Car Care _ Installing a New Battery


Depending on the type of battery you have in your car, truck, SUV or van, batteries last anywhere from about three years to five years or longer.

You will find out soon whether or not you need a new battery if your vehicle refuses to start. Then you have gotten yourself into a potentially difficult or at least an embarrassing, situation: your vehicle won't start, you will not be able to drive to your destination, and you will be without vehicular transportation until you install a new battery.

To determine if you need a new battery before it fails, first check the "indicator eye," if your battery has one. This is a glass-type lens on the top of the battery itself. A green color means it is OK to test the battery; it does not necessarily mean the battery is usable or "good." You can test the battery yourself using a voltmeter. But almost all auto stores and repair facilities will test your battery for you at no charge. (Of course, these companies offer this service in hopes that you will buy a battery from them if yours is needs replacement.)

If your battery needs replacement, you can do this job yourself. First buy a good, reliable-brand battery. Keep in mind that your battery is the heart of your electrical system. Without a good battery, the other parts of the system will not perform as well as they should. These include the charging system, the alternator, the starter, the lights and all of your accessories like sound and video systems. So buy a good battery even of it costs you a little more.

After you have bought your new battery, the first thing you need to do is remove the old battery. (Caution: before doing any work around your battery, make sure your ignition is in the off position.) Remove the protective cover, if there is one, from the battery. (Caution: always remove the negative cable first and connect it last. Otherwise you may short the battery with the tool you are using to loosen the cable clamps. Never disconnect or connect a battery cable with the engine running.) Disconnect both cables from the battery. Remove the hold-down bolts and the battery hold-down bracket. Lift out the battery. You can use a lift strap that attaches to the posts to lift out the battery easily and safely.

Before installing the new battery is a good time to check the condition of your cables. Look for damage or corrosion on the ends of the terminals, cracks on the insulation, chaffing, exposed wire, and melted or burned insulation.

Install the new battery using the reverse procedure as removal.

Bear in mind that most vehicles have memory chips that control things like fuel mixture and drive train operation. Disconnecting the battery often requires that these computer chips "re-learn" their function. Most of these devices re-learn what the need to know automatically. However, you may experience slightly different or slightly more difficult handling for a short period after installing your new battery.