A car battery display.

Tips on Handling a Car Battery

Car batteries are generally out of sight and out of mind. Tucked under the hood, you don’t think much about them as long as they do what they’re supposed to do — start your vehicle. But what if you need to remove one, temporarily or permanently? We’ve got some tips on handling a car battery.

Safety First

Even if you think the battery is dead, always treat it as though it’s charged. A shock can be nasty — even fatal. And that warning sticker that says “DANGER — EXPLOSIVE GASES”? Yeah, that’s a real thing, one you have to be very aware of when handling a car battery.

Go Negative

The first step is to loosen the nut that holds the cable to the battery’s negative terminal, then set your tool (ideally a wrench, but pliers will work) on the ground (to avoid causing a spark) and lift the end clamp off the post, being careful not to touch the metal or the post itself. Now, you do the same with the positive terminal.
Car battery installed in vehicle
Why negative first? Because you’re removing the cable that connects the battery with the chassis of your vehicle. If you try to do the positive terminal first and your wrench slips and touches metal, you could short out the electrical system, leading to costly repairs.

With the cables disconnected, you can now safely remove any plate or brace that’s securing the battery in place.

Heavy Lifting Required

This is the part where you need to remember that old advice about lifting with your knees — and it’s tricky because you’re at an odd angle and you’re lifting something that’s already a few feet off the ground (depending on the height of your vehicle). If you’ve never done this before, a heads up: Car batteries weigh between 30 and 60 pounds. The average is 41 pounds.

The good news is that, if it’s a newer battery, it may have a handle attached. But be sure to check that handle carefully. If it’s corroded, cracked or otherwise compromised, you’d probably be better off putting one hand on either side of the battery and lifting it out. It’s better than the handle breaking and that big block of heaviness crashing down on your engine, your fender, your foot or the ground. Not only do you have to worry about the damage it could do to these components, but you also have to think about the possibility of the battery breaking open. If that were to happen, you’d have an acid spill to deal with.

What Happens After It’s Out?

That depends on the state of your battery. If you’re pulling it out because it’s dead, it needs to be safely and responsibly recycled. The place you buy your new battery will usually offer that service.

If you’re pulling a good battery out of your car while you do some other work (mechanical or perhaps a restoration) or for long-term storage, find a safe place in your garage for the battery to sit and connect it to a trickle charger. That will slowly add to your battery’s charge and keep it from losing its power slowly over time. There are different types of trickle chargers, some that can be used for longer terms than others. Shop for the one that best suits your needs.

Keep these tips in mind and handling a car battery can be easy and safe.

Check out all of the batteries available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on handling a car battery, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

about author

Mike Hagerty

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's currently co-anchor of a daily three-hour (4-7 pm) afternoon newscast on KFBK (93.1 FM/1530 AM) in Sacramento, California, and his auto reviews air there Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:52. You can also read them at kfbk.com. Previous outlets have included the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.

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