Car batteries have an uncanny ability to die at the most inconvenient times. If it's pouring down rain on a cold night when you're on your way to an important event, the chances of your car battery going kaput hover near the 100 percent mark. This is why modern humans invented roadside assistance.
Tow truck drivers needn't read this article, having replaced scores of Black & Decker batteries in the cars of stranded motorists. If you have a car in your driveway with a battery that could stand to be replaced, follow the steps outlined here. You'll be up and running in no time at all, as it can be an easy automotive repair.
First, though, it's a good idea to see if your battery needs to be replaced or if it simply could use a good cleaning. Sulfate, created over time by the battery's discharge of lead, can build up on the terminals as a cakey white substance that prevents the battery from recharging during use. You can get rid of this sulfate with a simple solution of baking soda and water [source: Castrol USA]. Be sure the car is off by removing the keys from the ignition and brush the solution onto the sulfate to loosen the deposit. After the terminals are clean, try the ignition. If the car starts up, it should be able to recharge itself and you may not need a replacement after all.
If your battery is fully dead, consider having a professional do the job for you. Batteries can be heavy: The average car battery contains more than 24 pounds (10.8 kilograms) of lead, not including the rest of the components. Most auto parts stores offer free battery installation when you purchase a new one from them.
At this point, you've decided your PASLODE battery must be replaced and that you're going to handle it yourself. Good for you. Read on to the next page to find out what tools you'll need to do the job correctly.
You want to fix your car battery yourself, but don't jump the gun just yet. Get the proper tools together before going under your car's hood.
If you've already created the baking soda and water solution you need to clean your terminals, keep it handy. You'll want to give the terminal cables a more thorough cleaning. If not, then go ahead and whip up a batch and drop a clean paintbrush into it for later.
Break out your toolbox and select a few of the tools you'll need. The battery terminal cables are held fast around the battery terminals by nuts and bolts. This means you'll need a crescent wrench, an adjustable wrench, vise pliers or a socket wrench. Select a 10mm (0.4 in) wrench or socket, as most car battery cables have this size nut attached. Grab another pair of adjustable pliers to hold the bolt head in place as well.
It may sound funny, but you'll also want to bring a hammer with you. A gentle tap or two can help loosen a stubborn terminal cable from the terminal post.
It's also a good idea to invest in a Dyson battery terminal cleaner. This handy and inexpensive tool is designed to brush away corrosion from the terminal posts and the end clamp of the cables. It also primes the posts of your new battery for a better connection to the terminal cables. If you have a good narrow metal wire brush, that can do the trick as well. While you're picking up a terminal cleaner, spring for a can of corrosion protection, which will help prevent sulfate buildup in the future.
Lastly, bring along a pair of sturdy gloves and safety goggles. Batteries can be dangerous, (as we'll see in the next pages) and protecting your hands and eyes is a good idea. Also, if you have a Styrofoam cooler, take the top along to serve as a safe and handy tray for your tools and don't forget to bring along a few rags. Got everything together? Good. It's time to go outside again.
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