Winter Thoughts

From all indications so far, the winter we’re coming into this year does not seem to be mirroring last winter’s, so called, ‘Polar Vortex’. This winter did start earlier than I would have liked, and we have had some cold weather but, overall, it is starting to look as if it will be an up and down affair, as far as temperatures go.

I am now living in full winter mode, which means that I don’t drive far, especially if the roads are covered in snow, which they aren’t, for the most part, right now. This means that any hikes I do will be fairly local, although I do try to get into areas that I haven’t seen yet.

Still, as I’ve mentioned before, it is a very dull time of the year, and pictures won’t be all that great in this dreary weather. Yesterday was mild and foggy, but today the fog did clear, and it was cloudy and mild. I needed to get out, so I took advantage of the clearer conditions today to take a walk along Milliken Mine Road.

On the way there, I stopped in at Timmies, to pick up a coffee, and muffin, one of my few indulgences, as far as eating out goes. I then drove over and parked at Prodan’s Pond to enjoy my treat for the day.

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In all the time I’ve lived up here, I’ve never noticed anyone parking in this particular spot. I’ve only started parking here fairly recently myself. However, since I started parking here, I’ve noticed a number of people doing the same. It’s funny how people are, isn’t it? Sometimes when I’m grocery shopping, I stop at a particular counter to look, and someone will come running over to the same place, to see what they are missing. πŸ™‚

Anyway, such is life, there are followers, and there are leaders, and then there are people who just do what they do, without the impediments of the mind.

While I have the picture of the truck up there, I did want to mention something that has been dogging me for more than two years now. Back then, I determined that I had some mysterious electrical issues, that were sucking the life out of my battery, and I ended up replacing the battery just over a year ago. When I got the new battery, I bought, what I felt was, a better one. In other words, not the cheapest one available for my truck.

The battery I purchased, from Canadian Tire, had a very good warranty on it, 5 years free replacement, and 10 years pro-rated replacement. I felt that this would mean that I wouldn’t have to be concerned with any more battery issues for quite a while. Yep, I know how Canadian Tire is, and it’s not hard to find dissatisfied customer comments online, or anywhere else for that matter.

However, I still felt confident that, if the battery failed, I would at least have some recourse, and an opportunity to have it replaced at no additional cost to me. Well, this week I got the chance to actually test that theory because, once again, my battery died, and could not be resuscitated.

Fortunately, I have learned to always keep a backup battery in the truck with me, so that I won’t be left stranded somewhere out on a remote bush road. So, I put the backup battery in the truck, and it worked fine, which also convinced me that the battery I took out was indeed the problem. This backup battery is about 8 years old, and it has never let me down yet. It’s an Optima AGM battery, but it’s really not powerful enough to handle all the electronic options in this truck. It will do in a pinch, but I knew that I had to get something else for full time use.

I did some intensive testing on the truck, and the dead battery, just to make sure, before I brought the dead battery back to Canadian Tire, to see if I could get a replacement on the warranty. When I was convinced that the battery was definitely at fault, I made my move, but I was also prepared for Canadian Tire to try and find a way out of honoring the warranty, which seems to be par for the course, according to many other customer experiences.

When I arrived at the parts counter, with the dead battery, the first thing the guy did was to remove the water filling caps, and have a look inside. Again, I was very confident that the water levels were fine, because I had checked them myself the day before. My confidence faded very quickly, when he opened the second set of caps, and both he and I saw that one of the cells had ice on it.

Well, I didn’t say as much as boo. I knew he had me right there. The warranty specifically says that frozen batteries are not covered, and I knew that. I also realized where I made my mistake. I had left the battery inside the truck overnight, and I didn’t check it before I brought it in. It didn’t dawn on me that it would have iced up in that one, milder, night.

Even if that ice hadn’t been in the one cell, it’s quite possible that continued inspection, by the parts guy, would have turned up some other reason that the warranty could not be honored. The fact is, if you read these warranties, there are all kinds of loopholes that the sellers can manipulate in their favor. So, they could actually put a 50 year warranty on these batteries if they wanted to. But, I think that would be too obvious, so they have to make it seem a bit real by sticking to more believable time limits.

Anyway, the goose had been cooked, as far as getting any warranty on that battery, so I did ask the parts guy if I could get my ‘core’ charge back, since I hadn’t brought my old battery back, when I purchased this one. He fiddled around a bit, and then agreed to do so, probably knowing that he had just saved his wonderful company the price of the new battery. I got the $15. core charge, and taxes, back, and then I headed over to NAPA auto parts.

You see, I did come prepared for all possibilities. We do have a NAPA store in town, and I had already done some research on NAPA batteries, and found that they were acceptable to most people, unlike the reputation of, what is commonly referred to as, ‘Crappy Tire’. Also, this is just a parts store, and they don’t do service on vehicles, so I felt that it would be a bit easier to return a bad battery, without as much trouble.

Before I went into the NAPA store, I already had an idea of what I wanted, however they didn’t have the battery I wanted in stock, so I went with the next one up, which happened to be the best battery they sell for my truck. This battery is an AGM battery, the same construction as my backup Optima battery. This battery is sealed, so there are no water filling caps on it, and no maintenance required. The price was a bit hard for me to swallow, at $225. including tax. However, I felt that this was the battery that I needed, given the fact that the other AGM battery I have has lasted so long.

