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My Car Has a Compass

Updated on August 29, 2012

Don't Let the Battery Die on THIS Baby!

Who Thought This Up?

My car has a compass. First impressions would make you believe this is a good thing to have. I believed this. I truly did. Most of the time, I am pleased to have a compass, because you never know when you might need to know which way north is. I am also intrigued when the direction shifts slightly. Why does it thrill me to know I'm suddenly driving southwest instead of straight south?

Once upon a time, the battery in my car died and needed to be replaced. This happens to all of us at one time or another, and is taken in stride by anyone with a minimal mechanical aptitude (which doesn't actually include me). Not trusting my feeble mechanical inclinations, and also not wanting to risk blowing myself to the moon by hooking up a new battery myself, I had the local Goodyear dealership do the job for me. (I know, I know, it's not a tough job. Still...) After a short while, I picked up my car with a smile on my face and a somewhat emptier wallet, and was reunited with my auto assuming all was right with the world.

I was deceived.

To my shock and consternation, I discovered both the radio and the compass no longer functioned correctly after the old battery had died. (The radio was protected by a pass code to protect it from theft. Well, gee, I bought the car used, and knew of no code to key into it. The used car dealer sure didn't mention it when I bought the thing. I called Mitsubishi and asked them what to do. The mechanic on the other end of the line, in his infinite wisdom, advised me to "pop out the radio, check the serial number, and call him back". "Pop out the radio?" I asked. "How do you suggest I 'pop out the radio'?" The voice on the other end of the phone could not answer my question, so I mumbled a quick thanks for absolutely nothing and hung up. I never succeeded in popping out the radio, and in desperation I ended up buying a new one, instead. Installed by Goodyear, who was preparing to give me my own reserved parking space after so many trips to their establishment.)

But the radio isn't my tale tonight. I consulted my owner's manual for procedures on how to reset the compass. In the interest of complete accuracy, I will list the instructions here.

1. Press the adjustment switch (1) for about one second, and the display window (2) will indicate the symbol (S) at all the divisions of the scale. Continue to press the switch, and all the symbols (S) except one will disappear. (S) and the remaining (S) will revolve around the scale, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. NOTE: The clockwise and counterclockwise rotations of (S) are repeated alternately.

2. In this state, turn the vehicle slowly through 360 degrees in a safe, open space with no vehicle or building around. This will automatically complete the adjustment, showing the correct point on the compass. When there is no appropriate space for turning the vehicle, give one turn to the vehicle by steering clockwise and then counterclockwise or vise versa.

NOTE OF DECLINATION ADJUSTMENT. In some areas, north on the compass (magnetic north) deviates from north on the map due to the inclination of the earth's axis. This deviation angle is called declination, and declination between 20 degrees west and 20 degrees east can be adjusted in increments of 5 degrees.

Huh????????????? What did that thing say??????????

I decided I was being instructed to press a button and drive around in circles. Failing that, I could press the button and take a sharp left followed by a sharp right, perhaps on the Interstate passing other cars. Rather than test my skills on the highway and intent on taking the manual's advice not to hit any cars or buildings, I went to a public school's parking lot. To ensure no youngsters were injured due to my efforts at auto maintenance, I arrived well after all the kids were at home. I calmed my breathing, pressed the button and began.

I made a complete circle in the parking lot. Didn't help. I did it again. Nothing. I decided to improvise and pressed the button again, much like Moses striking the stone with his staff a second time in his efforts to supply the multitudes with water in the desert. Maybe if I held the button down while making the loop it would work. I tried that twice.

