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Replacing Your Car Battery

How to Replace a Car Battery

During my most recent oil change, the mechanic informed me that my car battery was dirty and they were going to clean it for me. I found this a little weird. I mean, I like a clean car just as much as the next person, but I don’t usually think about cleaning anything under the hood.

The mechanic proceeded to explain that when a battery’s connectors get dirty, it indicates of the age of the battery, and it’s a good idea to get a new battery soon. Keeping that in mind, it didn’t surprise me when my car was just slightly reluctant to start now and then. And when it didn’t start at all on the first attempt, I knew it was time to be concerned.

This concern lead me to spend money (doesn’t it always?) on a wire brush and a new battery.

You have probably wondered, like I have, how to replace a car battery. You have to be careful when replacing a car battery. There are some important things to remember while replacing a car battery. Firstly, turn the car off! NEVER work with your battery while the car is running. Secondly, always disconnect the negative (black) cable first, THEN the positive (red) cable. If you accidentally touch a metal tool to the battery post when the negative cable is the only one connected, the tool can turn into molten metal in your hand. A battery’s high current makes it a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, gloves, goggles and ventilation aren’t a bad idea either, given the extremely corrosive nature batteries.

In fact, the battery can be so corrosive that it corrodes itself. The corrosion that appears on the battery posts (which my mechanic cleaned off, bless him) actually interferes with the battery’s ability to send power to the engine. This corrosion is easy to scrub off yourself with a combination of baking soda and water and/or a small wire brush . These brushes usually have a wooden handle with hard steel bristles, and you can find them at an automotive or home improvement store.

When you decide to give your battery posts a good cleaning, once again, turn the car OFF and take the cables off of the battery, black cable first. Scrub both the posts and the cables’ ends with the wire brush. Depending on the age of the battery and the climate, you can keep a battery going for an extra couple of months just by cleaning it off now and then.

This does amount to a form of Russian roulette, however, since you’re never quite sure when your battery is going to decide that enough is enough. So, before too long, shell out the money and buy a new battery especially if the battery is damaged. Batteries typically run from $50 to $100. In the automotive store (or Walmart, depending on your preference) you will find a book next to the displayed batteries. Find the make, model, and year of your car in this book, and the batteries that are compatible with your car will be listed.

Once you’ve acquired a new battery, you can replace the old one.  To replace it,  turn the car off and remove the black cable, THEN the red cable. Scrub the ends of the cables with your new wire brush. Then, take off the bolts that secure your battery to the engine with a wrench or nut spinner. This may require you to take off some plastic clamps as well. Switch the old battery for the new one, and secure the new battery with the bolts you just removed.

Keep in mind, batteries often have a removable layer of insulation around them that is about 1/4 of an inch thick. This insulation needs to go on the new battery because it protects the battery from engine heat. With the bolts and insulation in place, you can reconnect the cables (red then black! don’t allow the negative cable to be the only one connected.) Start your car to make sure it works, and voila! You, my friend, know the art of how to replace a car battery.

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