Stranded by AAA

Last Tuesday I was driving home, on a busy city street, when my engine suddenly shut-off…. in the middle of the road. None of the car electronics were working.   I tried to start the car many times, but to no avail.  Unfortunately…. it was a dead battery!

It's good to try to avoid this situation.  You should get your battery tested every so often. Your mechanic or local auto parts store should have specialized testing equipment to determine whether a battery is good or bad.  How can you determine whether you have a bad battery?  Usually when your battery starts to produce white corrosive material around the battery terminals and contacts, it tends to be a sign the battery is starting to go. My battery was producing white corrosion a lot, and no amount of cleaning was keeping it from coming back.  Batteries also tend to smell pungent.  If it smells like rotten-eggs around your battery or when your hood is open, you have a bad battery.  Batteries tend to last about 3-5 years.  If your battery is over 3 years old, definitely get it tested every couple months to ensure you don't get stranded.

The annoying thing is AAA tested this battery tested 2 weeks earlier, and said it was “Fine.” Since it was an AAA branded battery with a 3-year warranty, you can get a replacement if defective.  While questioning a representative on what criteria is needed to replace a battery the statement was “We will replace a battery if it has a bad cell or is defective.” They gave me the usual corporate runaround about policies and procedures, but provided no real information.  It seems AAA doesn't want to give you a new battery unless it's absolutely necessary.

I got my car towed to where I work.  We promptly tested the battery, and obviously it was no good.  So I put in a new one and was back on the road.

Don't listen to AAA for advice about vehicle maintenance.  It’s better to be cautious, and change a battery when it shows signs of wear.  I learned this the hard way by getting stranded in busy traffic.  These roadside assistance clubs are for towing, not auto repair advice.

3M Headlight Restoration Kit Review

In my last post I suggested using Toothpaste to Restore Cloudy Headlights. It will work…. if you spend the whole day doing it!

To save yourself time and sanity I'd suggest buying a 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. These kits range in price from $15-20, and generally work well.  For restoring the headlights on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Town & Country I bought the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. It took me about 4 hours to do it properly.  The process is basically what a body shop would do to restore and refinish headlights.  Except you use a drill and save a ton of money since you DIY!

Here are Pictures of the Before and After on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Van.

BEFORE
AFTER

I did this on March 6th, 2010. That was about 2 months ago, and the headlights still look pretty good. The headlights were so dim nobody wanted to drive the Town & Country at night, but now that's not a problem.  (Well I don't want to drive it because it's van but that is obviously a separate issue.)

Restoring your headlights is extremely beneficial for your safety and other drivers out on the road.  Not only did this improve the appearance of the van, but the ability to see the road at night and in bad weather greatly improved and other people will be able to see the van better.

It's possible the headlights will get cloudy again, meaning I might have to buy another headlight restoration kit and redo this.  If you want to avoid this in the future I would recommend going down to your local auto parts store and buying a UV clearcoat spray in a can.  Headlights that come from the factory have a UV clearcoat protection on them, which helps protect from UV damage and debris.  Generally when the UV clearcoat wears off is when you start to get cloudy, hazy, and yellowed headlights.

The 3M Headlight Restoration Kit doesn't have any sort of clearcoat spray that comes with the kit.  Some kits, like the Slyvania Headlight Restoration Kit, come with a UV clearcoat application.  I should put a protective UV coating on the van's headlights, to ensure I don't need to refinish the headlights again.  I would recommend you do the same if buy the 3M kit.

Here are some tips for the 3M kit:

  • I was oversanding with the 600 grit sandpaper. The paper would gum up, before I realized it. It probably would have been helpful to wet the 600 grit paper a little bit every so often.
  • You get only 1 piece of 3000 grit sandpaper. It would have been helpful to have 2 pieces in my opinion. I did one headlight then I moved onto the other one, but by then the paper was used up. It took me forever to do the other headlight. I would suggest switching back and forth on each side if you are headlights are really cloudy, hazy, or yellowed.
  • You must Tape-up around your Headlights! I probably would have done a lot of damage to the paint if I didn't! I just used blue Painters Tape you can buy at any local hardware store, which worked fine.
  • I would suggest using a Corded Drill, which is what I used. If you try to use a Battery Powered Drill, I'm sure the battery will run out before you finish and you will be waiting for the batteries to charge.
  • As the video says in the beginning you definitely should have a Spray Bottle and some microfiber towels.
I hope this helps people restore their own Headlights. If you have seriously cloudy, hazy, or yellowed headlights keep in mind the 3M kit probably will not work.  You might need to get them refinished and restored at a body shop.  However, it is worth it to at least try the 3M kit first since it's not that expensive.  I'd imagine your headlights will still look a little bit better.
If you have any questions about using the kit please leave a comment below.