the doctor grumbled as he climbed on his bicycle and pedaled out the door.
Dabney was still grinning.