It can be quite frustrating when you head out to your car and get the tell-tale clicking sound or slow start associated with a dead car battery. Now you have to schedule an appointment during your busy day to go to the shop and have them replace it.

Did you know you can replace your car’s battery with relative ease? REplacing your car’s battery yourself will help save you the time and stress of driving to the shop and waiting for the technician to get to your vehicle.

Below we outline how to change a car battery so you can avoid that trip to the repair shop.

How To Change a Car Battery

Batteries are relatively simple fixes most car owners can do themselves. However, there are specific procedures to follow when changing a car battery, and we’ll cover these in the step-by-step do-it-yourself (DIY) instructions below.

Step 1: Protection

First and foremost in any battery replacement is personal protection. Ensure you’re wearing a pair of safety glasses to protect your hands and a pair of rubber gloves that are resistant to battery acid. These personal protection pieces will ensure your hands and eyes are well-protected should the battery leak acid while replacing it or if it has existing corrosion.

Step 2: Find and Access the Battery

The location of the battery and how you access it will be the most variable part of this process. Most vehicle batteries are in the engine bay, mounted on or near the driver’s side wheel well in plain sight. However, some vehicles position the battery in areas that are not easily accessible, such as under the air filter box or inside the wheel well. Some vehicles also place the battery in the trunk.

Look in your owner’s manual for the location of your vehicle’s battery, removing any components that interfere with you accessing it.

Step 3: Remove the Battery Terminals

Using a box wrench or ratchet and socket, loosen the terminal at the end of the negative (black) battery cable until you can lift it from the battery terminal with a mild wiggle or rocking motion.

If the terminal end is stuck to the battery terminal due to corrosion buildup, do not twist it, as this can damage the battery and cause a leak. Instead, use a battery terminal cleaner to free it and lift it off. If the battery terminal cleaner doesn’t work, use a terminal puller tool — available at any auto parts store — to remove it.

Some batteries have side posts with flat terminal ends and bolts that thread into the battery. With this type of battery, loosen the negative terminal bolt until the terminal end is free from the battery posts, then pull the negative cable from the battery.

Move the negative cable end as far from the battery as possible and secure it to prevent accidental reconnection.

Repeat the above steps to disconnect the positive (red) battery cable from the battery. The positive terminal may have a rubber or plastic cover for protection. You’ll need to remove or open this to access the cable end bolt.

Safety Note: Always remove the negative battery cable first to prevent accidentally short-circuiting the battery and damaging it or causing personal injury.

Step 4: Loosen and Remove the Battery-Retaining Hardware

Every car battery is held in by some form of hardware. Some have just a small piece of plastic that bolts to the battery tray near the base of the battery and holds the battery from the bottom. Others will have a metal strap across the top of the battery that secures to two or more posts using nuts.

Loosen the retaining fasteners using a ratchet, socket, and extension, if needed. Pull the retaining hardware from the battery.

Step 5: Remove the Old Battery

Firmly grip the old battery on each side and lift it from the battery tray to remove it. Carefully place the old battery in a safe position away from the vehicle. Save the dead battery; you’ll need to bring it to the parts store to claim your core charge refund.

Step 6: Clean the Battery Tray

Over the years, dirt, leaves, and other debris can collect on the battery tray. Removing all this debris gives the new battery a clean place to live.

Step 7: Install the New Battery

Align the new battery with the battery tray, positioning the battery terminals the same way they were on the old battery. Slide the replacement battery in place. Reinstall the battery-retaining hardware and tighten the hardware until it’s secure.

Step 8: Connect the Battery Cables

Connect the positive cable end to the positive terminal on the battery — the one with a “+” on it — and finger-tighten its bolt. Tighten the battery cable ends until they are secure. Use care not to over-tighten them and damage the battery or bolt.

Repeat this step on the negative (black) cable end to the negative battery post — the one with the minus sign on it.

Reinstall the positive terminal end cover. 

Safety Note: Always reconnect the positive (red) battery cable first to avoid accidentally short-circuiting the battery.

Step 9: Reinstall All Interfering Components

All those components you removed to access the battery... it’s time to reinstall them. Carefully put each component into its proper position and fasten it into place.

Step 10: Start the Vehicle

The moment of truth. Start the vehicle and allow it to idle for about 5 minutes to verify the work was completed successfully.

Things to Remember About Car Batteries

Here are a few tips to remember when replacing a car battery.

Check the Connection First

Before determining you have a dead car battery, check the connection between the battery terminals and battery cables. If this connection is loose, tighten it slightly with a ratchet and socket or combination wrench. If the connection is covered in corrosion, clean it first with a battery terminal cleaner and a wire brush, then tighten the cable end bolts.

Try starting the vehicle now. If it starts with ease, the battery is likely fine, and it was simply the corrosion or loose connection causing the problem. It still wouldn’t hurt to have your battery and electrical system checked with a tester. This procedure — often offered for free at auto parts stores — tests the battery, starter, alternator, and other components to ensure everything is operating within spec.

Try a Recharge

Like all batteries, car batteries can become discharged for various reasons. Fortunately, you can recharge a car battery. 

So, before condemning the battery as faulty, try recharging it. If the battery recharges, you’re likely good to go. However, it’s still a good idea to have the battery checked to ensure it’s good. Many auto parts stores will check the battery for free.

Protect Your New Battery

You should always apply a non-corrosive coating to the battery terminals and terminal ends with any new battery. This keeps the buildup to a minimum, ensuring the connection remains strong. You can pick up this protectant at any auto parts store for less than $10.

Invest in a Trickle Charger

The frigid temperatures of winter wreak havoc on car batteries. Investing in a slow battery charger, known as a trickle charger, and connecting it to your battery every night is a great way to prolong the battery's lifespan. A trickle charger keeps the battery charged at all times and raises the battery’s temperature, preventing freezing.

Clutch’s Pre-Owned Cars Are Always Fully Charged

When buying a pre-owned vehicle, there is some mystery surrounding its conditioning, including that of the battery. At Clutch, Canada’s first 100% online pre-owned auto retailer, all our vehicles go through a 210-point inspection process that includes checking the battery and electrical system for any faults. If the battery is weak, we replace it before selling the vehicle.

On top of this, we include a 90-day of 6,000-km warranty on all vehicles and a 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don’t love your Clutch vehicle within the first 10 days or 750 km, you can return it for a full refund or exchange it for a different vehicle.

Check out our huge pre-owned vehicle inventory and choose the best vehicle for you. You can begin the purchasing process online and even secure financing, then we’ll deliver the vehicle to you and finalize the paperwork at your home or work. There’s no need to set foot into a dealership.