STRANDED in the SUMMER Of '79
The year was 1979. I was a freshman in high school and my best friend David had just purchased a 66 Mustang. It was a yellow 3-speed automatic V-8 beauty, which was a pretty big deal to a couple of 15 year olds yearning the freedom of the open road. One night David suggested we go camping out in the middle of nowhere. So after lying to our parents about where we'd be spending that night, we set out on our adventure.
Starting at dusk we drove out into the country till we couldn't see any city lights or any sign of civilization besides an old country road, overrun with grass and weeds from non-use. We camped out all night and had a grand old time roasting hot dogs and trying to freak each other out with scary stories. When morning came we loaded up the Mustang and started it up, or at least tried to but Alas! The battery didn't have enough juice to start the car because David had left the door ajar all night and the dome light drained the battery. All we could do was turn the motor over but it wouldn't fire up.
After waiting by the side of the road for two hours with not a single car coming by, we decided we would just have to walk. An hour and a half of walking later we came upon a lone farmhouse with nothing else as far as the eye could see. We knocked on the door, nobody home. What rotten luck, but wait...there was an old car sitting out back. Was it locked? No! Did it run? Well we didn't have the keys but when we turned on the headlights, they were on, but dim. It was decided that we should leave a note for the owner and "borrow" the battery out of the old car. After also "borrowing" a wheelbarrow to carry the car battery, we made our long journey back to the Mustang. Since this was Texas we half expected to get arrested or get a load of "salt-shot" in the buttocks from the farmer's shotgun for our deed, but either of those seemed preferable to the wrath of our parents when they found out we lied about where we were supposed to be the night before!
When we finally returned to the Mustang we used David's Jumper Cables to hook up the battery to "jump" the Mustang. We carefully hooked up the positive to the positive terminal and the negative to the negative, just like our fathers had taught us. Well, it wasn't enough. The old Mustang turned over and over a little better than before, teasing us like it was going to fire up, but it didn't. Frustrated, David decided we should just try replacing the battery. That didn't work either. The "borrowed" battery just barely didn't have enough juice. After that David threw up his hands and announced "we're screwed, we're stuck out here and our parents are going to kill us when they find us, there's nothing we can do!"
As we sat and pondered our doom my eyes wandered over to a flashlight we had used the night before. It was one of those cheap flashlights that we've all owned at one time or another, it took two D-sized batteries in a tube to make it work. Suddenly my mind flashed to something I had learned in Mr. Steelhammer's 8th grade shop class and I had an idea to get the old Mustang started!
When I shared the idea with David he told me I was crazy and that the only thing that it would accomplish was a fried electrical system or maybe a fire. I persisted though and we decided the risk was worth the possible reward and it worked!
We drove the "borrowed" wheelbarrow and battery back to the farmhouse, carefully placed them back, tore up the incriminating note and drove the heck out of Podunk Texas without being thrown in jail or having to marry the farmer's daughter.
What did we do to get that Mustang started? We had come up with a bunch of crazy ideas from trying to roll-start an automatic to going back and attempting to hotwire the farmer's car, but that's not how we did it. Can you figure out what we did to start the Mustang?
We jump started the Mustang using it's own battery in addition to the farmer's "borrowed" battery."
It's been a while since I learned this at school but I believe the proper term for the way we all normally jump start a car is by hooking the two batteries into a "parallel circuit." When I spied the cheap flashlight I thought about the way the batteries inside stack upon one another. Inside the flashlight the batteries don't connect to each other positive to positive, if you do that accidentally it doesn't work and you have to take the batteries out and make sure you stack them on top of each other so the top of one is connecting to the bottom of the other. Connecting in this way is called (I believe) a "series circuit" and increases the voltage and perhaps the amperage (I don't really know!).
PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS without consulting with someone who actually knows electronics, it’s been almost 40 years since I did this!
So this is how I hooked it up:
- Disconnected the negative terminal on the battery installed in the car.
- Used one jumper cable to connect the car battery’s negative to the 2nd battery’s positive.
- Used the other jumper cable to connect the 2nd battery’s negative to the negative cable that I had disconnected in step 1. This completed the circuit.
- Turned the key and it started right up!