How To Install A Battery Tray
Your car’s battery is necessary in order for your vehicle to operate, but at the same time, the very nature of that battery is slowly destroying your car. No, this isn’t clickbait, this is about the corrosion that batteries cause under the hood. Here’s how to install a battery tray once yours has gone beyond repair.
Corrosion Is The Enemy
Most automotive batteries are made of lead plates soaked in acid. While this combination is great for storing electricity, it is not so good at leaving metal in it’s natural state. Lead acid batteries generate hydrogen gas as a byproduct of charging and discharging. Hydrogen mixes with the atmosphere and creates a toxic environment for the metal, accelerating the growth of corrosion. Moisture and salt only make the process move faster. Leaking batteries also make this problem worse, as battery acid is highly corrosive.
Eventually, the corrosion takes its toll on the metal surrounding and more specifically under the battery. The older a vehicle is, the worse the corrosion will be. If not caught soon enough, this corrosion can work its way through the battery tray and into the radiator core support or even the chassis itself.
Know The Signs
Signs of corrosion include flaking paint, white powder build up, scale, and rust. Your battery terminals are the first tell-tale as to a leaky battery. Most people are familiar with corrosion on battery posts, this is caused by the same mechanism as structural corrosion, but the lead terminals are show the effects faster. As a side note- an undercharging battery shows corrosion on the negative battery terminal, and an overcharging battery typically shows corrosion on the positive terminal.
Once the damage is done, you only have one option: replacement. If you catch it fast enough, the major damage should be limited to the battery tray. Unless your vehicle requires a specific tray, a universal replacement such as the NAPA Solutions 7304008 or a Dorman 111750 should work just fine. The universal nature allows the tray to mount in most required positions and accepts most battery sizes. A powder coated tray will last longer than regular paint.
Installing the tray is fairly straight forward in most applications. Removing the old tray is first. Rust and threads rarely work well together, so you might want to soak all the bolts with spray lube at least an hour before starting the work. Often the bolts are so corroded that they have to be cut, check out our article on removing rusty bolts here.
With the tray removed, you should assess the damage beyond the tray. Any rust or scale needs to be removed and treated. Scrub scale and rust with a wire brush and spray it rust converter and then topcoat with a quality spray paint. Be sure to protect the surrounding area from overspray. If there is structural damage, then you need to look at replacing the damaged areas before moving on.
The installation of the tray requires locating a minimum of two bolt locations to secure the tray. The NAPA Solutions tray has multiple bolt locations available. While it is best to have the bolts across the short width, that is not always possible. For the 1971 Oldsmobile 442 we are working on, we used three bolts across the long side to secure the battery. We also found a spot for a fourth bolt on the front side and bolted it down.
The tray is only part of the equation, as you don’t want the battery to just flop around under the hood. We picked up a universal hold down kit from the local NAPA Auto Parts Store to secure the battery. The battery hold down is important, even a hard corner can toss a battery, and that can lead to fire or disabling the vehicle.
The J-bolts are a little too long, so we measured and cut them to fit. A hacksaw or bandsaw is best for this. If you know exactly how tall you need, you may be able to get a shorter set of bolts.
The new Optima battery was placed in the tray and bolted down with the mount. The J-bolts lock into the tray, which is why it is so important that the tray be securely mounted to the vehicle.
That is all there is to installing a new battery tray. While the vehicle used in this article is fairly simple, some vehicles may have a more complicated battery location. If your vehicle has a special battery tray that needs to be replaced, visit the experts at your local NAPA AutoCare service center where they have the tools and the knowledge to handle any situation.
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