Me Versus Technology

12 volt auto plug
Car lighter socket plug thing

The last day or two has been all about the fixing. I’ve repaired a phone line, made a computer stop crashing, mended a fuse in a car that wouldn’t start and – for a bit of whimsy – set up video calling on a TV.

If that sounds like an unbroken string of victories, that’s because I’m making it sound like an unbroken string of victories. The fun is in the stuff I’d sooner draw a veil over. For a start, the reason that car wouldn’t start wasn’t the fuse.

I had this useful thing… At least, one of those theoretically useful things that you actually hardly ever use but keep because it obviously has a million uses. An amazing little “inverter” for the car that changes the 12 volts DC from the little cigarette lighter socket into the 230 volts AC you need to run a big domestic appliance. Sounds like it shouldn’t even work, right? Well it doesn’t work.

To short a long story, I’d thought it was the lighter socket plug that was at fault because that showed every sign of being burned out. It took me a while, but I found a replacement that looked sufficiently heavy-duty, got it all wired up and plugged it in.

Pof. Oh right, the little fuse in the lighter plug is not up to 13 amp appliances. Replace that with a bigger one.

Pof. The car fuse for the lighter socket blows. And now it occurs to me that if this inverter is blowing fuses without there even being an appliance plugged into it, there is something a little bit wrong maybe. A process of elimination and repetition establishes beyond doubt that my theoretically useful piece of equipment just blows fuses up. I open it, but there’s no obvious burn marks or smell of something shorting out. I can only guess that some component has failed. And as the thing basically consists of a great number of components hammered into a small box I know there’s no hope of my replacing it, even if I knew how to find which one was at fault. I take great pride in my ability to fix all sorts of crap, but I’m cutting my losses on this one. Besides, it’s getting late and I’m tired after all the repairs of the day. Finally I repair to bed.

So what was the reason the car wouldn’t start? Simple. I left the interior light on.

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