How to Dispose of Car Batteries

Most car batteries generally have a life cycle of about 3-4 years. After that time, you may want to consider getting your battery regularly checked to be sure its life isn’t nearing the end. When purchasing a new automotive, marine, power sport, or small equipment battery, it’s rare these days that the seller of these batteries will not require a core, or your used battery in exchange. There are times, however, when old, used batteries end up with nowhere to go, stuck on a shelf, relegated to the corner-of-the-garage graveyard. When and if this happens, it’s important to learn how to dispose of batteries today and find out the dangers of improper disposal of car batteries.

Or, if you don’t want to learn about battery recycling and you just want to get rid of the dang thing, drop by your local AutoZone and – get this – we will actually pay you for that old battery! Or, read on to learn more!

Why You Can’t Just Throw it in the Trash

Your car battery uses lead and acid to retain a long-lasting and reliable charge. Both of these materials can pose a serious risk to the environment and your health. A sealed battery is safe to handle, but improperly disposing of a battery is dangerous. 

Don’t simply throw your battery in your household garbage or use your typical recycling method. These hazardous materials need to be disposed of carefully, and, in most cases, you’ll be paid for getting rid of it. What you don’t want happening is a battery left to sit in a junk pile or a landfill, where the lead and sulfuric acid can be a major environmental issue.

The EPA estimates that 98% of lead acid batteries are currently being recycled properly. Join this large percentage of Americans and find out how to safely remove, store, and recycle your old car battery. There are many ways to safely recycle car batteries, so find out how you can keep your environment safe and avoid any health issues related to improper battery disposal.

Safely Removing a Car Battery

Whether your battery has lasted three years, five years, or even 10 or more years, it may be past its prime. An old battery doesn’t hold a charge as long, doesn’t operate effectively in extreme temperature conditions and is prone to leakage. Before you replace your battery, however, you’ll need to safely remove it. 

Here are some simple steps to removing your car battery: 

How to Remove a Car Battery

  1. Safety First

    First, you’ll need to wear gloves and protection. Old batteries may have a leak and coming in contact with battery acid can be dangerous.

  2. Disconnect the Negative Cable

    Disconnect the cable from the negative terminal of your battery. It should have a black or gray coating. You’ll need to use a wrench to loosen the nut on the terminal. Be sure your wrench doesn’t touch both terminals at once.

  3. Disconnect the Positive Cable

    Remove the cable from positive terminal, which should have a red coating.

  4. Inspect and Remove

    Once the battery terminals are removed, nearly all batteries will have a hold-down device in the form of a strap or block at the bottom of the battery. That will also need to be removed. After this, check to see if your battery has a clip, strap or other safety feature holding it in place. After these are removed, check to ensure your battery is free from cracks, punctures or other surface damage that may cause a battery fluid leak. A leaking battery requires extreme caution. Battery acid can be irritating, cause burns and even cause long-term health issues.

If you’re unsure of the location of your battery or which terminal is positive or negative, take your vehicle to your local auto parts store or one of our Preferred Shops to get some professional help.  Many vehicles require the use of a separate power source to keep a constant 12V of power to the vehicle once the battery is disconnected. Check your repair manual or online sources to determine if your car is one of these. AutoZone is also a great place to visit if you’re unsure of the condition of your old battery. Even if you’re having difficulties charging your battery, the issue could be your alternator or other related components. At AutoZone, we’ll test or charge your battery for free. 

Store Your Old Battery

Now that you’ve safely removed your old car battery, store it in a plastic bag. Use two bags or a thick, heavy-duty option to ensure the grease and grime of your old battery doesn’t stain your vehicle as you transport the battery. Plastic bags will also ensure any battery fluid leak remains safely contained. 

Never store or transport your battery on its side. Some types of car batteries have vent caps which can leak acid if not properly stored upright. Be cautious of how you store and transport your battery to ensure it isn’t jostled, tipped, or dropped. All of these harsh movements can easily damage your old battery. 

While you can safely store your batteries standing upright in a plastic bag, it’s best to remove them from your property as soon as possible. A lead acid battery in a plastic bag may still leak battery fluid. Don’t let this risk stay in your area for longer than it needs to and find out how you can safely recycle them before any damage is done.

Replacing the Battery

Now that you’ve removed the old car battery, you need to invest in a new one. We carry multiple battery options for most vehicles on the road today. Select a premium battery with a longer warranty for hassle-free performance. Talk to your local AutoZone associate for more information about the best car batteries available. 

Bring Your Old Batteries to AutoZone

Batteries can be safely recycled at 3 places of note. Just about any municipality that has a hazardous chemical and item pickup/dropoff can take old batteries of any kind. While these are often quick and easy methods, they also don’t give you anything for your used battery, which is worth money due to the amount of valuable lead inside of them.

The second option is any metal recycling establishment. These places generally take scrap metal of all kinds, and will also pay you for your battery or batteries you drop off.

However, a more convenient option for many individuals is to drop off your battery at AutoZone in exchange for a gift card. Keep in mind, with a new purchase, you’ll be turning in your old battery for a core, but if you have an old battery that needs disposal, or several, you’ll receive a gift card for every battery you drop off!

How to Return a Battery to AutoZone

To return batteries to AutoZoneThen fill out the Return Form (Section B on your shipping invoice) and include it with the product in its original packaging and/ or box.

Whether you have to recycle batteries, oil, or just need to find a great deal on a new car battery, stop by your local AutoZone for more information. Now that you know where to recycle batteries, it’s time to upgrade your worn-out battery with a safe, new one with a generous warranty and reliable performance. Let our professional team help you test, remove, and replace your old car battery today. 

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

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