How to Test a Car Battery the Correct Way

A battery like any other car part is going to wear out over time. In different regions of the country and the world, the battery will wear out faster. In Florida, for example it is hot virtually all year round. The heat from the engine, the ambient heat from the air, and the reflective heat from the road will kill a batteries life in a very short time. If you get a year out of a battery, you are doing pretty well. Since the light on your dashboard does not have a meter, and the volt gauge only reads the alternator, how can you tell if the battery is good or if it is going bad? You have to know how to test a car battery so grab your multimeter and follow along. If you do not have a multimeter, you can pick up a cheap one from any hardware, auto part, and most department stores.

How to Test a Car Battery

Safety First

I have been a mechanic for the better part of two decades. I have seen too many people think they know how to test a car battery when they really do not and get hurt doing it. Being educated is being safe and that alone is a top priority. Here is a list of items you should have before you do anything with a battery.

  • Safety glasses

  • Terminal cleaner for top post or wire brush for side post

  • Wrench (the correct size)

  • Multimeter

  • Hand towels or rags

  • Socket set with 4″ extension

The Steps

  1. Locate the battery’s negative battery cable. Regardless of if it is a top post or side post the cable should be black. If there were modifications done and you have two red or two black, the battery will always show a (-) on the negative side.
  2. Remove the negative terminal. At this point you can grab your terminal cleaner or wire brush and clean off the dirt or corrosion from the battery. Corrosion is what is formed when there is a bad or loose connection or resistance of any kind.
  3. A good rule to follow is to wrap the negative terminal in a rag. The negative terminal is the ground. Since there are plenty of items on the engine, frame and supports that are used as a ground, if the negative touches them it will cause a connection and you want to avoid this.
  4. Remove the positive battery cable and clean it off and also clean the battery post off.
  5. Grab your multimeter and set it to the 50 volt scale. Refer to the owner’s manual to determine which one that is.
  6. Take the black lead and the red lead and place it on the respective positive and negative terminals.
  7. Wait 15 seconds and look at the meter reading. The battery should be at least 9.6 volts. Any lower and this indicates the battery needs to be replaced, or will need to be replaced shortly.
  8. If the battery is good, do these steps in reverse order. The negative should always come off first and go on last.

Testing a car battery is quite an easy task with the proper tools. There are some people that do not feel comfortable doing it themselves (which is perfectly fine). If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself then many auto stores will do it for you; depending on where you go there could be a fee involved. Be sure to take your time when doing the process. Since the battery terminals are damaged, replace them before reconnecting the battery. A loose connection will hurt the battery and could cause injury if the wrench slips from a rounded off bolt. The terminals are usually about $5 a piece and are easy to change out. Just remember, knowing how to test a car battery can mean a car starting every time or being stranded in a dark parking lot with a dead battery.

How to Recycle a Car Battery the Easy Way

Car batteries are the most recycled product in the US. However many car owners will delay changing their car battery because they don’t know the correct way to dispose of their old one. The good news for car owners is that there are different recycling options for you.

Current legislation makes it so you can’t just dispose of your battery in a landfill site without first going through a clean up process. In the past, many people used to dump their battery in one of these landfill sites. But this is the wrong thing to do since it’s harmful to the environment, and especially harmful to the air, water, and soil. Recycling the proper way will help protect the environment.

Battery Recycling Can Be Easy

Handling Your Battery

When handling a car battery, it’s important to remember to wear protective clothing. This is important because the acid in the battery has the ability to burn your clothing and skin. If that doesn’t scare you then you should also know that battery acid can cause blindness. Also, you should disconnect the battery right before you remove or inspect it and make sure you remove the negative cable first. If a battery has any severe damage or cracks you will need to contact a qualified mechanic or breakdown assistance center to remove it. It’s also recommended to keep your car battery upright at all times when handling it.

Where to Take Your Old Battery

Some retailers that sell new lead acid batteries will collect used batteries for recycling. However sometimes there may be a service fee to pay. Another option is to find a recycling center in your local area. You can find one by using a phone book, yellow pages, or web search. There are some recyclers that may pay you for your old batteries.

If you have a hybrid car battery then the same process usually applies. However fewer centers and retailers may accept a hybrid battery for recycling. You should contact them first to check. Another option is to contact hybrid car manufacturers such as Honda- they may even offer to pay for your battery.

