The Eagleroo is back in commission after a couple of days of being sidelined with a faulty (and yet brand new) alternator. As we drove the very first leg of our trip, the 130 miles from Indianapolis to Dayton, I noticed that the gauges were acting a little funky. Despite our full tank of gas, the fuel gauge hovered around an eighth of a tank. This made me nervous given the Roo’s recent fuel issues, so we stopped to fill the tank in New Castle, Indiana. She took on a few gallons before the pump’s ‘shwoop-cachunk’ indicated that was all that was going in. As we steered back on to I-70 East, I noticed that the battery gauge mirrored the fuel gauge, hovering around an eighth of capacity. I wasn’t sure whether to hope that meant a faulty instrument cluster or a dying battery. Neither seemed ideal.
Our final preparations for the trip included installation of a second battery and a larger alternator. This will allow us to charge laptops and phones, run an electric cooler, and have other modern day electrified luxuries without sacrificing the ability to start the van–another luxury we’re feeling pretty attached to. To allow us to draw from the second battery (fittingly dubbed the leisure battery by second battery enthusiasts) without draining the battery that starts the van, the mechanic had installed a relay switch. He explained that when we stop for a few days, we want to push the button, thus disconnecting the batteries from one another. Then when we get going again, we flip the switch to reconnect the circuit so everything gets charged as we drive. We had both exchanged tentative nods as he relayed this information. Our eyes contained that glimmer of panic one displays when trying to force-feed information straight into long-term memory.
But as we drove along watching the gauges flag, I started to question whether we had it. Maybe the switch being flipped meant we were only charging the leisure battery while the time-to-make-the-van-go battery died of thirst. In desperation, I asked Slinky to push the button to see if that helped.
It did not help.
What it did do was to cause all of the gauges, speedometer included, to drop to zero. Wanting to evade the eighteen wheelers rapidly approaching in our lane, I flipped the right turn signal on. That’s when the van lost all power and went into coast mode. I tried to access the auxiliary power available to all human beings through simultaneous breath-holding and sphincter-tightening but, since that’s not an actual thing, that didn’t work either.
“The switch, the switch!”
She flipped the switch and the Roo woke up again like Chewbacca had hit the ceiling or Fonzie had pounded the dash. The speedometer climbed back up to fiftyish. The gas and battery gauges back to their dubious eighths.
We limped it the seventy remaining miles to Dayton with eyes glued to the battery gauge. Once we pulled into my parents driveway, I tried the key again. A little clicking, the bare minimum acknowledgement of my action, was all I got.
I’ll spare you the aftermath of phone calls and hand-wringing, both of which were plentiful. Suffice it to say that we now have a new, new alternator, a revised plan of attack for leg two of the trip and we even got to make the first leg of the trip (Indy-Dayton) again just to make sure we did it right.
Oh, and I got to reacquaint myself with my vocabulary of curse words. It remains a river that runs both deep and wide.