The Do's & Don't's of Car Battery Safety

  • Dec 29,2016
Gloved hand cleaning car battery terminal with green cloth Gloved hand cleaning car battery terminal with green cloth

Car batteries can be complicated, whether you're jump starting a friend's car or simply cleaning up around the battery terminals. Before messing around under the hood and potentially doing damage to your car—or yourself—make sure you know what you’re doing. Think you’re up for the challenge? Find out with this car battery safety quiz!

Jump-Starting A Car Battery

1. You’re leaving work and see your coworker struggling to start their car. You go over to find out their battery’s dead and offer to give it a jump. Before pulling out those jumper cables and connecting batteries, you should:

a) Pull your running car up to theirs and leave the car running.

b) Move your car close to theirs and turn it off. Leave the accessories plugged in.

c) Move your car over and turn off or unplug all accessories.

The correct answer is C. If your car is running when you jump the other car (option A) you could end up creating a dangerous situation. When your battery is feeding energy into your vehicle, it’s not doing much good for anyone else’s! While option B is close, there’s still a lot more to worry about. For instance, if you left your phone charging in your car, the jump could fry it. Even more importantly, you still have a lot to pay attention to under the hood, from battery voltages to terminal charges. Luckily, we’ve prepared a few safety tips for jump-starting a battery.

Safety Tips for Jump Starting A Car Battery

  • DO put on safety goggles and rubber gloves before you start. The human body conducts electricity really well, and you don’t want to turn into Benjamin Franklin’s house key. The goggles will help keep your eyes safe from any flying sparks.
  • DO check that the two batteries’ voltages match. If they don’t, you could do serious damage to both vehicles. (Helpful hint: Most vehicles come with a 12-volt battery, but it’s still important to check.)
  • In cold temperatures, DO check that the battery’s fluids are still liquid. If they’ve frozen solid, don’t jump-start the vehicle—that could cause the battery to explode!
  • DON'T connect the black cable to the negative terminal, as that could also cause an explosion.
  • ALWAYS follow the instructions in your owner’s manual. Every car is different.

Keeping Your Car Battery Charged

2. Keeping your car battery charged can help you save time and money. Which activity helps charge your battery?

a) Trips over 20 minutes

b) Driving above 60 mph

c) Leaving a light on overnight

d) Extreme temperatures

The correct answer is B. Driving your car actually recharges your battery, so, while fast speeds might not be great for your fuel economy, they won’t hurt your battery. This concept is why option A is incorrect—short trips don’t allow your battery time to fully recharge. As for option C, we've probably all left a light on overnight and woken up to a drained battery. Yikes! Extreme temperatures, as in option D, can also kill batteries. Scorching summers can damage your car’s battery enough that the first freeze knocks it dead. While you may not be able to control your climate, parking indoors during extreme temperatures can help. Get tips for keeping your car battery charged in the cold.

Tips for Keeping Your Car Battery Charged

  • DO drive your car. This may seem obvious but it's actually really important. Even when your car’s not “on,” its battery is powering systems such as the clock and radio. (That’s why both maintain their settings when you turn the car back on.) Since your battery recharges as you drive, letting it stay parked for too long can be draining.
  • DO keep your battery clean so that damaging corrosion never gets the chance to build. If you don’t feel confident cleaning it yourself, no worries! Our experienced technicians would be happy to help. Schedule an appointment today.
  • DO invest in a car battery self jumper. If all else fails and you end up stranded, you won’t have to rely on a stranger or a tow to get where you need to be.

Cleaning Your Car Battery

3. It’s time for a little spring cleaning. You finished up the kitchen and the closets, so now it’s time for your car. Once you get past the old fries and junk mail, what will you need for cleaning the battery?

a) Latex gloves and safety goggles

b) An adjustable wrench and a wire brush

c) Baking soda, water, and a towel

d) All of the above

The correct answer is D. You need gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes, respectively. Use the wrench to disconnect the cables from their posts and the wire brush to scrub away corrosive acid from the posts and casing. The baking soda and water will form a solution that removes the corrosion, and the towel dries everything off afterward.

Tips for Cleaning Your Battery

  • DO Apply petroleum jelly to the posts and clamps after cleaning to help prevent corrosion.
  • DON'T just clean off acid stains. Dirt conducts electricity and while it may not destroy your battery’s casing, it can cause your battery to discharge more rapidly.
  • DO bring your car to one of our expert technicians if you suspect your battery is leaking. Many batteries are filled with sulfuric acid, and that’s not something you want to dip your hands into, gloved or not. To learn more about how your battery works, check out Battery 101.

So how’d you do? It’s time to put your new knowledge to the test and go check out your car battery! If things aren’t "up to snuff" anymore, we can help. Bring your car to one of our trusted technicians to take a peek. If your battery’s lived a good life and ready to enter car-part heaven, shop replacement batteries online. Then schedule your installation appointment at a time that's most convenient for you!

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