How to Change Automobile Batteries

Written by caryn kelly
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How to Change Automobile Batteries
Change your automobile battery carefully. (dead battery image by Katrina Miller from

Automobile batteries last about four to seven years, according to "Popular Mechanics" magazine. That's not very long, so chances are you'll find yourself changing a car battery at some time in your life, especially if you have an older car. Avoid spending money to have a car repair shop change your automobile battery by learning how to do it yourself. The process can be relatively simple for someone with a little knowledge about basic car repair, but care must be taken to avoid getting electrocuted by dangerous sparks.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Water
  • Work gloves
  • Goggles
  • Wrench
  • Baking soda
  • Stiff brush

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  1. 1

    Rinse the old battery and the metal area around it with lots of water to get rid of any residual battery acid. Automobile batteries emit highly ignitable fumes, so change it in a well-ventilated area such as a driveway or a garage with the door open. Wear work gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes.

  2. 2

    Use a wrench to unhook the bracket that holds the battery in its tray. Unfasten the bolt holding the negative terminal---the grounding side---to break the electrical circuit. Slide the cable clamp off the battery and then unfasten the positive terminal. The negative terminal should have a minus sign and the positive terminal should have a plus sign. Remove the terminal clamps in the correct order to prevent sparks from flying.

  3. 3

    Lift the old battery out of your automobile. Batteries can weigh about 13.6 to 27.2 Kilogram, so be careful when bending over, especially if you have a bad back. Make a paste of baking soda and a few drops of water. Apply the paste to a stiff brush and scrub the battery clamps, the tray and brackets to remove any white corrosive build-up.

  4. 4

    Position your new automobile battery so that it sits securely on the tray. Be sure that the positive and negative terminals are on the correct sides. Use your wrench to secure the battery to the supporting bracket. Place the positive cable clamp over the positive terminal and the negative cable clamp over the negative terminal. Tighten the bolts with your wrench. Cover the terminals with a thick layer of petroleum jelly to slow corrosion build-up.

  5. 5

    Dispose of your old battery properly. Avoid throwing it away in the household garbage. Automobile batteries are highly toxic and should be delivered to a recycling centre or to an auto repair garage that will get rid of it for you.

Tips and warnings

  • Your automobile should be off when changing the battery.
  • Tap the terminal bolts lightly with a hammer to loosen them up if they're too tight.
  • Battery clamps that appear highly corrosive or damaged should be replaced along with the battery.
  • Keep a box of baking soda nearby to cover any acid spills.
  • Frozen automobile batteries can't be jumped and must be replaced.
  • Battery acid can severely harm skin and eyes and cause metal corrosion.
  • Be careful not to touch the wrench to metal to avoid a short circuit.
  • Connect the terminals in the right order or you could damage the electrical system.
  • Clock and radio station settings may need to be readjusted after changing an automobile battery.

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