Check the battery electrolyte level at least once a month, or more often in hot weather and during periods of extended car operation. The level can be checked through the case on translucent batteries; the cell caps must be removed on other models. The electrolyte level in each cell should be kept filled to the split ring inside, or the line marked on the outside of the case.
If the level is low, add only distilled water through the opening until the level is correct. Each cell is completely separate from the others, so each must be checked and filled individually.
If water is added in freezing weather, the car should be driven several miles/kilometers to allow the water to mix with the electrolyte. Otherwise, the battery could freeze.
At least once a year, check the specific gravity of the battery. It should be between 1.20 in. Hg and 1.26 in. Hg at room temperature.
The specific gravity can be checked with the use of a hydrometer, an inexpensive instrument available from many sources. The hydrometer has a squeeze bulb at one end and a nozzle at the other. Battery electrolyte is sucked into the hydrometer until the float is lifted from its seat. The specific gravity is then read by noting the position of the float. Generally, if after charging, the specific gravity between any two cells varies more than 50 points (0.50), the battery is bad and should be replaced.
It is not possible to check the specific gravity in this manner on sealed (maintenance free) batteries. Instead, the indicator built into the top of the case must be relied on to display any signs of battery deterioration. If the indicator is dark, the battery can be assumed to be OK. If the indicator is light, the specific gravity is low, and the battery should be charged or replaced.
CABLES AND CLAMPS
See Figures 1 through 5
Once a year, the battery terminals and the cable clamps should be cleaned. Loosen the clamps and remove the cables, negative cable first. On batteries with posts on top, the use of a puller specially made for the purpose is recommended. These are inexpensive, and available in most auto parts stores. Side terminal battery cables are secured with a bolt.
Clean the cable lamps and the battery terminal with a wire brush until all corrosion, grease, etc., is removed and the metal is shiny. It is especially important to clean the inside of the clamp thoroughly, since even a small deposit of foreign material or oxidation will prevent a solid electrical connection. Special brushes are available for cleaning these parts, one type for top-post batteries and another type for side terminal batteries.
Before installing the cables, loosen the battery hold-down clamp or strap, remove the battery and check the battery tray. Clear away any debris, and check that tray is in good condition. Rust should be wire brushed away, and the metal given a coat of anti-rust paint. Replace the battery and tighten the hold down clamp or strap securely, but be careful not to over tighten, which will crack the battery case.
After the clamps and terminals are clean, reinstall the cables, negative cable last; do not hammer on the clamps to install. Tighten the clamps securely, but do not distort them. Give the clamps and terminals a thin external coat of grease after installation, to retard corrosion.
Check the cables at the same time that the terminals are cleaned. If the cable insulation is cracked or broken, or if the ends are frayed, the cable should be replaced with a new cable of the same length and gauge.
JUMP STARTING A DEAD BATTERY
See Figure 6
Whenever a vehicle must be jump started, precautions must be followed in order to prevent the possibility of personal injury. Remember that batteries contain a small amount of explosive hydrogen gas which is a byproduct of battery charging. Sparks should always be avoided when working around batteries, especially when attaching jumper cables. To minimize the possibility of accidental sparks, follow the procedure carefully.
- Pull the jumping vehicle (with the good battery) into a position so the jumper cables can reach the dead battery and that vehicle's engine. Make sure that the vehicles DO NOT touch.
- Place the transmissions of both vehicles in neutral or park, as applicable, then firmly set their parking brakes.
- Turn all lights and accessories off on both vehicles. Make sure the ignition switches on both vehicles are turned to the OFF position.
If necessary for safety reasons, both vehicle's hazard lights may be operated throughout the entire procedure without significantly increasing the difficulty of jumping the dead battery.
- Cover the battery cell caps with a rag, but do not cover the terminals.
- Make sure the terminals on both batteries are clean and free of corrosion or proper electrical connection will be impeded. If necessary, clean the battery terminals before proceeding.
- Identify the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals on both battery posts.
- Connect the first jumper cable to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery, then connect the other end of that cable to the positive (+) terminal of the booster (good) battery.
- Connect one end of the other jumper cable to the negative (-) terminal of the booster battery and the other cable clamp to an engine bolt head, alternator bracket or other solid, metallic point on the dead batteries engine. Try to pick a ground on the engine that is positioned away from the battery in order to minimize the possibility of the two clamps touching. DO NOT connect this clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the bad battery.
- Check to make sure that the cables are routed away from any moving parts, then start the donor vehicle's engine. Run the engine at moderate speed for several minutes to allow the dead battery a chance to receive some initial charge.
- With the donor vehicle's engine still running slightly above idle, try to start the vehicle with the dead battery. Crank the engine for no more than 10 seconds at a time and let the starter cool for at least 20 seconds between tries. If the vehicle does not start in three tries, it is likely that something else is also wrong.
- Once the vehicle is started, allow it to run at idle for a few seconds to make sure that it is operating properly.
- Before disconnecting the cables, turn on the headlights, heater blower and, if equipped, the rear defroster of both vehicles in order to reduce the severity of voltage spikes and subsequent risk of damage to the vehicles' electrical systems when the cables are disconnected.
- Carefully disconnect the cables in the reverse order of connection. Start with the negative cable that is attached to the engine ground, then the negative cable on the donor battery. Disconnect the positive cable from the donor battery and finally, disconnect the positive cable from the formerly dead battery. Be careful when disconnecting the cables from the positive terminals to not allow the alligator clips to touch any metal on either vehicle or a short and sparks will occur.