What Would You Do?

What Would You Do? Car Breakdown!

car breakdown, car breakdown tips, car problems

Something was wrong with the car, I could feel it as I was driving down the highway on my way to the gym. The radio would lose power and then come back on, the automatic transmission wouldn’t change gears, and finally the battery light came on. Before I could fully process all of what was going on, I rolled to a stop at a red light where the engine died and could not be restarted.

Click, click, click, click was all my car could muster when I turned the key.

The headlights seemed to work fine as did the electric windows and the blinkers, but there was obviously something electrically wrong with the car.

I don’t know much about cars. I’m willing to learn how to do simple tasks like change my oil or replace a burnt out headlight, but this situation definitely seemed like a job I need to leave to a professional. I don’t even really know what’s wrong with my car. One of my neighbors suggested it may be as simple as corrosion on the battery posts (which I cannot see because the geniuses at Chrysler put the battery in a very hard to access place inside the front passenger wheel well), but also suggested it may be the alternator. Other family members have mentioned the fuel pump and the starter as well. My heart is hoping for the battery, but my head tells me it’s the alternator.

From what I can tell from searching the internet a new alternator would cost me about $600 at the dealership. I’m sure I could get a better price elsewhere, and would love to shop around, but it’s hard to shop around when I really don’t know what is wrong with the vehicle. For lack of a better plan, when the tow truck driver arrived I told him to tow me to my dealership.

The question is, do I just have the dealership diagnose what is wrong with my vehicle, and then shop around for the best price and have it towed again. Or, since its already sitting in the dealership’s parking lot do I just grin and bear whatever price it’ll take to get my car on the road again?

What would you do?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Assuming it is the alternator – I would loosen the alternator, remove old, place new, torque it back into place and drive away.

    Autozone and other part shops will often test them for free if you bring it in to them. An alternator isn’t that hard to replace on many cars. There are exceptions though. Perhaps you should consult the mighty YouTube for your model.

  • I invested in a code reader a few years ago. Assuming the check engine light came on, you could hook it up to see what codes are stored. Then, a simple internet search for what those codes mean on your vehicle would tell you what’s wrong.

    However, since your car was disabled, that isn’t particularly helpful, since you had to have it towed somewhere.

    My wife’s car’s battery died a few months ago. A tell-tale sign that it’s the battery is that, when the car is off, try to sound the horn. If it doesn’t sound right, then it’s most likely the battery.

  • Well, the dealership is the last place you should ever tow your car. Rip off city there my friend. You can get your alternator tested at most of the car part stores and they will also test your starter if you know how to remove it. Usually when you hear the click, then your starter is functional, but might not have enough juice to get it to engage. That is not always the case though. Electrical problems are a pain in the ass, but I would first get the alternator tested and now at the dealership.

  • @Dan – I thought about just having it towed home, and then changing the alternator myself….but seeing as how I’m not 100% sure that’s the issue I’m very wary about trying to repair it myself. I’m all about learning new things, and I know where the alternator is, but I’d hate to replace a relatively expensive part and find out I didn’t fix the problem. 🙂 Thanks for your response!

  • @Shawn – unfortunately the check engine light did not come on (I never thought I’d say that) – the battery light did. I’ve had AutoZone check codes before (which is a great find, as some mechanics will charge $90 just to read the code – outrageous!

  • @Grayson – yeah, I knew that I’d be paying a premium cost when I had it towed to the dealership, but unfortunately due to the nature of the situation (the care was completely disabled) I didn’t feel comfortable having it towed anywhere else. I found out today that my insurance wouldn’t pay to have it towed again if I chose to have it fixed somewhere else – so I would have hated to tow it somewhere that ended up unable to fix it. This adventure isn’t over yet…..they’ll be looking at the car tomorrow!

  • It just happened to me on Monday of this week. Car was acting like it was dying; I took it to a reputable repair shop locally, NOT a dealer. (However, I did not need to be towed.) It was the alternator; replacement and labor came to roughly $450. So, I would agree, stay away from the dealers. The lesson for me was to establish a relationship with a mechanic/shop I can trust early on.
    Also, my car, although in good general condition (no major problems so far) has just over 120,000 miles. American made. Mechanic told me this is a common failure for high mileage cars.

  • @Lynn – Having a relationship with a local mechanic is a great idea. Unfortunately I don’t have that, so I didn’t feel comfortable towing it to the local mechanic that I had used occasionally. I think it may be time to reconnect, huh?

  • Unless it’s under warranty, NO DEALERSHIP. Their prices are too high and the service subpar. I’d go to my local shop. My local shop mechanics are way smarter than the guys at the dealership.

    And Chrysler is famous for the moronic location of their batteries. Buick does it, too. Makes replacing the battery WAY more expensive because you can’t get Walmart or Advance Auto Parts to do it for free, and it’s a huge pain to do it yourself.

  • @Jennny – that’s exactly right…we had a heck of a time trying to find somewhere to change the battery for us – we finally found Sears that would change it for us, but their batteries were much more expensive than other discount places. AND as we found out (fast forward to my next post), the battery didn’t really last as long as it should have.

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