AutoMD’s 2013 Auto Battery Tips and Resource Guide

Carson, CA – October 15, 2013Download PDF Version According to Prevent Blindness America1, each year auto batteries cause roughly 6,000 eye injuries, including cuts to the eye from flying battery fragments. There’s also the risk of skin burns, hand injuries, and other related injuries from improper use of car batteries and jump starting. And, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration2, the types of risks and injuries related to batteries include explosions, chemical burns and/or contamination resulting from contact with battery acid, and muscle strains and/or crush type injuries with lifting or dropping the battery; and electric shock from contacting battery and/or posts.

Jumpstarting a vehicle and replacing a battery are among the easier DIY jobs and many car owners do these jobs themselves, but they can also be one of the most risky so understanding safety precautions is critical for those who plan to DIY any battery job.

The experts at AutoMD.com have created this Auto Battery Tips and Resource Guide to provide easy-to-follow, all-in-one place safety tips for jump-starting and replacing an auto battery, as well as for the disposal and recycling of auto batteries.

As with all repairs, be sure to consult your vehicle owner’s manual before doing any DIY work on your vehicle.

Safety Tips When Jump Starting a Battery

Only Attempt It If You Know What You Are Doing--This is a relatively easy job for those who know how to do it, but if you have never done it before or are unsure how to do it, leave it to the experts and call roadside towing.

Check Your Vehicle Owner’s Manual--Most vehicle owner’s manuals have step by step instructions to jump start your vehicle and to help you locate your battery.

Keep all Sparks and Open Flames (Smoking) Away from the Battery--All vehicle batteries contain sulfuric acid and produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. If the hydrogen gas comes into contact with a spark, the battery can explode, sending pieces of the battery and acid flying. Pieces of the battery can cut into the eye, while the sulfuric acid can severely burn the delicate eye tissue.

Always Wear Eye Protection--Wearing protective glasses/goggles is a good rule of thumb when doing any auto repair job, but especially for battery replacement and even for jumping, for the reasons stated above.

Make Sure Your Jumper Cables are in Good Condition--Motorists should own a pair of jumper cables tested and approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Jumper cables that are not in good condition can actually be dangerous to the person jump-starting the car. Damaged cables may produce sparks, which can lead to battery explosion. Purchase cables that are at least 12-feet long and color coded.

Do Not Jump Start a Frozen Battery (i.e., when the weather is extremely cold)--If you believe the battery is frozen, warm it up before charging. A fully discharged battery will freeze quickly when the temperature falls below freezing because a discharged battery turns acid into water. In this case, remove the battery from the car and take it inside for a couple of hours before starting to charge it. It is unlikely that the battery is frozen solid, so in an hour or so, it should be ready for a slow charge. By warming it gently first, you avoid the risk of cracking the battery.

Turn the Ignition Key and All Electrical Accessories Off for BOTH Vehicles--Before you connect the jumper cables to both vehicles, make sure everything is turned off and both vehicles are in park. Be sure to unplug anything charging in the cigarette lighter. Accessories plugged into the lighter could be draining your power and could be damaged by power surges when you jump the vehicle.

Make Sure the Red and Black Cables Do Not Touch When Connecting Them to the Batteries--Never touch the red and black cables to each other as they could spark and cause injuries. Always connect red to the positive battery terminal and black to the negative battery terminal and engine block. If connected improperly, a short circuit will occur and damage to electrical components may happen.

How to Jump Start Your Battery

Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions before you attempt to jump start your battery. Eye protection must be worn.

  1. Park the vehicle with the jumper battery close to the vehicle with the dead battery. Make sure the vehicles are not touching. Turn the ignition key off in both vehicles.
  2. Connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive post on the dead battery. Connect the other end of the red jumper cable to the positive post on the jumper battery.
  3. Connect one end of the black jumper cable to the negative terminal on the jumper battery. Connect the other end of the black jumper cable to a good ground away from the dead battery (i.e., engine block).
  4. Start the vehicle with the jumper battery.
  5. Start the vehicle with the dead battery. If the engine does not crank, wait a few minutes and try again. If the engine still does not crank, turn off the engine with the jumper battery and check the jumper cable connections.
  6. Once the vehicle with the dead battery starts remove the jumper cables in the reverse order of installation.

Safety Tips When Replacing a Battery

  • Consult your vehicle owner’s manual before you disconnect the battery.
  • Batteries can be heavy, so do not under-estimate the weight: if you have back or strength issues, it is probably best to call for roadside assistance.
  • Wear protective eye wear and gloves.
  • Neutralize any corrosion with a baking soda / water paste or battery cleaning spray. Scrape or brush off the residue and wash the area with water.

How to Replace a Battery

Installing a battery is not a difficult DIY job and can save a trip to the dealership or the repair shop, which also could mean saving significant dollars.

  1. Take a picture of the battery in the engine compartment before you remove it. The picture will help you when installing the new battery and connecting the cables. Make sure you have the radio code if applicable.
  2. Disconnect the negative ground cable first to avoid an electrical short when removing the positive cable. Set the negative cable away from the battery and then remove the positive cable.
  3. Remove the battery hold-down and carefully lift the battery from the battery tray. Clean and inspect the battery tray, hold-down, and cables. Replace cables if they are extremely corroded or the insulation is damaged.
  4. Compare the new battery to the old one. Make sure the size and post orientation are identical, and the new battery meets or exceeds the manufacturer’s power requirements.
  5. Install the new battery in same position as old one and secure it with the battery hold-down.
  6. Connect positive cable first. Connect negative cable second.
  7. Coat terminals and cable connection with a corrosion protection spray.

Other Battery Installation Tips

  1. Always purchase a battery that has enough power and reserve capacity to get the job done. Consider the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended capacity to be a minimum-capacity guideline.
  2. A vehicle that has a lot of electrical accessories will need a more powerful battery for optimum performance.
  3. Along with electrical accessories, temperature also has an effect on battery performance. Vehicles operated in extremely cold climates will need a battery rated well about the OE recommendations. Likewise, vehicles operated in hot climates will not need extremely high Cold Cranking Amperes (CCA) ratings. You can’t have a battery with too much power in colder climates. Temperature has a dramatic impact on a battery’s ability to crank an engine; cold robs batteries of power, it also congeals motor oil making engines harder to start.

Battery Disposal Safety Tips

Protection - Wear leather or protective disposable gloves and safety glasses when handling batteries.

Transport upright - For those transporting old batteries for recycling, keep batteries upright and place them in a sturdy box or plastic container. Plastic containers for car batteries can be purchased at local home repair and auto parts centers.

Beware of leaks - If the battery case is cracked or leaking, be especially careful to choose a leak-proof container.

No smoking - Do not smoke near a battery and do not expose the battery to an open flame (such as using a match or lighter).

Keep it stable - Make certain the battery will not shift or tip over while your vehicle is in motion.

Wash hands after disposal - Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap afterwards, (and even if you wear gloves as an extra precaution).

Battery Recycling

A battery's toxic lead and acid can easily be recycled, and most retailers will dispose of the old one for you. When buying a new battery, you might pay a charge that's refunded if you bring in the old battery after installing the new one.

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