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Swapping Out A Car Battery

Updated on July 15, 2016

Battery Terminal Cables


If you find that your car won’t start it is possible that your car battery is the issue. Before you decide to buy and replace your battery you should first try and see if corrosion to your battery terminals is the issue.

Cleaning the Battery Terminals: To do this you should first pop open the hood to your car and locate your car battery. You should then remove the terminal cables from the battery remembering to remove the negative (black) cable first and then the positive (red) cable next. You may need a socket wrench or a pair of pliers to do this. While the cables are unattached you should look to the quality of your cables to make sure they do not have extensive wear or damage. If they do you may consider replacing them. You should also check the battery for signs of wear or cracks. If the battery seems to have excessive damage you may need to replace. Additionally, even if the battery seems in tact you should check the battery terminals for corrosion and check to see how old the battery is. You may need to unseat the battery from its housing to find the expiration date or date of original manufacture. Batteries tend to be good for about 5 years, although they can last “a bit” longer. After inspecting the battery cables, if they do not need to be replace (i.e. they look intact with no cracks” you should clean the ends of the terminals with a wire brush. You should also clean the battery terminals with a wire brush. You may also wish you first put a little baking soda on the terminals, and then using a toothbrush wet the bristles a bit and use it to clean the terminals. When you are done you should place the battery cables back on by putting the positive (red) cable back on first and then the negative. After this is completed you should try and restart the car. If the car will not turn on you may need to replace your battery.



Testing the Battery: If cleaning off the corrosion from your battery does not solve your battery issue, then you may need to replace it. You may wish to test the battery’s power first with a multi-meter. If you do not have one an auto parts store will normally have one that, can be used to test the battery. Obviously, since the car won’t start you may need to catch a ride to the store and bring your battery in. (To remove battery see instructions below) If the battery tests out fine then you may need to take your car to a mechanic to look at what may be the issue. However, if your battery fails its multi-meter test then you will need to find the same size battery. The good thing about bringing your battery to the store to be tested is that if you need to buy a new battery most auto parts stores will also recycle your battery for a fee (core fee). This is important, as disposal of a car battery must be done in accordance to your local laws. Additionally, the battery can be use to look up the size of the battery you will now buy. If you did not bring your battery into the store then telling the clerk the year, make, and model of your car should be sufficient to have them look up the size. They may also need your engine type. Bringing in a copy of your car registration is helpful when buying auto parts, especially if you are sometimes absent minded like me. Additionally, when you buy your car battery your clerk may ask you where you live. This is because batteries can wear out anywhere. If you live in a location which can get very cold like Wisconsin, Maine, or Wyoming but you are on vacation in Florida (maybe you decided to drive for fun down there); the clerk will want to make sure you have enough cold cranking amps to start your car in cold weather conditions. Usually the higher the cold cranking amps the battery can generate the higher the price. Make sure to discuss this with the clerk so that you don’t overpay for battery power you don’t need, or not pay enough to get the power you do need.

Car Battery


Replacing the Battery: One you have purchased the battery you will now need to return to your vehicle. Popping the hood of your car you will again remove the battery terminals from the battery starting with the black (negative) terminal first and then the red (positive) terminal. It is very important to remove the terminals in the order listed above or you could potentially put yourself in a situation where you complete a circuit and damage the battery or possible other electronics. Remember, even though you are removing the old battery anyway you do not want to damage the battery as you still have to handle the removal of the battery and do not want to have any battery acid leakage. Additionally, most batteries will be held into place by some sort of housing. This device may be as simple as one screw, or a series of screws and plates. The housing should be very simple to see. Remove what is securing the battery. When this is done you should be able to remove the battery. I recommend using gloves when removing the battery in case there is a leak in the core and battery acid leaks out. When the battery is removed you should place it in a sturdy container for transport to a proper recycling facility (most auto parts stores will recycle the battery core). Next you should place in the new battery. Make sure to place the battery so that the battery’s negative terminal is closest to the (black) (negative) battery cable, and the battery’s positive terminal is closest to the red (positive) battery cable. Secure the housing, which will hold the battery in place. Next, you will connect the red (positive) terminal to the battery first and then the (negative) black cable next. Again, it is important to replace the terminals in the order listed in order to prevent any damage to the battery. This should complete the battery swap. You should then start the ignition and the car should be all set, unless you have other issues. You may need to reset your car’s clock, radio, and other devices which may have reset when the battery was removed.

Conclusion: Changing your car’s battery is not that difficult so long as you follow the proper directions and make sure to get the right battery. If however, you feel nervous about swapping out the car’s battery then you may ask your local mechanic if you can watch them change the battery. Remember to ask them prior to the start of their work as they may need to replace the battery “outside” of their garage. For safety purposes most mechanics will not allow you inside their garage, and many get angry/nervous when a customer all of the sudden walks into their work area in the shop.


To learn more about various other car maintenance and repair information, click the articles below:

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