Working with Batteries

CAUTION: All lead-acid batteries contain sulfuric acid, which is highly corrosive, and these batteries also produce excess gas during charging that may explode if exposed to an ignition source. When working with batteries, you need plenty of ventilation, remove your jewelry, wear protective eyewear (safety glasses) and clothing, and exercise caution. Do not allow battery electrolytes to mix with salt water. Even small quantities of this combination will produce harmful Chlorine gas.

CAUTION/DANGER: Lead-acid batteries contain a sulfuric acid electrolyte, which can be poisonous and highly corrosive. Flooded Lead-acid batteries will produce gases when discharging and charging, which can explode.

CALIFORNIA Proposition 65 Warning: Battery posts, terminals, and related accessories contain lead and lead compounds and other chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

CAUTION/DANGER: Do not allow battery electrolytes to mix with salt water. Even small quantities of this combination will produce Chlorine gas that can KILL you! Saltwater boaters need to pay special attention to battery location when batteries are installed in bilge areas.

Safety first: Although Poison Danger, Safety and Caution information is dispersed throughout this battery guide, we will list the basics below.

The danger of exploding batteries:

All lead-acid batteries contain sulfuric acid. Flooded or wet lead-acid batteries produce potentially explosive mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen when charging and discharging. Because self-discharge can generate hydrogen gas even when the battery is not operating, make sure batteries are stored and worked on in well-ventilated areas. ALWAYS wear safety glasses and a face shield when working on or near batteries. Valve Regulated Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) and GEL batteries are sealed valve regulated, and maintenance-free. All sulfuric acid is immobilized and absorbed either in the absorbed glass mat or in a GEL silicate material. Under normal operating conditions, any gas produced is recombined and is not vented to the atmosphere. All lead-acid batteries, including sealed valve-regulated batteries, will vent gases if overcharged.

When working with batteries:

  1. Always wear proper eye, face and hand protection.
  2. Keep sparks, flames and cigarettes away from the battery.
  3. Do not remove or damage the vent caps on sealed valve-regulated types.
  4. Do not open in any way sealed valve-regulated batteries.
  5. Cover vents with a damp cloth to minimize gas seepage.
  6. Make sure the work area is well-ventilated.
  7. Never lean over the battery while testing, boosting or charging.

When installing or replacing batteries:

  1. Disconnect the ground cable (negative cable) first.
  2. Note the position of Positive (+) and Negative (-) cables. Mark cables for the correct connection to the new battery.
  3. Remove old batteries.
  4. Clean terminals and cable connections. Broken, frayed, brittle, kinked or cut cables should be replaced.
  5. Clean and/or paint and repair the battery compartment and hold down.
  6. Install and secure the new battery. Be careful not to ground the terminals on any metal mounting, fixture or body part.
  7. Connect the cables tightly. Connect the ground cable last to avoid sparks.

When charging batteries:

  1. Before operating the charger, make sure to read and understand the instructions that come with the charger. Never attempt to charge a battery without first reviewing and understanding the instructions of the charger being used. Always ensure the charger's charging curve meets the batteries' charging requirement.
  2. Always charge batteries in a ventilated area.
  3. Always wear protective gear for your eyes.
  4. Never charge a visibly damaged battery.
  5. Never charge a frozen battery.
  6. Connect the charger leads to the battery; the (+) positive lead to the positive (+) terminal of the battery, and the (-) negative lead to the negative (-) terminal. If the battery is still in the vehicle, connect the negative lead to the engine block to serve as a ground. If the vehicle is positively grounded, connect the positive lead to the engine block. To be absolutely sure, ensure the battery is completely disconnected from the equipment and hook the charger leads up accordingly.
  7. Make sure that the charger lead, both at the charger and the battery side of the leads, connections are tight.
  8. If the charger has a battery type selector switch (I.E. Flooded, GEL, or AGM), set it to the proper location.
  9. Set the timer if it is available and turn the charger on.
  10. If the battery becomes hot or if violent gassing or spewing of electrolytes (in the case of flooded battery types) occurs, reduce the charge rate or temporarily halt the charger. If these events repeat themselves even after you restart the charger and/or reduce the charge rate, take the battery to a professional to be evaluated.
  11. Always turn the charger OFF before removing the leads from the battery to avoid dangerous sparks.

When handling battery acid:

  1. Battery acid or electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water that can destroy clothing and burn skin. Use extreme caution when handling electrolytes and keep an acid-neutralizing solution, such as baking soda or household ammonia mixed with water, readily available in the event of a spill.
  2. Always wear eye protection.
  3. If electrolyte is splashed into the eye, immediately force the eye open and flood it with clean, cool water. Get medical attention immediately.
  4. If electrolyte is taken internally, drink large amounts of water or milk. DO NOT induce vomiting. Get medical attention immediately.
  5. Neutralize with baking soda any electrolyte that spills in the work area, and rinse with water.

When booster cables are used to jump start a dead battery:

  1. When jump starting, always wear proper eye protection.
  2. Never lean over the battery.
  3. Do not jump start a damaged battery.
  4. Do not jump start a frozen battery.
  5. Inspect both batteries before connecting booster cables. Be sure vent caps are tight and level, and place a damp cloth over the vents of both batteries.
  6. Make sure the vehicles are not touching.
  7. Make sure both ignition switches are turned to the OFF position.
  8. Connect the positive (+) booster cable lead to the (+) terminal of the discharged battery.
  9. Connect the other end of the positive (+) booster cable to the positive (+) terminal of the boosting battery.
  10. Connect the negative (-) cable to the negative (-) terminal of the boosting battery.
  11. Make the final connection of the Negative (-) cable to the engine block of the stalled vehicle, away from the battery. If this is not possible, be careful when connecting the negative (-) cable to the discharged battery, as the electrical current may jump at the discharged terminal, creating a spark.
  12. Start the vehicle and remove cables in the REVERSE order of their connection.