Planning to Change Your Battery

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Most people have a good idea of how to change their vehicle’s battery. Have you thought about the car battery installation process? But what most people don’t do is plan—because planning is more than just reaction, it’s thinking ahead. How will your car battery die on you, and where will you be? Will your engine fail to turn over when you’re already five minutes late to work, or will the process your vehicle uses to recharge your battery cease to function properly, leaving you stranded out and about.

As Americans we want to tackle every problem head on, and often forget the old idiom that advices discretion as the better part of valor. It’s important to think bigger picture about things like safety and prevention. So slow your mind down as it catalogs the few tools you’ll need to change out your battery successfully and think about family or friends that might be either borrowing your vehicle when the battery dies on you.

The best thing to do is preventative maintenance. Total preventative maintenance extends to far more than just your vehicle’s battery, like checking tire pressure, the conditions of your brakes, fluid levels, and cleaning debris build up; but unlike low tire pressure, battery problems are show stopping.

One of the easiest things you can is have your battery tested one a year, or even once a quarter as it ages.

This way you’ll be alerted early on if your battery isn’t holding a charge like it used, and will be able to replace it before it becomes a problem.

However, remembering to do this is often times difficult as life is busy and schedules sometimes don’t allow the flexibility needed. And even if your battery still carries a strong charge doesn’t mean that your vehicle won’t malfunction and leave your, your loved ones, or your friends to change the battery.

Changing your vehicle’s battery might require a few tools. The best way to figure this out is by referring to the owner’s manual while doing a mock battery change out. This may seem silly but there is no other way to be sure of what exactly you’ll need. The practice of trial runs coupled with forward thought is something that many industries use to keep their vehicles running well, such as law enforcement and the military, and can be applied to vehicles you don’t own but use, such as work trucks.

If you decide to forgo this process and simply think you’ll only need the tools afforded to you in the multi-tool you keep attached to your belt you might find yourself out of luck. Some batteries are held in place extra securely with some kind of retention plate and bolt. These simplistic safeguards ensure that your battery doesn’t bounce around ever, but is instead held rock solid in the same spot no matter what bumps the terrain might throw your way.

Beyond what tools are required it’s important to think about what safety precautions are needed.

There could be corrosive build up on the terminals that will need to be removed, and hand protection should be worn during the removal. An often overlooked facet of personal protective equipment that should be worn during a battery change is eye protection.

Batteries, although stable the majority of the time, are filled with a strong acid and can be volatile. If the acid were to come in contact with a person’s eyes it could result in loss of vision or permanent disfigurement. A full plastic face mask is recommended to be certain harmful materials are kept far away from eyes and face. However, full face masks are clunky, and often times they aren’t on hand. Be sure to wear, at the very minimum, some kind of eye protection.

Other kinds of personal protective equipment to have on hand while changing your battery are gloves. Although thin, plastic gloves are better than nothing, they tear easily and won’t protect your hand in the event you mash it between the battery and your car, or accidentally pinch your fingers in a tight space.

The kind of gloves that mechanics where, with hard plastic over the knuckles, are preferred. If you were to drop the battery on your hand gloves like these will afford you the most protection possible. That isn’t to say that you won’t be hurt if you drop the battery on your hands—and if you’re thinking, “Well, I won’t do anything so clumsy,” ask yourself, would your friends or loved ones?

But all the personal protective equipment in the world can’t save you from yourself, so remember not to touch your face while you work on your car. It seems like one of those things that should go without saying, but most people spend only a very small fraction of their time dealing with hazardous material. It’s easy to feel sweat beading on your forward and wipe your face not realizing your smearing what could be acid, rust, or heavy metals all over yourself—potentially in your eyes, nose, or mouth. If this happens flush your eyes and affected areas and seek medical treatment.

Walking into an emergency room to explain how you hurt yourself doing what most people consider simple automotive maintenance isn’t something anyone relishes, but could become a reality if the needs of the future are met with neglect. Being prepared, planning to change your battery, can save you not only this embarrassment but can give you peace of mind that your friends and loved ones are in the best possible position to succeed. But planning doesn’t stop with the immediacy of needing spark from the battery.

All of the equipment and gear involved in the plan so far can easily fit into a duffel bag and fit into your trunk.

And since there is probably room in that bag, it might be wise to include a headlamp, road flares, a reflective triangle, jumper cables, water, food, water proof poncho, and blankets depending on the weather.

And while you’re planning to change your battery in the event of failure, it seems intuitive to check on the car jack and spare tire. Maybe include some extra fuel if you live in an sparsely populated area. Because success, like failure, can occur because of a domino effect. If you’ve planned ahead and really thought about when you’ll need to change your car battery, you won’t find yourself on a dark road without any light or tools, the slight patter of rain soaking through your clothes. And if you really want to go the extra mile you could even purchase an extra batter and have it on hand. If this seems excessive, take into account the military saying, “two is one, one is none,” when it comes to critical items.

After all that thinking ahead and planning you’re to change your vehicle’s battery; you even did a couple of dry runs to be sure you understand how properly install the battery. But did you show your wife and kids, or talk to your aging mother who sometimes uses the car to run errands or visit relatives, and did you tell your friend who borrows it sometimes about the kit you put together in your old gym bag and stowed away in the trunk?