Is It The Starter Or The Battery?

For a few months now I have been having problems with starting up my Niva in the morning. In other words, sometimes it starts fairly easily while on mornings when the temperature is below zero Celsius the engine has difficulty turning over or it doesn't at all. The battery is only two years old, and when I took it to the place where I bought it from about 8 weeks ago the technician there told me that it was working fine after he inspected the battery fluids when extracting them with a tube baster type of device. He told me the starter was probably acting up, so I went to a fairly reliable motor vehicle electrician. That guy told me there was cause for suspicion, as there seemed to have been some kind of a part having something to do with the electrical system that belonged to a "Moskvich," for the most part the crummiest automobile brand the Soviet Union had ever produced. So why such a part is under the hood is beyond me. Naturally, he told me to have the battery checked.

Before I departed for Boston I left the Niva in my landlord's garage at his insistence so nothing would happen to it where I usually park it in the rear of my apartment building. I disconnected the battery and left the car there for a few weeks, as I refused to drive it on the icy Yerevan streets after I returned from the States. So even though less than a month had passed since I parked it, the car would not start. I tried turning over the engine several times with 5 minute intervals in between takes but nothing doing. A neighbor stopped in his tracks to ask what was up, and after his interview he concluded the starter needed to be checked out. My landlord had already been convinced. Eventually the battery completely died down, and the two of us had to push the car out of the garage. He gave his friend a call who came by with his Lada 2106 (the platform of which the Niva is built on, incidentally) to give the car a jump-start. As soon as I turned the ignition the car started up immediately. Another vote for a faulty starter. Yesterday I ended up paying 30,000 dram ($95) for a new one.

But this morning when I couldn't start the car again I began to have my doubts about the starter being the problem. I have this battery charger/air compressor thing that I purchased a couple of years back that I hooked up to the battery but it wouldn't do the trick (it has never worked properly actually). So I went down to the garage where I usually take my car to have repaired to ask their advice. They offered to help and we drove back to where the car was parked. The guy who helped me, a wonderful man although he has a typical Armenian temperament, said it was the battery, especially when he noticed that it wasn't properly holding the charge even after jump-starting it. He used the logical argument that, if indeed the starter was faulty, why would the engine be turning over? Ordinarily, nothing would happen, even if the battery was fully charged. I drove the thing down to the garage following him there to brainstorm. They checked the carburettor for some reason, mumbled back and forth, and shouted at me at one point before concluding that the battery was no good, and that it was futile to change the starter. I told them about the advice that I received regarding the starter, but they were adamant that the battery was being the bastard. They told me to have it inspected, but not to go back to the place where I bought it from.

Sure enough, the battery was kaput, it needed to be replaced immediately. The shop owner gave me a discount selling me a new one for about $80 after learning that I repatriated to the homeland, that I love Armenia, etc., etc. That problem was solved, but then there was the starter issue to deal with. I found the guy who sold it to me and although he had a perplexed look on his face when I told him I didn't need it after all, he suggested that I stop by on Tuesday as he didn't have 30,000 dram on him (he had just bought a replacement starter for the one he sold to me). In any case, all should hopefully go well during the remaining time that I drive this Niva. I want to sell it by the end of the month, or better yet within the next two weeks. The Niva has been a fantastic car but it's time to move on.


Ara said…
You got 2 years out the battery? That's good. I've learned that at best for most batteries they will last 2 summers and one winter before they start to really act up.

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