Breaking down at the car wash

To me, a freshly cleaned car is a great feeling. I spent a lot of time in my car, and I love having a nicely tidied up ride. That said, I often tromp out in the woods or go to the beach and I tend to not exactly stay on the beaten bath, so my car often gets a little of nature coming with it.

Every so often, I run my car up to the car wash to give it a nice bath and then a good cleaning on the inside to purge the dirt and sand, and bag up the things I need to bring in to the house to find homes for, which often includes bones and such, because, well, my son finds a lot of those.

On my recent trip to the wash, I ran my car through, and then pulled in to vacuum it. Side note – the emergence of the car wash with vacuum at the end is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. Also, the removal of the spray cleaners and wipe cloths because someone kept stealing them is one of mankind’s greatest indictments.

I finished vacuuming my car (but not wiping it down, because thanks, people!). I went to start it and my car did something really weird. The dash lit up and started clicking with every single light it seemed to have. The one thing it did not do is start. I noticed one blinking light I had never seen – a blinking green key light.

I did what any mechanic of my stature would do, and Googled “Honda blinking green key light.” I quickly learned that the car no longer recognized my key fob. I clicked on the first video that was going to tell me what to do. This video was WAY longer than it needed to be, as the first four minutes of the six minute video were a guy telling me that he had the same problem and he was going to tell me how to fix it. And then telling me that watching the video would tell me how to fix it. And then reminding me that at the end I would know how to fix it. I fast forwarded a bit here and there and got to the end of the video. His solution? Put the key in the ignition, turn it and hold for five seconds, and the key fob would reset itself. 

Slight problem. I don’t have a key ignition slot thingee. I have just a fob, and my car starts when I push a button. Except, you know, this time.

I Googled a few more things, as any master mechanic like me would do. One suggestion I found was that my key fob battery might have died. That’s as plausible as anything else, I suppose. I called my son and asked him to bring my spare fob up to the car wash. About 10 minutes later, new fob in hand, same result.

I called my Honda dealership, as I had just spoken to them about an hour prior to set up a regular service appointment a few days from now. Fortunately, I got the same person on the phone I had gotten an hour earlier. “Hey, I just talked to you a bit ago about an appointment Wednesday morning. Wondering if you might be able to help me a little sooner…” She remembered me (I’m unforgettable), and transferred me to a service tech. I told him what was going on. He told me the worst case was I was going to have to get my car towed in. But he said probably my battery was just shot. “Have you tried jump starting it?” Being the expert mechanic I am, I said, “Um, no. Should I?” He said, “Yeah, I’d try that first.”

I hooked my jumper cables up to my son’s car, and, first try, it started. Whew.

There was an auto parts store right next door, so I drove my car over there, and they confirmed that, in fact, my battery was pretty darn dead. Twenty minutes later, I had a new battery, and all my fobs were magically working again. Way better deal than a tow to the dealership.

I’m happy it ended fairly easily, and I’m also glad my car is now a nice clean ride to scoot around in. Just wish I’d been able to wipe it down inside.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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