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Follow-up on my car

Less than ten minutes after hitting the publish button on my earlier post this morning, I got a Signal message from a friend asking about the car. In my effort to be a smart-ass, it didn’t occur to me my blog post might cause concern. So here’s the rest of the story:

Friday afternoon, less than a mile from home after attending the Good Friday liturgy, as I rounded a corner at a major intersection, every indicator on my dashboard lit at once and the electrical system became unusable. I couldn’t even deactivate my turn signal! However, I was able to maintain control of the car, which I drove home, left turn signal all the way.

The next morning, I started the car, and it seemed like nothing was wrong. I drove it to a nearby shop, one of the few open weekends, to see if I could get an electrical system check. However, because of the Easter holiday, they were both shorthanded and bombarded with customers. He suggested I take it to a nearby parts store that does free diagnostics. I did, and they gave it a clean bill of health. So I drove it home, thinking I’d make an appointment at my regular shop for more thorough diagnostics sometime this week. I didn’t drive it the rest of the weekend.

This morning, I walked over to my car, and I knew something was wrong right away when I didn’t hear the usual click when the doors unlock. It was because they didn’t unlock. So I pulled out the manual key, and that didn’t unlock the door either. I was able to unlock the trunk, which is a good thing because that’s where the battery is.

I called another shop in the area, one Kathryn has used for years for service on the Honda, to see if they could squeeze me in today. Then I called AAA for a tow. After a few tries with a jumper battery, the tow truck driver was able to supply enough power to unlock the doors, but not enough to get the engine to turn over. I was able to get the car into neutral, and he was able to push the car far enough to hook it to the truck. From there, it was only a few minutes to the repair shop.

I’ve talked with the shop owner a couple times already this morning. First, when the car came in, the battery, the one the parts store said was okay two days earlier, would not hold a charge. When the replacement arrived, they were finally able to do some diagnostics. It turned out the alternator, the one the parts store said was okay two days earlier, was malfunctioning and needed to be replaced. That’s not a big deal — alternators aren’t lifetime parts, after all — but like all things with the BMW, it requires a lot of labor to do the job correctly. While it’s in the shop, I asked them to do some overdue maintenance that they noticed, so I won’t have the car back until tomorrow.

In the end, it wasn’t a big deal, just the replacement of a part that will inevitably fail on any vehicle if you drive it long enough. I’m creeping up on 200,000 miles on this car, and I think this is the second alternator replacement I’ve had done. The symptoms were different last time, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.