February 24, 2006

Further adventures in bad design

My car wouldn't start this morning.

Of course, it's my own fault, and I know exactly how it happened. But the incident has certainly highlighted a number of grave deficiencies in the design of the Mini.

The first, the proximate cause of the dead battery, has to do with the headlights. When you turn off the car, the headlights go off, and the running lights stay on; if you open the door, it will beep at you until you turn off the lights. The problem was, I wanted the headlights on so I could check something out (specifically, whether I had a flat tire). Remembering something I'd read about a different car, I tried turning them off and on again; no dice, still just the running lights. What I now realise in retrospect is that what did happen is that the warning signal stopped. And so when I'd finished looking at the tire, there was neither the bright lights of the headlights nor the warning beep from the dashboard to remind me to turn them off, and the car was left to slowly drain its battery out.

That was a few days ago. This morning, I was planning to drive because it was really windy, and I went to unlock the door remotely as usual, but nothing happened. I unlocked the door manually, knowing what I would find, and sure enough, nothing. But then, when I went to close the car, I couldn't press down the lock on the door—this is a "convenience" feature I've complained about before, ostensibly to prevent you locking your keys in the car. The problem was, the remote wouldn't work. It finally occurred to me to close the door and use the key to lock it, something I've never seen done anywhere before; I'm glad I thought of it or my car would still be unlocked.

This evening, I got home and went to investigate further. All was well until I tried to remember if I had jumper cables in the trunk. See, the trunk is unlocked either from the key fob or the power locks in front, but of course neither was working. And there is no keyhole on the hatch! There is also no way to flip down the back seats from the front, nor a way to pull out the ledge atop the trunk unless the hatch is open. Which means that if your battery is dead, there is no actual way to open the trunk to get at your jumper cables. Brilliant!

With a little work, I bent the black plastic ledge enough to get my hand between it and the seat to reach the seat levers (down in the middle of the back of the seat, of course), and so I was finally able to get into the trunk, where I discovered that even once I was into the trunk, there was no way to open it from the inside either. I thought that was a requirement on newer cars, that anyone trapped in the trunk could open it from the inside, but if it is it's one that Mini flouted. So, already perched in a funny position, I had to unload the stuff in the trunk through the rest of the car in order to get at the kit under the trunk floor.

No jumpers there, alas. So I'll have to buy some tomorrow, I guess; I'll just get whoever's giving me a jump to drive me to get cables first. :) It's a good thing one of the panes of the garage window is busted, because otherwise I'd have a devil of a time getting the other car close enough to the front of my car. Good thing the weather's nice and I can ride my bike, though.

"If we're going to do the Star Wars analogy, the Democrats are, at best, Ewoks." --Jon Stewart

Posted by blahedo at 7:12pm on 24 Feb 2006
Why not call Roadside Assistance, get your car moving and then get jumpers for the next time.:) Posted by Mom at 10:21am on 25 Feb 2006
You can't just pull up on the strings that hook your ledge to the trunk door? I've done that before, and it lifts the thing right up. Then again, we have different years & models, so that might be a difference. Also, you can get your lights programmed for follow-me-homes, just ask the next time you're at the dealership. If I turn my lights off after I turn my car off, they'll stay lit for 90 seconds and then automatically turn off. If I don't want them on, I just turn them off before I turn the car off. That was one of the options in the whole "what radio stations should we program" email... Still, that sucks! They do recommend that you should get jumper cables, though (so you can jump other cars, of course ;) Posted by Michelle at 12:56pm on 25 Feb 2006
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