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June 4, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

- Question: What's worse than having a car breakdown on a Saturday night?

- Answer: Having a car breakdown in the boondocks on a Saturday night.

- Question: What are boondocks?

- Answer: derived from "bundok" of the Tagalog language of the Philippines, It means anywhere remote and far from assistance when you need some. Generally anywhere where you wish you weren't at the time. There is a lot of bundok in the Philippines. In our fair country, it is defined as between cities, in a bad section of a city, in the woods, or almost anywhere in Georgia. Just somewhere we don't want to be when we have a breakdown. That last part is as reported to me by many snowbirds who travel through there, so don't all you Bulldogs start biting the messenger.

Breakdowns happen to new cars and old cars, well maintained cars and not so well maintained cars, but that doesn't mean it's hopeless. You can do some things that will greatly decrease the likelihood of your having a breakdown. Nothing can guarantee it. Here's how most breakdowns happen and how to improve your odds.

Anything made of rubber has a definite lifetime, in years as well as miles. This includes your tires and your belts and hoses. When that lifetime is up, the item is guaranteed to break, giving you a blown out tire or radiator hose, or a broken fan belt. Any of these will definitely cause a breakdown. The solution is to change them before they break, which might be every three to five years, regardless of miles. An inspection by an experienced technician is needed to identify the deadline. Trying to stretch this out longer is simply silly. A breakdown is guaranteed to happen. Probably in a bundok, if you're in the Philippines. Or on a street named "Peach Tree."

The next most likely cause of a breakdown is the battery. They also have lifetimes. The average is less than three years. THEY DO NOT GIVE A WARNING BEFORE THEY FAIL. Did you hear that? I shouted. One day you will turn the key and nothing will happen. However, they can be tested. It's like a stress test the doctor gives you to check your heart. You run on a treadmill for a while, and if you have a heart attack, it means you had a bad heart. We, likewise, put your battery under extreme stress, and if it fails it means you need a new one. It's a lot cheaper than a new heart. When buying a new battery, you should know that all batteries, unlike men, are not created equal. There are dime store batteries and there are good batteries. The size that will fit into your car is identified by a "group" number, like 24, or 78, or 65, but that doesn't identify the quality or the power of the battery. That is measured by "cranking amps", and the more powerful it is, the longer it will last. It will be heavier and cost a little more, but like shopping for a new heart, this is the wrong place to economize. Everything starts with the battery, so money spent on a good one will pay dividends in the future, by not causing breakdowns.

Or you could get a cheap one, and the auto service industry will make a lot more money off of you for service calls, jump starts, towing, repeated battery sales and more starting and charging system tests.

If that's what you're going to do, let me take this opportunity on behalf of the service industry to say -thank you, but don't forget that I told you so. (I hate it when my wife says that).



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