car battery jumper cables

Stranded at Home: Four kids and a dead battery

There was an ice storm coming. I needed to get to my mom’s house, two hours north of our house. We would be riding in our truck, so I felt pretty safe that if the weather came early, or we were late getting on the road back home, we would be fine since the truck had 4-wheel drive.

I loaded all the things we needed for our overnight stay and we piled into the truck, ten minutes ahead of schedule. Mom win.

I climbed into the cab of the truck and turned the key. Did I mention it was freezing outside? Did I mention we hadn’t been driving the truck much lately?

The lights clicked on, and the radio blared, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. The starter sounded like it was trying, but there clearly wasn’t enough juice to make it happen. I tried a few more times, knowing it wouldn’t work, and then removed the key.

Our four kids, bundled and excited to go see their Nanny, started in with the questions and the panic.

“Are we stuck here?”

“What happened to the truck?”

“Dad’s not here, we’re stuck, I knew today would be awful!” <–teenagers…

“The battery is dead. We’ll just jump start it.” I said as I hopped down out of the big green truck and headed for our barn.

I searched the barn, our old red car, my van, the Falcon, and jumper cables were no where to be found. I started to walk next door to my in-laws house, hoping to borrow theirs, when I remembered they weren’t home. In fact, my Mr. was currently taking his mother two hours east of our house to a doctor’s appointment. His dad was at work an hour away. All I had was my wits, four kids, and a dead battery.

Someone from the truck was starting to freak out a bit, and another sounded like they were crying.

“GUYS! THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!” (take a deep breath) “I’m not sure where the jumper cables are, but we have a battery charger. It’ll work, it will just take a little longer.”

I grabbed the charger, and leaned into the truck.

“To the two of you who are old enough, or almost old enough to drive, ya think maybe ya’ll should be out here paying attention?”

The 14- year old hopped out and offered to help. She fetched the extension cord while I called the Mr. to make sure I was hooking up everything correctly. The last thing I needed was to ruin his truck.

“I told you going was a bad idea” he said.

“We’re going. Just tell me what to push on this thing”

“You go straight to the parts store and get a new battery! STRAIGHT there! They’ll install it for you” he insisted.

“Sure thing, honey.” I hopped back into the truck and waited for the ‘okay’ from him to try the key.

I took probably a good ten minutes before the engine cranked up and we could remove the charger and get on the road. For the entire thirty minute ride to the auto parts store, the kids pondered what would happen if the truck died en route.

*Insert a lesson on batteries and alternators and who to call and what to do*

Ya’ll, they were making me bonkers and the words escaped my mouth before I could help myself.

“Ya know, when I was a kid…”

I couldn’t help myself.

“we didn’t have cell phones. When my car broke down I had to wait and pray someone stopped to help me or I had to start hoofin’ it back to the nearest phone booth to call for help. I always carried a quarter in my wallet just in case.”

Then I had to explain phone booths.

We did get a new battery and we did make it all the way to my mom’s house without incident. I wish I could say the trip home was uneventful, but I don’t want to lie. I’ll save the lesson on 4WD vs. Lisa vs. Ice Storm for another day.

One of the most used lessons my step-father ever taught me, was how to use jumper cables. For Christmas, my in-loves gave me a Stanley Power-to-Go portable power bank that can jump start my van even if there is no one else around! It can also charge my phone or other USB device.

What is the best vehicle-related advice you ever received?