This truck story is a bit of a long one, but I want to do it justice, because I’ve put so much effort into it. I’ve been testing, and researching the electrical issues for about 2 years now, and I still don’t have the answers I need. Any mechanic will tell you that one of the most difficult problems to diagnose in a vehicle is electrical problems and, more specifically, intermittent electrical problems.

Now that I have the second new battery in the truck, I’m finally coming to the conclusion that, even though I know I have a parasitic draw of .23amps(230mah) on the truck battery, when the ignition is turned off, the main reason my batteries are not lasting is that I just don’t use the truck enough. I had already suspected that before, and this is why I keep a battery charger/maintainer plugged in, whenever the truck is just sitting. This turned out to be not enough though. I don’t know why that is, but it clearly did not save my last battery.

Now, I have installed a negative terminal disconnect, which has a knob on top of it that, when turned, completely disconnects the battery from the trucks electrical system. This will insure that there is no possibility of parasitic drains, and I will still keep the intelligent battery charger/maintainer, which is also meant for AGM batteries, connected when the truck is not in use.

I do realize that by completely disconnecting power from the truck, every time I park it, that the trucks PCM, or computer, will lose it’s settings, and will need a certain amount of driving time to reset those optimum settings again. Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t drive a lot, especially in winter, so it could be that the PCM might never be able to keep the trucks engine at optimal settings, but I don’t see any other way out.

I’m not concerned about radio, or clock settings, because I never use them anyways. Also, I might point out that when you do completely disconnect power from this truck, and then reconnect it, and turn the ignition to start, all the gauges will max out, until it starts. This is normal, and does not indicate an electrical malfunction, as many people seemed to think it does.

The fact that I have to get under the hood, in order to turn that knob on the negative terminal, doesn’t bother me all that much. I just leave the hood latch open, with the hood down, to make it as easy as possible. So, when I’m going to use the truck, I now unplug the permanently mounted intelligent battery charger/maintainer, I then lift, the already unlatched hood, and turn that negative terminal knob to on. At that point, I can use my key fob to open the doors on the truck, and away I go. I’m fortunate to have an electrical outlet at my parking location. Everyone up here has them, mostly for block heater use.

Just to sum all of this up, the main reason I have to do this is because I don’t use the truck often enough to keep the battery in good condition. The fact that I have a parasitic draw on the battery does make that situation worse, but that parasitic draw would not be such an issue if I was using the truck regularly. Still, I’m not giving up on finding what is causing this draw. I will be pulling each fuse, one by one, until I can locate which one is causing that draw, and then, when I find it, I will have to investigate each electrical item that this particular fuse is associated with. It’s a very time consuming procedure, but I’m not exactly on the clock anymore, so that doesn’t intimidate me. I’ll just do it at my convenience, and when I feel like it. In the meantime, I feel that the measures I’ve taken will allow me to keep using the truck, without fear of being left in the lurch, so to speak.

What can I say? It’s winter and there’s not as much to blog about, so I have to write about something. πŸ™‚

So, back to my walk today.

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This is a panorama of Prodan’s Pond. On the far right, you can see a hole in the ice.

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Someones has been ice fishing here. I’ve never seen that done before. I don’t think it would be too deep there.

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There was also a hole cut at the permanent location of a minnow trap, which I discovered earlier this year.

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Here are both holes in one shot. I guess it’s possible, now that the water is colder, that there are Trout in here, even if the water is not all that deep.

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Walking further along Milliken Mine Road, some fungus on a birch tree.

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A panorama of another pond along Milliken Mine Road. I’ve also seen minnow traps left in this pond too.

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The beavers have been busy around here. I saw a lot of trees cut off just like this one. I guess they’re gettin’ while the gettin’ is good.

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I’ve seen a lot of raccoon tracks lately too. I actually came across a group of three raccoons, not too long ago, on a rare occasion when I didn’t have my camera with me.

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I walked off the road and into the bush on this, seldom used, trail for a while. I knew already that it didn’t go all that far, but I just wanted to get into the bush a bit.

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You can see, from my tracks, that the snow is not too deep, even in the bush. It’s always interesting to see all the different animal tracks, many of them too old to identify.

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Back out on Milliken Mine Road, you can see that the paved roads around here are quite clear at the moment.

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I’ve passed this sign umpteen times, but never stopped to read it, because I pass so many signs in these mine sites. However, I did read it today, and it gives a very good idea of the radiation exposure risks to people hiking in these areas. As you can see, the risks are extremely minimal, and one might say that they don’t believe this, but I’ve done extensive research on this very subject, and have never found anything that suggests otherwise.

I know, for a fact, that they are constantly testing these areas, because of the past mining of uranium, so there are checks in place here, unlike most other areas, that also produce radon gas, and are in no way monitored.

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The water, in this particular area, remains open all winter long, because of the water falling out of a large pipe that runs under Milliken Mine Road.

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Here, again, is a panorama of that same pond.

So, it wasn’t a long walk today, but it was enjoyable, and that’s all that counts. When, or if, the sun ever returns, I will do a longer excursion into the bush. In the meantime, I will be plugging away at finding the source of the electrical drain on the truck battery, when the weather permits.

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