Booster cables (12V, 50A, 3mm², 3.5m)

Booster cables (12V, 50A, 3mm², 3.5m) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had an interesting adventure last week. As our small, outdoor, homeschool co-op was leaving the park, one of the mom’s cars wouldn’t start. This had already been a stressful afternoon, our first attempt at an afternoon meeting. We were discussing a curriculum change to avoid the expense of additional licensing fees, and our children were melting down. (Seriously, almost every single kid was crying. There were 8 kids, and four newborns. It was not a pretty picture). After all of this, one mom successfully departed and the other four of us were loading up the kids when one mom couldn’t get her car to start. Obvious solution: jumper cables, of which we had three pair between us.

I should preface this next part by saying that we are all intelligent women, several of us with advanced college degrees. But none of us have ever used jumper cables. Seen them used, yes, but never actually done it. So we did what came logically, we read the instructions that are attached to the jumper cables. My logic said that it should be as easy as positive to postive and negative to negative, on both cars, starting with the car that was running. But the instructions said something about attaching three of the connections but making sure the last negative connector was placed as far from the battery as possible. With no idea what this meant, we reached one of our husbands by cell phone. He said that the cables should be attached in a particular order, so we removed them and reattached them in the suggested order and then attached the final negative connector to the negative contact on the dead battery, just as our logic concluded should be the case, but the instructions seemed unclear. The car started immediately, no one was electrocuted and we were all able to make it successfully home.

Things I learned from my little adventure:

Always Read the Directions.
Instructions don’t always make sense, but they will at least point you in the right direction of the proper procedure to solve your problem.

Trust Your Instincts (at least to a point).
If we had followed out instincts we would have been out of there much faster, but given that it involved electricity it was probably best that we consulted someone who knew more than we did.

Don’t Be Embarrassed to Ask for Help
It felt a little ridiculous that none of us had ever used a set of jumper cables before, though we had each carried them in the back of our cars almost since we could drive. But rather than risk injury to ourselves or damage to the vehicles, we asked for help. Sometimes that is the shortest way to solve your problem, and the safest one too.

In the Future, Self-Educate for Better Self-Reliance.
This taught me that I need to learn a little more about cars. There are basic things like changing a flat tire, using jumper cables and other tasks that I’ve never done and while I probably could figure them out using my owner’s manual, it would give me more confidence in an emergency if I educated myself a little bit better about car maintenance.

Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you were out of your element? How did you handle it, read the instructions, trust your instinct, ask for help or some combination thereof?