Batteries don’t last forever as much as we wish they would. On top of that is the price of taking your car to a mechanic. Changing the battery yourself can save money, but what tools do you need?
When replacing a car battery you’ll need 8mm, 10mm and a 12mm wrenches or sockets, or you can use a crescent wrench, rubber gloves, a battery terminal brush, and eye protection. Depending on the vehicle’s make, you may need different wrench sizes and/or ratchet extensions.
Car batteries are held in place by bolts secured by nuts. The wrenches will allow you to remove these bolts while the gloves and eye protection will ensure you don’t get hurt. Most cars use the same size bolt across the battery, but some do not which is where alternate sizes come in handy.
Changing A Car or Truck Battery
When replacing a car battery your wrench will be doing most of the heavy lifting (until the time comes to move the battery of course). This means you should bring the best wrench you have. Luckily most any wrench will do the job as long as it’s the right size.
Your car battery has two sets of bolts. The first set holds the cables to the terminals. The second holds the battery in place. These two sets usually use the same size bolt head though not always.
The standard bolt size is 10 mm for both sets. However, some manufacturers will use 10 for the terminal connections and a different size for the rest. Other common sizes include 11, 12, and 13 mm.
In addition to the size of the bolt head, you need to consider where the bolts are. Bolts on the top are easy to get to; you can use any wrench here. Bolts on the side will be much harder to access.
In this case, you will need a socket wrench with an extension. The extension needs to match the size of the bolt so be sure to check the size before grabbing one.
Half of the four tools are safety equipment for good reason. The battery can be dangerous, even when your car is turned off. Between battery acid and the chance for shorts, you must be careful.
To this end, you need good rubber gloves and some form of eye protection. The gloves should be sturdy but still allows you full movement. The eye protection can be goggles or safety glasses.
Your gloves will protect you from any leaking battery acid when you handle the battery. Not to mention they can help your grip. If your battery is old enough that it needs replacing, odds are it is old enough to have leaks.
Aside from the above, there is one more item that will be helpful. While you work you may be tempted to set your tools anywhere that’s nearby and convenient. Putting them on your engine would be a mistake, however.
Not only could your tools fall into the engine, but they could also cause a short if placed on the battery. You could place your tools on the ground but that wouldn’t be convenient and turns them into tripping hazards.
Instead, you can use a nonconductive tray that you set on your engine. This could be rubber, plastic, or styrofoam. Make sure that your engine is cool before using some of these options as they could melt.
While You’re There, Also Do This
Lastly, there is the tool that many overlook. A terminal cleaning brush can be helpful when replacing your battery as well as for maintenance.
These brushes, also known as post cleaners, come with two sides. One is hollow and filled with bristles to clean the terminal. The other is similar to a pipe cleaner and is used to clean the connection.
Oftentimes an old battery just needs a good cleaning to work again. If this is the case you may not need to change the battery. A good brush can help you in this.
In addition to the brush, you will get a lot of use out of a baking soda and water mixture. After disconnecting your battery (negative connection first) you can use this mixture before the brush to loosen any corrosion.
This mixture will neutralize any acid buildup and make the whole process easier. Even if neither the brush nor mixture helps your battery it will have made it easier to remove.
When looking for tools to help when changing a car battery you may come across memory savers. These devices are often described as essential though that is not the case with all vehicles.
Memory savers can save all of the settings and various features that your car’s computer has stored. As handy as this sounds, you can often recover these features after a day or two of driving.
The main use of a memory saver is preventing an older radio from locking down in an anti-theft measure. If you have a newer radio you likely won’t have these anti-theft measures to worry about.
Which battery terminal do you take off first?
Always remove the negative connection first when changing a car battery. When you’re reattaching the connections start with the positive.
How to avoid stripping the nut?
If you are worried about stripping the nut or bolt you should use a wrench that wraps around the bolt. A socket wrench is a great choice. Additionally, ensure that your wrench is correctly sized.
How do you tell what size bolt you have?
The simplest way to tell is just to start trying wrenches. The most common sizes are great for starting.
With a good wrench, gloves, safety glasses, and a cleaning brush you will be able to replace any car battery. Be sure to find out what size wrench you’ll need and whether you need extensions.
Once you know what you’re doing you can replace a car battery in 15 minutes. Just be sure to lift with your legs!
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.