I don’t think most of us give our vehicle batteries much thought until they stop doing the main job they are designed to do – spinning the starter motor up to get the engine going.
In the last few weeks the batteries on my 1981 BMW R65 bike and my modernish daily car have both failed to do that job, and both have required replacement.
Removing the BMW’s battery has always been a pain. There is about 6mm of wiggle room to get the thing out without creating a few exciting sparks just below the petrol tank. Never a dull procedure that’s for sure.
On the modern car the battery is gigantic – it needs to be to deal with the demands of stop-start – so removing it was heavy work.
But the main difference between the two jobs was what happened when I hooked up the new batteries to their respective terminals:
BMW R65: reset the clock. Start the bike. Ride off.
Modern car: meltdown.
I’m sure a real meltdown involving a nuclear power station in the 1970s would have elicited less lights, warning messages and doom-laden pings. I heard myself telling the car to ‘get a grip, you’re just a Volkswagen Passat for goodness sake.’
This didn’t work.
At one stage there were so many error messages to read that they were stacked up in tile formation on the screen. Systems vied for attention, each certain that their fault was more important than the last. The car would start, but that was about it.
A YouTube short told me to drive the car for a bit, put up with the protestations of imminent self-destruction and all would be well. Two miles later it was.
This experience has reminded me why I like classic cars and bikes so much. Modern stuff, as reliable and comfortable as it generally is, really is too complicated for its own good.