Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 162 - Replacing a Car Battery


I have never replaced a car battery. While I realize this may be a simple, somewhat routine task, a part of my objective with my “I have never...” year is to learn to work with my hands in new ways. As a result, I started thinking about things I could learn how to build, fix, or craft during my 365 days of new experiences. Ultimately, this effort revealed a list of tasks I could learn how to do myself that would likely save me money and time. Like my previous effort to fix an antique screen door, replacing a car battery gave me an opportunity to take care of something that needed to be addressed but that I had put off for some time. As a result, I did some researching, grabbed my tools, and committed to gaining my first experience replacing a car battery this evening.

Time to go
With limited light remaining in the evening hours, I resolved to remove and replace my car battery before I did anything else tonight, which set me to work finding tools, popping my car hood and setting to work within minutes of me arriving home from work this evening. An earlier review of online walkthroughs and videos made the process of removing the battery look relatively simple, but I realized I was working with a device that produced a significant electrical charge. As a result, I carefully examined my workspace, making sure I had the appropriate angles to removing the wires connected to the battery terminals and place them in areas where they posed no risk of making accidental contact with the battery.

After a few minutes of overview and planning, I was ready to take on the task of removing the first component of the battery. As I moved to start loosening the first battery cable, I repeated the first step of the directions I had read online. “Negative cable first...” The words escaped my lips with a subtle degree of hesitation as my metal crescent wrench made contact with the nut clamping the cable to the battery terminal. An immediate sense of relief struck me when nothing happened in response to my action. In turn, I moved forward with the process, slowly turning the nut of the negative cable clamp until I noticed the wire start to move slightly under the pressure of my arm movements. Realizing this likely meant the clamp was loose enough to remove the wire, I gave the cable a slight shake with my hand, which caused it to pop off of the terminal and move freely in my hand. Step one was complete, now I simply needed to repeat the same action on the opposite side of the battery.

Out with the old...
After carefully tucking the negative battery cable between two pieces of plastic under the hood of the car, I leaned back and gave myself a brief reminder on the next step in the process. “Positive cable second,” I said as I continued without hesitation. With a higher degree of confidence guiding me, I made short work of the second cable clamp, freeing the positive cable within moments of placing my wrench on the nut holding it in place. With that, the only thing left to do was to remove the bracket holding the battery in place and pull the battery from the engine compartment. All things considered, I was feeling good about the pace of the project. While I knew it would be nothing complex, I was maintaining a degree of efficiency that meant I would likely complete the project before the darkness of night. Hopeful, I moved to removing the bracket, confident I would be on my way to pick up my replacement battery in a matter of minutes.

Of course, the bracket had other ideas in mind. As a result of some stubborn nuts and what is possibly the worst design for a fastener I have ever seen, removal of the bracket was nothing short of a disaster. Although the collared nuts on the device loosened with a little added pressure, the hooked design of the bracket’s arms meant the nuts needed to be backed up to the absolute furthest point possible to remove the bracket from atop the battery. Consequently, the action of attempting to free the bracket arms placed increasing upward pressure on the thoroughly loosened nuts as the arms came closer to coming out of the gaps in which they were hooked. The combination of these variables meant one thing; the nuts were left with one place to go, off of the bracket arms. As I worked the bracket loose, I felt a sudden sharp release that sent my hand into the engine compartment and sent one of the bracket nuts soaring into the air. In a split second the nut hit an engine component and tumbled downward under the force of gravity. I had been successful in removing the bracket, but now I was missing a key component to put it back together.

Over the next 15 minutes I searched for the missing nut in every place I thought it could have possibly gone. Eventually, I came across it after moving a few leaves off of the driveway directly under the center of the parked car. While I was happy I found the missing nut, the need to search for it set me back in the process of replacing the battery, which meant the second leg of my journey would likely end up taking place in the dark. With time of the essence, I placed the pieces of the battery bracket on the ground, removed the freed car battery, and loaded up in Rachael’s car to pick up a new battery to the local Farm and Fleet store.

