By Bob Blake

A good doctor should heed his own advice. His opinions, based on study and experience, are usually logical and knowledgeable. WELL…this doctor knew about the causation of the problem, but failed to follow his own good judgment.

Yes…I’m talking about a recent illness involving my car. It suffered severe “KOD.” Puzzled? Well, it is a relatively new problem that frequently occurs suddenly and renders its victim helpless. It is associated with ownership of newer and smart cars.

During my recent illness, my car had only infrequent short trips. A few weeks ago, my wife Dotty and I decided to take a leisurely beach trip. The night before, I backed the car into the garage, raised the hatch several times and meticulously loaded our newer SUV. Doors were opened frequently as we packed. We finished and went to bed… anticipating our trip the following morning. We arose early, woofed down the corn flakes and toast, and excitedly raised the garage door for departure. Hot coffee steamed from the drink holders and the Blakes were “beach bound!” Well…sort of. We got in, I pressed the start button and…silence. That bad kind of silence, associated dagger stares from Dotty. All I could muster was…”Hmm.” I raised the hood for an examination, checked the battery terminals and tried again. Deafening silence!

Thankfully, we had another car and I sped off to my storage shop for a battery booster. In the meantime she, logically, called our neighborhood security folks for their booster. When I returned 20 minutes later, the car was purring smoothly. We kept the engine running the entire trip!

What is this new ailment, “KOD?”   The initials mean key off discharge. Newer cars are chocked full of computers, analyzers, safety devices and convenient reminders. Great, yes…but at a price. Despite the ignition being off, these multiple computers and control circuits constantly leech power.

Battery drain can even occur when the open/close/starter key fobs are left close to the car. Even nearby, they continue to communicate and keep many of the vehicle’s electronics awake. Surprisingly, the battery in the clicker usually survives.

It is important to drive modern cars enough to maintain a healthy battery charge. When they are idle for several weeks, the occasional trip around town isn’t enough. Starting an engine requires a huge surge of power!

So… why not just disconnect the battery if the car is to remain idle for a few weeks? Big problem: the computer systems will lose their “memory” and must reprogram themselves. Intelligent cars remember driving habits and the “relearning” requires miles of use to reeducate them. For a battery change, technicians use a small battery “cheater” to maintain the computer memory.

Batteries come in different strengths, but all gradually age and lose strength. Recovery times become longer. Solar trickle chargers are an easy solution to battery maintenance as the small solar panels capture the sun’s rays to quietly maintain the battery.

Small powerful portable jump starters are now available. They fit in a glove box and hold enough power for several starts. They also charge smart phones, tablets, and watches. (I did not have one!)

 

Remember the car battery functions just like the heart’s electrical system. Without it, the heart doesn’t beat…and a dead battery won’t start a car!

 

Editor’s note: Bob is a retired orthopaedic surgeon and recently had open heart surgery.