Many people don’t appreciate how little your car battery actually does. Really, its main purpose is to provide the energy to start your car when you turn the ignition. Its secondary function is maintaining electrical systems once the engine has been turned off. In very simple cars with no added extras, this could literally mean its only additional function is to keep the car’s built in clock working overnight!
Of course, that’s also being hugely unfair to the battery. After it, whilst it does only have one main function, it is a pretty important one! Without the ignition system, the car won’t start and if it won’t start, it’s little more than an expensive curbside ornament.
Because of the nature of a battery however (it is essentially a box full of electricity and acid) it must be removed and handled with care. That’s why we have put this guide together, to help you to safely remove your car battery.
- 2x Pairs of Pliers or Adjustable Wrenches – You will be using these to remove the bolt heads from the battery terminals. Make sure they have plastic coverings on their arms/wherever you hold the tool. A tool vest can he helpful in holding the relevant tools for the job.
- 1 Socket Wrench for GM Terminal Type batteries (see Below)
- Insulated Work Gloves – The typical car battery can store enough electrical charge to deliver a fatal electric shock, even an old battery. So always wear insulated work gloves when handling a car battery.
- Zip Ties – These can be useful to tie the battery wires and keep the organized and prevent them accidently touching. If they do, they can produce sparks that can be dangerous.
- Safety Glasses – Ok, no one wants to look like a dork and wear safety glasses. However, getting battery acid into your eye is arguably less cool than looking a bit dorky. Bottom line – batteries are full of acid, and as they age, both the acid and the battery housing can become unstable. Always wear safety glasses when you are working on a car battery.
- Remove all metal jewelry before you start work on your battery. Anything – rings, watches, and necklaces – that touch the battery could trigger a discharge of electricity. As we discussed above batteries can store a potentially fatal amount of electricity, so this is, to put it mildly, something you want to avoid.
- The battery contains acids that can release harmful gasses. It’s therefore a good idea to complete this work either outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to minimize your potential exposure.
- It shouldn’t need to be stated but we’ll say it anyway – water and electricity do not mix! Make sure the area you are working in is dry and if rain is forecast that you are completely covered.
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This method will allow you remove the majority of car batteries. If you have a car made by GM, there could be some additional steps involved – see the section below.
- Identify Negative Terminal – the first stage is to figure out which of the two terminals is the negative one. Usually the negative terminal has a black plastic cover, but it can also be identified by a negative (minus) sign located on or close to the terminal.
- Pliers or Wrench 1 – Take your first pair of pliers or your wrench and attach it to the bolt head atop the negative terminal.
- Pliers or Wrench 2 – Take your second pair of pliers or wrench and use these to undo and remove the securing nut. Pull out the negative cable and secure it to one side of the engine block with a cable tie.
- Repeat – Simply repeat steps 2 and 3 with the Positive Terminal. Once the positive cable has been removed, ensure that you secure it as well with a cable tie. It is vitally important that the two cables never touch. In addition, you must ensure that the end of the positive cable does not touch any metal part of your car. The positive cable often carries a residual current, which can short and damage electrical components of your car if it discharges.
- Disconnect Securing Bracket – many car batteries will include a securing bracket that holds the battery in place. Naturally, you won’t be able to remove the battery if this bracket is in place, so use your wrench or pliers to undo any connectors and remove the bracket.
- Remove the Battery – Your battery is now unsecured and ready to be removed. Ensuring that you are still wearing your safety glasses and insulated gloves, take a firm hold of the battery and lift it up and out of the engine space. Always bear in mind – especially if you’ve never lifted a battery before – they can be extremely heavy! Trucks and SUVs for example, often include batteries that weigh up to 40lbs, so lift gently so you don’t throw your back out.
Additional – GM Terminal Types
Just to make this slightly more confusing, there are 5 different terminal types that a car battery can have – yes, 5. Why are there so many? No one knows.
Luckily, of the 5 one of them (the L Type) is only typically found on European manufactured cars. Another, the stud type, is only found in electric cars.
The three remaining terminal types are SAE post, GM Side or a Combination. Only GM Side terminals need extra work, as they have an additional bolts securing the battery terminals.
Here is a great guide to the extra steps required for GM Side style batteries, but broadly speaking, it’s very similar to the guide above just with an extra nut and bolt arrangement to remove.
Also – all of the safety tips outlined above apply no matter what type of battery is being removed so make sure to follow them and you will be able to safely remove any car, truck or SUV battery. To help choosing the right product, our helpful guide to the best car battery is worth a read.