The nastiest one in the group
When I arrived at the store, I took note of the sunset blazing across the sky. Although I knew the sight meant it would be dark by the time I finished today’s “I have never...” project, I hurried through the store to the automotive department and did my best to advance the process of obtaining a new battery. Unfortunately, the employee at the battery counter wasn’t in much of a hurry as he helped me, which extended my visit to the store from a transaction that should take a few minutes to a nearly 20 minute ordeal. I stood waiting at the counter with my car battery in hand for several minutes while the employee stared at his computer, periodically clicking his mouse as he moved it from side to side. Finally completing his task, he raised his head from the screen to acknowledge me, which prompted him to have me place my car battery on a nearby cart. Seeking to move the process forward, I offered him information necessary to replace the battery including the car make, model, and engine size, which failed to spur him to action. Moments later, he asked me for my car’s make, model, and engine size, which made it clear the process of obtaining a new battery was going to take some time.

Eventually, I found myself purchasing the new car battery at the front of the store and heading back out to my car to make the trip back home. With dusk quickly moving to night, I drove home as quickly as possible and seated the new battery in my car’s engine compartment. With everything in place, I flipped on the headlamp I had grabbed earlier in the evening and set to work reconnecting the necessary pieces of the battery. Initially, this meant piecing together the bracket that had been the source of my setbacks in the process. Like before, working with the apparatus proved incredibly difficult. I had to remove the battery several times as the bracket arm hooks slipped out of their notches several times, which ultimately led to a bracket nut flipping back off of the end of the arm for a second time. Luckily, the nuts location was in the same general vicinity as the prior incident, which made it easy to pick up and continue with the process.

Strapped in...
My efforts inevitably led to the bracket getting secured back in place, which meant the only thing left to do was reconnect the battery and ensure my car would start. With only a few steps left, I took a step back from the vehicle and reminded myself of the final, critical steps in reconnecting the battery. As I leaned back under the hood I said, “Reverse order...” as I reached for the positive battery cable and slid it on to the battery terminal. With the circuit incomplete, the connection of the metal components presented no issue. As a result, I promptly tightened the positive clamp to a snug fit before moving to the negative cable. Although a bit worried about completing the circuit with the new battery at first, the connection of the cable clamp to the terminal again caused no issue. In turn, I carefully tightened the negative cable clamp to the final battery terminal, making sure I did make contact with the positive terminal as I worked.

...And good to go!
With the negative clamp in place, I took a step back from my work, gave one final check of the components, and moved to start my car. Just as my body hit the car seat I jammed the car key into the ignition and turned. As expected, the car immediately started, with all of the lights and electronics rushing to life under the increased power of the new source of power. With the static of an unprogrammed radio filling the silence around me, I leaned back in the seat relieved that my work was finished. With 8:00 pm approaching quickly, I took stock on my experience and thought through what I could have done differently. Although it was getting late and I was little grimy, I was no worse for wear and my car had a much needed new battery. Additionally, I gained another new experience with what was a previously unfamiliar task, and I learned a lot in the process.

Starting it up!
Although today’s “I have never...” experience was a simple event that many people have taken on in their lives, I’m happy I took on the task of changing a car battery. The experience helped me learn a new skill that will likely be of use in the future, and I likely save myself a little bit of money by choosing to learn the process myself. Those takeaways also have the added benefit of creating a sense of accomplishment that only comes with getting my hands dirty. There is just something about achieving an objective and conquering a task that feels fulfilling, and that’s always enough to make it worth putting my hands to work. 

4 comments:

  1. When you are looking you change your car battery, you should choose good quality car battery & should take auto repair expert advice. auto repair can help a lot in changing your car battery and points you made is good.
    Battery UAE
    http://www.dial-a-battery.com/

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  2. I think it's commendable that you're taking the initiative to learn how to do things for the first time. Like you said, not only are you giving yourself opportunities to feel fulfillment, you're also broadening your horizons and making yourself multidimensional. That said, learning how to change a car battery is a good way to start with knowing how to fix a car. It's really easy and you don't need a lot of tools. From there, you can slowly go to more complex tasks. Just make sure you have the guidance of a professional! Keep it up!

    Tony Iezzi @ AcesAutomotive.ca

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  3. Not that I wish you the inconvenience of changing battery in an unexpected circumstances or anything like that, but this is a skill that you will likely find useful in the future. I’m sure this task gave you some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, given that you have acquired a new skill in the process. Congratulations! Anyway, drive safe!

    Maurice Osborne @ Fast Lane Automotive

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