Here at Clore, we deal mostly in the theoretical. While we try to get out in the field as much as possible, the reality is that we spend much more time in the office than we like. We know that, while we have a high level of interaction with our products and the applications they perform, we are coming at those applications from a very different perspective than someone who uses our products in the course of their daily work. With this in mind, we would never presume that we know more than those in the field, doing the vehicle repairs and maintenance that keep vehicles on the road.
Except, perhaps, when it comes to safety. Safety is a very critical issue in vehicle service, particularly when working on and around vehicle batteries, which can be very dangerous if improperly handled. We recently had the opportunity to observe a battery shop installer perform a simple vehicle battery replacement application and were disturbed by some of what we saw. So, we thought that experience could provide a good opportunity to address safety concerns when working on or around vehicle batteries.
ISSUE #1. The installer walked out to the vehicle with the new battery and had no safety goggles or other safety gear of any kind. Batteries can be unpredictable and a simple mistake could lead to a shorted battery (see ISSUE #4 below), which is very dangerous. Each of us gets just one set of eyes, so always protect them when working on or around a vehicle battery. Safety glasses are a must.
ISSUE #2. When disconnecting the vehicle’s battery cables from the old battery, he disconnected the positive cable first. It didn’t happen in this case, but this could result in arcing or sparking, as the battery harness is being pulled off the battery post. The best practice is to disconnect the battery ground connection first, then the positive (ungrounded) connection. When connecting the new battery, first connect the positive connection, then the battery ground connection.
ISSUE #3. Once the old battery was disconnected from the vehicle electrical system and loosened from its moorings, it was removed with little or no regard for securing the battery cables, now loose and free to travel within the general battery area. This is problematic, more for the vehicle than the operator, but should be accounted for nonetheless. It is a good practice to secure the positive battery cable in such a way that it cannot come into contact with other electrical parts or a vehicle ground. This may take an extra minute or two, but that time is very well spent.
ISSUE #4. As the team at Clore Automotive responsible for writing our operator’s manuals, we are highly sensitive to the warnings that consistently appear in our Battery Service Equipment manuals. Here’s a big one: “Be extra cautious to reduce risk of dropping a metal tool onto a battery. It might spark or short circuit the battery or another electrical part that may cause explosion.” So, you could imagine our concern when the young installer placed a metal ratchet on the new battery after it was placed into the battery compartment. Something as simple as brushing against that ratchet with his elbow and knocking it into contact with the battery posts could have resulted in a major incident.
ISSUE #5. This last one is likely more a preference than a true safety issue, but we think it is worth mentioning. This shop’s standard practice for saving vehicle memory during a battery replacement was to connect a small jump starter to the battery cables and then disconnect the old battery. In this way, the jump starter powers the vehicle until the new battery is installed. While this may be fine in principle, at Clore, we would suggest that the use of a memory saver (ours or others) is more practical and reduces the likelihood of shorting the battery cables while they are not connected to the battery.
As a reader, you may think we are being overly critical of this particular situation, and you might be right. But, we saw too many issues not to be concerned. And, we believe that safety is a topic that can’t be overstressed.