By Ingrid Sapona
Are you the type who tends to live by the motto: if it ain’t
broke, don’t fix it? Or are you more inclined to replace things before they
brake? I used to think that everyone fit into one of these two camps. Now I
realize, however, that there’s a third camp: the “it doesn’t really matter, you
can’t win” camp.
My natural inclination is to replace things before they
brake. This position is rational on a number of levels, I think. First off,
things wear out. So, if you accept that something will need replacing within a
given timeframe – why not replace it before it breaks?
The main reason for replacing things on a schedule is to avoid
inconvenience. Isn’t there some variation on Murphy’s Law that says things always
break at the most inopportune times? So if you can avoid the inconvenience, why
not? Actually, sometimes inconvenience is the least of the problem – some breakdowns
can be dangerous. (Like an alternator belt that snaps while you’re in the fast
lane on the highway!) And of course, if you plan when you’ll repair or replace
things, you can budget for them.
As I get older, I’ve become more of a “don’t fix it till it’s
broke” type. Again, there are a couple reasons this approach makes more sense
to me now. For starters, there have been a number of times when I’ve had something
– a car, computer, t.v., and so on – misbehave but when I’ve taken it to be “fixed”,
the problem, squeak, or glitch doesn’t seem evident. So, the repairperson is
left guessing – and that can be time consuming and costly. I’m sure you’ve had a service person (whether
through honesty or laziness) tell you, “Your best bet is to bring it back when
Because the desire to avoid inconvenience coupled with underlying
insecurity still looms large in my life, I’ve not adopted the wait till it’s
broke mantra in every instance. So, for some things, I do seek routine testing
that others might not bother with. My boat batteries are a prime example. Over
the winter I trickle charge them. Every spring, as Dad used to, before
installing them I take them to be tested to see if they are holding a charge.
So, on Sunday I dutifully brought them to Canadian Tire, the
store where I bought them. The technician put the first one on the testing
machine, hooked it up, and keyed in the battery type. He said the test can take
from a couple minutes to about 90, depending on the shape the battery is in.
The machine does its thing and within a couple minutes, out comes a receipt-size
printout. Given that I had charged it all winter, I figured the test was quick
because the battery must be in good shape.
The technician then read the results aloud: Replace Battery.
He tears off the receipt and hands it to me. According to the report, the 650
amp battery is only measuring 74 amps. So, do I take a chance that it’ll last
the summer, or do I replace it this year? One battery was getting up there in
years, so I kind of figured I’d be buying one this year. Maybe it’s time I
replace that one.
Meanwhile, he hooks up the second one. A few short minutes
later, out comes the report: Replace Battery. Given that the second one tested
was the newer one, I assumed it would at least read higher than 74 amps. I was
speechless when it read 0 amps!
My initial thought was that maybe I fried that battery. In
my trunk was the Canadian Tire charger I used. I brought it in to show him. He
reassured me that I used the right charger settings. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated,
I told him I needed to think about it and so I loaded them back in my trunk. Replacing
both would cost just under $300.
As I headed home, I still couldn’t believe the one registered
a 0. So, I decided to take them to another place to be re-tested. Since
Canadian Tire is the only place I know that does this, I went to another
Canadian Tire across town.
The guy there was only too happy to help. He hooked up the
first one and in minutes, out came the report. He smiled and said, “Good
Battery”, handing me the printout. That was the battery that previously showed
74 amps. On his machine it showed 634 amps. He hooked up the second battery and
same result: “Good Battery”, with 630 amps. I couldn’t believe it.
I showed him the previous test results. He shrugged and said
he was confident the tester he used is fast and accurate. He also said that maybe
the other guy keyed in something wrong but, in any event, he wouldn’t worry
about the batteries. I told him he made my day and I thanked him for saving me
a whack of money.
In the end, I decided to believe the results of the second
set of tests, but should I? Is it any more logical to assume – based on those
tests – that both batteries will see me through the sailing season with no
problems? Or, should I just bite the bullet and get a new one to replace the
older of the two? Or, might the first guy have keyed in something a bit wonky
thinking a woman might take failing results at face value, rather than question
them? Stuff like this doesn’t make decision-making easier, that’s for sure.
If anything, incidents like this just push me into that
third camp and they remind me that Doris Day had it right when she sang Que
© 2017 Ingrid Sapona