How to Change a Car Battery in 2.5 Hours

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Posted 30 Mar 2010 in Automotive, Family Car, Personal

Here’s a humorous story of how I took a twenty minute battery change and made it last two and a half hours.  Yes, I’m that talented.

Sunday morning, the family piled into the car to head off to church.  We got everyone situated, buckled in, kids had drinks, everything was good.  Turn the key in the ignition and….  nothing.  Well, sort of.  The quick rat-a-tat-tat of the starter told me something was going on…but a not running car told me it wasn’t anything good.  No problem, we’ll jump the car.  I turn the truck around, raise the hood of both vehicles, pull the jumper cables out and…have an embarrassing moment as I forgot what goes where.  A quick call to the neighbor, who came over and laughed a bit but helped get the cables all set up.  Car is jumped, we’re off to church.  We’re now late.

After church, we pile all back into the car and turn the key and…nothing.  This time there was no rat-a-tat or anything.  Sigh.  No worries, flagged down a friend and got the car jumped and we’re off to home again.  Get home, pull in the garage, turn off the car, and decide it might be time to replace the battery.

Pack the family away safe inside the house, change clothes, and head out to the Internet to figure out the right order to disconnect the cables.  (FWIW — I used the lovely site Next I head out to the garage to face the (according to the Internet) simple task of replacing the battery.  I pull out my tools, raise the hood of the car, and begin.

Step 1: Disconnect negative battery terminal – It took a few attempts, but I found the right size wrench and disconnected the negative battery terminal.

Step 2: Disconnect positive battery terminal – I thought this would be easy, but the positive terminal was a different size then the negative terminal.  A few different attempts with a couple different wrenches and this one came off easily.

Step 3: Remove battery – How hard could this be?  Grab battery and lift.  Wait, it’s stuck.  What?  Oh, there’s a bolt holding it down.  Now this bolt was at the bottom of the battery.  held in place with a nut.  None of my sockets fit over the bolt to get on the nut.  I eyeballed the nut, guessed at its size (can you see where this is going?) and hopped in the truck to get to Autozone and get the deep socket I (thought I) needed.  I bought the socket, went home, and…it didn’t fit.  I needed the next size up.

No problem — hop in the truck, back to Autozone, this time I see a full set of the sockets that I need.  For a bit more then the single socket (but not much more).  Get those, back home, and…they still don’t fit.  I have American sockets, the bolt is metric.  And rusted enough that the American sockets are slipping.  Sigh.

This time I went to Advanced Auto because I felt silly going back to Autozone for a third time.  Walked in, told them what I needed…they were out of stock.  Sigh.  I see a sign up on their wall “Free Battery Install”.  Hmm..  What’s the price on your battery?  They told me, and it was about $10 more than the battery at Autozone.  OK…sure, why not.   I leave Advanced Auto (sans tools) and head home.  However, I refused to be defeated by a simple bolt.  And how else could I know that the job was done right unless I did it myself?  I talked myself out of having Advanced Auto do it and went to Autozone and bought a metric kit with the deep socket I needed.  At this point, I think I’m on a first name basis with the check out guy (Tim).

I return home, and use my new socket to remove the battery from the car.  Put the battery in the truck and head back to Autozone yet again.  They test the battery (yes, it was dead.  Bad would have been an improvement), and pull down the one I need.  I pay, take it home and begin again the process, but in reverse.

Step 4: Clear corrosion from terminal contacts – easy.  Took me 2 minutes.

Step 5: Place battery in car – Easy again.  And with my new handy dandy tools, was able to rebolt the battery into place.

Step 6: Hook up positive battery terminal – it’s so much easier to do things in reverse.

Step 7: Hook up negative battery terminal - And again.  Now we’re done.

Start up the car, and everything works.  Let it run for a few minutes while I clean up, set the clock on the radio, etc.  To test again, I turn off the car.  Wait a few minutes, then restart it.  Starts great.

And just like that, this simple 20 minute job is done 2.5 hours later.

So, lessons learned:

  • Don’t eyeball bolt sizes.
  • Buy kits instead of individual sockets.
  • Never buy a car again that uses both metric and American sizes under the hood (yeah, I know, good luck with that).

So…if anyone around here needs their car battery changed out, give me a call.  I have the tools and experience to do it now!


  1. EllaJo

    Also, remind your wife that taking the battery out means that all the presets on the radio are erased. :-)

  2. ME

    Chad: funny story…don’t you just love the learning curve on being human??

    • chad

      Um. Yeah. Love it. :-)

  3. Chad: funny story…don’t you just love the learning curve on being human??


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