Rental Car Battery Died

This week Hertz rented me a Nissan Maxima.  Like so many of the new rental cars, the key is just a fob and the ignition is just a push button (you hold down the brake and you push a button on the dash that says ‘start’).  When they handed me the key they asked “Do you know how to turn it on?” and I said, “Oh, one of those, of course.  They are just so nifty until the battery dies in the key fob, then they are not so cool.”  In Denver some time ago I went out to the car and the little fob had a dead battery so I had to take the key apart to manually open the door and I found it to be pretty frustrating and unintuitive at the time.

Well wouldn’t you know that one evening this week I returned to the rental car after dinner out and the dash was all lit up saying “no key”.  I looked at the key I had tossed into the cup holder and thought, “hmmm, well that certainly isn’t true.”  So I got out of the car.   Locked the doors.  Walked away about 20 yards and then re-approached the vehicle and tried again.  “No key”  I tried holding down the brake and pushing the start button and nothing happened so I began to worry that I was stranded.  Then I noticed that the little red battery icon on the left was lit up and finally the dash just went dark.  I see.  So I figured that the battery of the actual car (rather than the key) was dead; I was surprised the dome light and some dash lights were still illuminated.  Having had the distinct pleasure of renting an inadequately maintained Hertz vehicle in the past I knew exactly what to do and I thought I would share this with you all so you can be prepared if you are ever in a similar situation.

Car Safety
Even in daylight, you need to make sure
you are safe when you approach your
car, especially in a garage.

First I looked out the windows to make sure that no weirdos or transients had approached the vehicle or were lurking around in the parking lot.  Once I determined the area looked secure I grabbed my briefcase and returned to the restaurant bar.  I felt safe in the restaurant but sitting alone in a dead car in the dark waiting for a tow truck is decidedly not prudent.  I always carry the rental agreement in my purse (specifically for this reason) and I have Hertz roadside assistance programmed into my cell phone.  From the restaurant I was easily able to call roadside assistance and provide the address of the disabled vehicle.  I was told I would need to wait up to an hour and I explained that I was willing to wait no more than 45 minutes.  The operator stated that I would be reimbursed up to $50 for a cab and I could go to any Hertz to obtain a replacement vehicle.  I had taken a map from the airport rental location and I noted that there were three other locations near my downtown location.  I rang each one but they were closed so I called the airport location.  I told them to come pick me up and bring me a new car but it was late and the Hertz guy explained he was working alone.  He told me to take a taxi to the airport or wait for the tow.

I felt safe (although inconvenienced) so I waited for the tow truck.  The tow truck easily used his built in jump pack to start the rental car.  He told me the battery would need to be replaced and I should switch out the car.  I gave him $10 tip and he said, “Oh wow, thanks, follow-me to the airport!”  So it seems maybe you aren’t supposed to tip but an escort to the airport (about a 30 minute drive) was pretty cool.  The guy at the airport apologized, told me not to worry about the fact that I returned the car only half full of gas, upgraded me to a new car, and I was back in the hotel and in bed before midnight but it was a long night.

So the take aways here are: 1) Do not ask strangers for help under any circumstances 2) be aware of your surroundings 3) immediately get yourself out of a compromised situation and go somewhere safe 4) be patient, to a point 5) Do not ask strangers for help.  OK, so number 1 and number 5 are the same but it is just that important.  All the major rental car companies have roadside assistance and if you try to mess around with jumper cables or fix the car yourself you will not be paying attention to what is going on around you plus you may damage the car.  Limit your liability and use the existing process to mitigate your personal risk.  Next time you rent a car keep the contract on your person and also program the roadside assistance number into your cell.  Happy travels!

About The Author

The Lead CRA

Nadia started The Lead CRA blog in 2007. She is now lead author for ClinOps Toolkit. Nadia is currently working as a Clinical Program Manager at a small specialty pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach Nadia via email at [email protected] anytime.

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