The actual process of recycling a car battery is a complicated matter, regardless of the battery’s size. Basically, the battery is dissected into different materials which can include: plastic, acid, lead, or silver. A crusher will then breakdown the battery and the valuable lead or silver will be extracted. The silver or lead is then melted.

Learning to do the recycling yourself is a great idea for a number of reasons. First, you are helping to care for the local environment. Second, you are not breaking any laws- dumping your battery somewhere could result in steep fines or possible criminal charges. Lastly, many recyclers may pay for your battery since the metals can be valuable. When you take everything into account, recycling your battery is a great idea.

How to Replace a Car Battery in Five Easy Steps

After owning your car for a few years, there comes a point when it’s necessary to get your car battery replaced. Getting the battery replaced can extend the lifespan of your vehicle and improve its performance. Unfortunately many car owners give themselves headaches trying to do the replacement themselves. However, learning to do it yourself isn’t too hard and it’s a good skill to learn.

Identify If You Need a New Battery

Car batteries can be expensive to purchase. So before you decide to purchase a new car battery you have to make sure you need one. You must give your battery the chance to properly recharge. You can do this by driving for 30 minutes to ensure that there is no blue residue around the battery’s terminal. Another option is to have a mechanic give your car a thorough check to determine if you need a new battery or not. If you do need a new battery then you can hire a mechanic to change it, or you can save money and change it yourself. The ladder option is what we are about to explore.

Purchase the Best Replacement for Your Vehicle

It’s important that you purchase the best replacement battery for your car. You need to find the correct size for your car and then look at potential models. You need to look in your car’s manual to find the correct dimensions for the battery. This information will narrow down your search so you can find batteries that are compatible with your car. Once you’ve bought you new battery then all that’s left is to install it.

Make Sure It’s Safe to Remove the Old Battery

It’s important to follow the proper safety procedures before you begin to remove your battery. This will ensure that everything will go smoothly and there will be no damage. Here are the guidelines:

  • Create a safe environment to work in. First make sure that your vehicle is parked on a level surface and away from traffic. Remove anything from the area that could potentially cause a fire (cigarettes, sparks and fire). It would be appropriate to inform your neighbors that you are replacing your battery. Therefore they won’t be alarmed if there happens to be any smoke.
  • Consider the fact that batteries not only use electricity, but also sulfuric acid which is corrosive and will cause harm if it contacts your skin. In addition, sulfuric acid is highly flammable which is why it’s important to isolate your vehicle from anything that could cause a fire.
  • Always wear safety goggles and a pair of thick gloves to avoid harming your eyes or skin.
  • Remove the car’s cigarette lighter and make a note of your pins and radio settings since these may be erased when you remove the battery.

Remove the Old Battery

First you need to locate the battery under the hood of your car. Your battery should be rectangular with two cables attached to it. You should instantly know it’s the battery when you see it.

Next, you need to examine your battery for any potential issues and identify the positive and negative terminals. This is important since you will need to remove the negative terminal first and the positive terminal last. Removing the terminals in this order will prevent damage to the electric system in your car. The negative terminal will display a (-) sign and the positive terminal will display a (+) sign. You can mark the negative terminal socket so that you know to remove it first.

To remove the negative terminal, use a wrench to loosen the negative cable clamp and slide it off the terminal. It should come off fairly easily. Once you removed the negative terminal you can move onto the positive terminal. After removing both terminals, check for any screws or holds that may be keeping your battery in place. You will need to detach these before you will be able to fully remove the battery. Once everything is detached, hold the battery by the handle (if there is one) and lift it carefully out of the car. Keep in mind that batteries can heavy so ask for assistance if necessary- always err on the side of caution when doing it yourself.

Put in the New Battery

At this stage replacing your battery will be fairly simple. All you need to do is place your new battery in the correct space, attach the battery holds to keep it in place, and attach the terminal cables to the correct terminal socket. Make sure that you can differentiate the sockets because you need to connect the positive one first. Also, it’s recommended that you tighten the clamps with a wrench instead of just doing it by hand.

To finish the job you can apply battery lithium grease to the terminals to avoid any corrosion. You now have to make sure that everything is in place. So all you need to do is shut the hood and start your car. With the car running, check that all of your electronic devices are working properly. If they aren’t working properly then re-check the battery for any obvious issues.

Changing a battery can be a like a puzzle- it can be a little challenging, but also rewarding. The entire process shouldn’t take too long and it shouldn’t be too difficult. The more you do it, the easier it should get. Knowing how to replace a car battery is a valuable skill that can save you a lot of money in the long run.