At this point, a police officer came to see what I was doing, and was likely preparing to subject me to a sobriety test. After all, I was about 25 years too old to be doing doughnuts in the school parking lot, even if I was circling at a speed normally reserved for a child's Big Wheel. Rather than get gunned down while trying for a quick getaway, I surrendered without a fight. I told the officer I wasn't an overaged juvenile delinquent, but rather that I was trying to fix the compass in my car. I offered him a look at the alternately rotating (S) as proof of my harmless intent, and told the officer I would be glad to have him stay until I accomplished my task if he wished. I also told him I would accept any help he offered in solving my problem. Laughing out loud in my face, he told me he trusted me and wished me luck. Must have been my honest face.

After three or four more circles around the lot, I did indeed accomplish my goal, but I break out in a cold sweat whenever I think about the inevitable day I need a new battery. I think I would prefer the car gave out first.

And I thought I had troubles with the radio.................

A 2012 Update

I still drive this vehicle. It's older now--in fact, it was made fourteen years ago. The compass no longer works. The radio antenna no longer raises. It leaks oil and shudders a bit in second gear. None of that matters. I love this vehicle, and I've never enjoyed driving as much as I have sitting behind the wheel of my Mitsubishi. I don't know how many more years it has left in it, but I hope to be able to drive it for many years to come.

This is now the vehicle I drive when I am dreaming of sitting behind the wheel. It is not my dream vehicle, but it is the vehicle in my dreams. In its own way, a vehicle can't get much better.

I hope you all drive the car, truck, van or bike of your dreams. Take care, my friends.


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    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      stricktlydating, you said it exactly! So much for the convenience of technology. How could anyone have even conceived of such an odd process? There had to have been a more convenient way to set the compass!

      Well, thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments.


    • stricktlydating profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      That is such a funny story! I can't believe the process of resetting the compass in your car! So much for the conveninece of technology!

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Ben. The boat analogy is an interesting one. If I were the captain of a ship, could I find another continent with nothing going for me than a compass? I dunno.... I could probably find land somewhere eventually, but would it be what I set sail to reach? That's the big question.

      Anyway, I had a little more luck the next time I had to fool with the compass, but it still didn't go that well. I think I have trouble with over-analyzing instructions. I've been accused of finding multiple interpretations of the instructions on soup can labels. So, whether it's correcting the compass in my car or dishing out a yummy helping of Campbell's sodium-larded chicken noodle soup--I can use all the help I can get.

      Thanks again for reading.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Really funny Mike. I had that compass for awhile (before I had the navigator) it was a lifesave in Chicago, where all the streets start to look the same after awhile, especially after dark. Sort of makes you feel like you're in a boat instead of a car!

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      9 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Dianab61--Arming me with a GPS is a scary thought, considering my effectiveness with a simple compass. I would probably be ALL OVER THE PARKING LOT with one of those babies!

      Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Imagine the fun you could have with a GPS!

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      9 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      OddjobsMom, I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about having to address the issue of setting the clocks again this weekend. I think I can manage the clock in my car, but NOT the clock on the radio that was put in when I couldn't "pop out" the old one. Oh, well, maybe I won't need to know the time......

      Thanks for your comment.

    • ODDJOBSMOM profile image


      9 years ago from North (Minnesota)

      Hee, hee, hee, you crack me up, can you remind me how to reset my car's clock when day-light savings time ends, I gave up on that when my battery went poop!

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      9 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Battery gave out in my car again, and guess what? There I was in the same parking lot, driving around in circles. Thanks, those of you who enjoyed my tale and commented. I appreciate it.

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      9 years ago from Florida

      I never thought about how all of those little things, those little gadgets worked. This was fun to read!!!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I don't have a compass in my car, I drive by instinct. And the kindess of strangers in a strange land helps alot, too. :D

    • brad4l profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      That was an amusing antidote. When I was younger, I had a radar detector with a compass that was set in the same manner, by driving around in circles. I never thought about it, but I am sure I must have looked silly every time I reset that thing...

    • Raj kamal profile image

      Raj kamal 

      9 years ago from Guntur, A.P., India

      Very funny, thanks for sharing your experience. I wish I had a look at the face of the Police Officer when you told him what you were doing.


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