How To Change and Charge Your Battery

Even if the rest of your vehicle’s running smoothly, a dead battery means it’s all for nothing. With no battery power, there is no way to drive your car or van to the nearest garage. To avoid being stranded, drivers should know how to change a battery and how to charge one.

Always check your battery when you first buy it. There should be a label showing the date of purchase and how long the battery should last.

When it’s time to replace or top up your battery, here’s what to do:

Changing a car or van battery

  1. Make sure that the engine is off, and that everything under the bonnet is cool before you start.
  2. Wear protective gloves during the whole procedure. When you open the bonnet, put something over the fender – a blanket or sheet, for example. This should stop any dripping battery acid from causing corrosion.
  3. Check your owner’s manual to confirm whether the battery has negative grounding. If it does, remove the cables from the negative (NEG or -) terminal first. Then work on the positive (POS or +) terminal. You may need an adjustable wrench to loosen the nut and bolt on each cable clamp. Once a cable has been removed, place it safely out of the way.
  4. Take out any other bolts, screws or devices that are holding the battery in place. You may want to do this by hand if possible, to avoid dropping screws as they come off. Then, take out the battery itself and place it carefully to one side.
  5. Inspect the battery tray for dirt and damage. If it needs cleaning, or is slightly corroded, a wipe with baking soda dissolved in water will help.
  6. Make sure the tray is clean and dry. Place the new battery onto the tray, so that it faces the same way as the old one.
  7. Re-fix the devices and screws that secure the battery. To confirm they are fixed tightly enough, try to move the battery around and see if it stays in place.
  8. Reattach the cables in reverse order - if you took off the negative cable first, as above, put the positive cable back on first. Double check that the clamps are gripping the posts on each terminal properly.
  9. Safely dispose of the old battery. This can be done at a recycling centre – check in advance whether your local centre accepts vehicle batteries.

Charging a car or van battery

  • It’s always a good idea to have a set of jump leads in the boot. Jump-starting a van also requires the help of another driver with a working vehicle.
  • Charging should be done slowly. Waiting can be an inconvenience, but recharging too quickly could overheat and damage the battery.
  • When trying to charge a battery at home, should you need to remove the battery at any point please follow the instructions above.

  • With battery chargers, start with the charger off. Link the positive and negative ends of the cables to their respective terminals on the battery. Set the charger to a slow charge rate – the slowest, if possible. Then turn it on, set the timer and wait.
  • If the terminal posts look corroded or dirty, give them a clean before attempting to attach jump leads.

More advice on motoring

Whenever you need our help, please get in touch with the Vanwise team. Find and contact us in Maidstone, Harlow and Dunstable.