Advice, Tip and Tricks: Battery Safety and Installation:

Safety First!

Always wear safety glasses when working on batteries.  Once, when I was much younger, I was cleaning the corrosion on the battery in a friends car. I was scrubbing away with a wire brush and the brush flicked a piece of the green acidic crud right into my eye.  The moral to that story: ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES.

Batteries produce explosive gas - keep away from flames and sparks: Batteries produce hydrogen gas: that's the stuff that brought down the Hindenburg.  Do not smoke around batteries.  Do not expose to flame or spark.  Here's another true story.  A friend was trying to jump start his wife's car but the battery post was loose and it wasn't making good connection.   He had her "crank it" while he wiggled the battery terminal.  The wiggling caused a spark and the battery exploded blowing the top right off the battery and splashing him and engine compartment with battery acid.  He was wearing glasses and got immediate attention to wash off the acid.  He was lucky. It could have ended worse. 

Use caution connecting booster cables: Connect jumper cables to the discharged battery first. The hydrogen gas get created as the battery discharges.  So sparks around a charged battery are less likely to create an explosion.  Another good idea is to connect positive to positive then connect negative to something on the engine instead of the battery.  That way if a spark is created it happens it happens away from the battery.  Of course, always be careful for all the usual stuff on the engine, spinning fans, belts, hot stuff, etc.

Remove jewelry when working on batteries.  Another true story; I worked repairing tractors with a guy named Bob Blix.  He was one of the best mechanic I ever worked with.  He never wore jewelry on the job.  One weekend, on a trip to Las Vegas, he stopped to help someone who's car had broken down. He was working on the car when he shorted the battery positive post to the chassis ground thru his metal wrist watch band.  The watch was glowing red before he was able to react.  I'm sure the pain from the burn wrecked the Vegas weekend and he had a scar in the shape of a wrist watch around his wrist to remind him of it.  Don't repeat that mistake. 

Always remove ground wire first and connect it last.  Most modern cars are negative ground although many old cars were positive ground.  For this discussion we'll assume negative ground. Why disconnect the ground first?  Until the ground is disconnected the engine, and car body are all connected to the negative battery post thru that ground cable.  If you are wrenching on the positive side and the wrench slips and bangs into the metal battery box, you will create a huge spark as the current from the positive battery post finds a path to ground by going thru the wrench, the car body and the ground cable.  Avoid these problems by always disconnecting ground first and reconnecting last.

Wash Your Hands! - I hate to sound like your mother but she was right this time.  Batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid, both of which cause all sorts of bad things. Always wash you hand after working with batteries.  Lead causes heavy metal poisoning and battery acid can cause severe chemical burns,  Do NOT eat, smoke, rub your eyes, hug your kids, or snuggle up to your honey or go to the bathroom until you have washed your hands.

Don't pound on battery terminals to get them to fit on a battery post.
I was once with a buddy when we took a car to a auto shop in one of these big box department
stores.  His battery was getting changed under warranty.  The kid must have thought that the battery cables were held on with nails because to took out a hammer and started thumping the terminals to get the to fit on the battery posts. This WILL damage the internal connection from the post to the battery plates or crack the plastic around the post and assuring acid leaks and corroded cables for as long as you keep that damaged battery.  Special "spreader" tools are made for opening terminals so they will fit. You can even use a large flat blade screwdriver or 2 end wrenches in a pinch. See pictures:

Can't remove a terminal?  Use a Terminal puller.  Terminal pullers are handy little tools  for removing stuck battery terminals.  If all else fails spend a few bucks on one of these tools. See picture...





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Revised: 01/03/15.