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- Step 1: Gather supplies
- Step 2: Set up safely
- Step 3: Disconnect the battery cables
- Step 4: Remove the battery
- Step 5: Clean the battery terminals
- Step 6: Prep and place the new battery
- Step 7: Connect the cables
- Step 8: Test the new battery
- Step 9: Cover your bases with great insurance
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Even the most well-maintained vehicles will need a new battery periodically, but you don’t have to rush to the auto shop every time—changing your own car battery is totally possible with the right tools and safety gear.
Changing a car battery might sound like a daunting task for a non-mechanic, but car insurance brokerage and comparison app Jerry has broken down the steps so that even a beginner can get the job done.
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Of course, if you’re not comfortable changing a battery on your own or just need some guidance, you can take your vehicle to a mechanic for help. But if you’re ready to tackle it yourself, these steps will guide you every step of the way on how to install a car battery.
Step 1: Gather supplies
Assuming you have the right battery for your vehicle, you’ll need a few other supplies before you get started:
- Safety gear Protect your hands and eyes with safety gloves and goggles or glasses.
- Ratchet or socket wrench The specific tool and size you’ll need will depend on the posts and clamps on your specific battery and vehicle.
- Anti-corrosion washers
- Anti-corrosion solution spray or a corrosion-resistant gel, like dielectric grease.
- Battery terminal puller This is only necessary if your battery is difficult to remove from your car.
Step 2: Set up safely
Before you get started, follow these guidelines to make the process as safe as possible:
- Make sure your vehicle is on a dry, flat surface. To be extra cautious, stay under a covering to assure no precipitation gets on your car.
- Engage the parking brake.
- Turn the car’s ignition off. Be sure the engine has cooled down before you get started.
- Be prepped with your safety gear.
- Tie back any loose clothing and long hair. Remove any jewelry.
- Make sure not to smoke around the battery or the car hood.
- Pop the hood. Some foreign vehicles may have the battery in the trunk.
Step 3: Disconnect the battery cables
Identify the battery under the hood. If you have trouble finding it, you can consult your owner’s manual. Once you find the battery, locate the battery terminals—the positive (+) and negative (-) posts—on top of the battery.
- Starting with the negative battery cable (usually a black cable with a negative (-) symbol), disconnect it from the battery.
- There is typically a clamp connecting the cable to the battery, so using the ratchet or socket wrench, loosen and remove the clamp.
- Move the clamp out of the way, putting it in a safe place.
- Move onto the positive terminal (often a red cable with a positive (+) symbol) and disconnect it from the battery.
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Step 4: Remove the battery
Many batteries will have another clamp or bar that holds the battery in place, often attached with a bolt or other type of fastener. Using the appropriate wrench for the bolt, remove the clamp and place it out of the way. Once the clamp is removed, you can remove the battery.
Here are a few pointers to make this a safe and seamless process:
- Be sure you’re wearing safety gloves and goggles for the removal process, as battery acid may splash.
- Pull out the battery and set it aside to a safe, dry location.
- If the battery is difficult to remove, you should use a tool called a battery terminal puller. Do not use any other tools to maneuver the battery out, as this may cause damage.
- Avoid touching metal to either side of the battery terminal at all costs.
- Use a bowl or large magnet to collect any loose metal pieces that may fall or dislodge. Otherwise, they may fall into the car.
Key Takeaway: All you need to remove the battery is safety gear, a socket wrench, and potentially a battery terminal puller. Make sure your work area is dry and safe.
Step 5: Clean the battery terminals
- Your old battery may have left behind some corrosion, dust, or dirt on the terminals and battery tray. Corrosion looks like a greenish residue. Clean the terminals before installing the new battery.
- When you clean the terminals, make sure you wear safety gear to avoid breathing in dust or particles.
- Clean the terminals thoroughly using a wire brush and a simple solution made of equal parts water and baking soda.
- When it dries, brush the baking soda away.
- Make sure everything is dry before moving on.
Step 6: Prep and place the new battery
- On your replacement battery, remove the covers on the posts (usually black and red) to prepare it for placement.
- Install the new battery in the battery tray, making sure it sits securely. Align the positive and negative ends of the battery with the corresponding terminals of the car.
- Now reinstall the clamp(s) or bar the same way you previously removed them to secure the new battery.
- Prep the new battery by placing anti-corrosion washers on both battery posts.
- Treat the car’s terminal ends with an anti-corrosion solution spray or use a conservative amount of corrosion-resistant gel.
Step 7: Connect the cables
- Starting with the positive terminal this time, attach the positive cable (usually red) to the matching positive post on the battery.
- Tighten the terminal with a wrench until it’s nice and snug.
- Repeat the process with the negative terminal (typically black).
- Move the battery around to test the security of the connections, making sure both connections are nice and secure. If the battery shifts, check the clamps and tightness of the cables.
- Reinstall the battery cover, if applicable.
Step 8: Test the new battery
- Now that both cables are connected, close the hood and start the car.
- If it doesn’t fire up immediately, double-check all of the connections and wait a few minutes before trying again.
- It’s important to refrain from trying to start the car more than three times within a ten-minute time span.
Pro Tip: If you’re at home and don’t have anti-corrosion gel, you can use a small amount of regular petroleum jelly instead.
Step 9: Cover your bases with great insurance
Installing your battery yourself may be the best option if you’re at home. But if you’re ever stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery, be sure to sign up for Jerry’s roadside assistance service, which includes emergency jumpstarts, fuel delivery, tire changes, and vehicle towing up to 10 miles (and more).
Even the best insurance doesn’t usually cover a new battery, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure you have the most comprehensive car insurance. Luckily with Jerry, the process is as easy as possible—and the average Jerry user saves $879 a year on car insurance.
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