I give two thumbs up to Battery X-Change on the corner of 17th and Center Street.
One thumb is for selling me two hard-to-find batteries for my mower at a good price. The other thumb is for making me feel like less of a fool after I managed to fry the first battery they sold me within a matter of hours.
My battery saga is a good illustration of why small locally-owned stores need to be patronized, because without them Salem would be much diminished.
It began when I turned off my DR Field Mower, a walk-behind mower with a 16.5 hp Briggs & Stratton engine that I use for both lawn and field mowing on our rural south Salem property. After getting a snack, I went back to the mower and turned the key so I could finish cutting a couple of small fields.
But it wouldn't start. Total silence. Not even an attempt at a start. That perplexed me, since the mower had started completely normally earlier in the day.
My first thought was that the neutral switch had gotten unplugged, since this was the reason the mower wouldn't start one time last year. However, as far as I could tell the neutral switch (which prevents the mower from being started in any gear but neutral) seemed properly connected.
The next thought that popped into my not-very-mechanical mind was that the battery could be dead. I didn't have a battery tester, but I went out and bought one at an auto parts store. It seemed to show very low amps. So I phoned Country Home Products in Vermont, which makes the DR Field Mower.
They told me that, sure, they could send me a new battery for a mere $60.
It would take about a week to get to me, though. I said that the grass was growing like crazy here in Oregon. Couldn't I pay extra for faster shipping? I could -- a seemingly crazy $68 for two-day air. Batteries are heavy, but that still seemed overly expensive.
After complaining about the delivery time and cost, I was given the phone numbers of a couple of places here in Salem that might have the battery I needed, which isn't a common size.
Neither place had the battery.
However, one of them suggested I call Battery X-Change, which once I heard the name, I realized I should have tried right away. The guy who answered the phone at Battery X-Change checked after I gave him a part number and said that he was pretty sure they had the battery.
Which turned out to be the case. I walked out with a new battery for $48, considerably less than Country Home Products would have charged me.
Then things went downhill.
I installed the battery. The mower still wouldn't start. My next (reasonable) idea was to hook the battery up to the trickle charger that I use to maintain the mower battery during the winter. But the following morning I had another idea: check the battery charge with the tester I'd bought the day before.
The tester had large clamps made for car battery terminals.
The mower battery had small "terminals" that fit slide-on engine wires. I could barely fit the large clamps on the small battery. Worse, as I was adjusting them, the clamps touched -- producing an impressive POP, a bright flash of light, and a display of sparks.
That left the terminals half burnt off, not long enough to attach the starter wires.
So another trip to Battery X-Change was in order. I explained my stupid mistake to a different employee than had sold me the battery the day before. Pleasingly, he said "Hey, let me tell you what I did one time."
His story involved something like 100 batteries the size of mine, all connected together for some industrial application. He cut some wires that contained both a live and neutral wire. The tool he was using caused a short that melted the tool and created a way more impressive electrical display than I'd experienced.
"We all do crazy stuff at times," he said. And then proceeded to just charge me $30 rather than $48 for the second battery, adding that I could keep the first battery for jump-starting a dead mower battery, or whatever.
Now, it turned out that my mower still wouldn't start after I'd fully charged the second battery. That led me to phone a neighbor friend who is way more mechanical than I am. He did some testing and found that the neutral switch was defective. After bypassing it, the mower started fine.
The original battery was at least four years old, so it likely would have needed to be replaced soon anyway.
Thus I'm pleased that I was able to get a new battery (two, actually) locally, even though I probably didn't need one at the time. I'm also pleased that my first inclination that the neutral switch was the problem, was accurate. I just didn't know that it was broken, not disconnected.
Bottom line: the guys at Battery X-Change were helpful, competent, and made me feel better about my battery-frying mistake. Head their way if you have a battery problem. You won't regret it.