Car Battery Cable Guide

Transferring the current from the battery into the starter and alternator is the job of the battery cables. Every time you starting your car, the battery cables will need to deliver the power needed to fire off the engine. The cables are mounted to the battery and consist a positive cable and a negative cable. The positive cable mostly runs to the starter, while the negative cable is mounted on the firewall of the vehicle.

How Long Does a Battery Cable Last ?

Generally, a battery cable will last anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 miles. The battery cables that are on your car are utilized quite frequently. Because of this amount of use, it is easy for them to wear out. Generally, whenever a battery cable is damaged, it will not be able to be repaired. Having the damaged cable replaced is the only possibility to ensure that the problems that you are experiencing are fixed. There are a number of different factors like that can lead to a battery cable going bad.

Having the cable properly tested using a voltage meter is a sure fire way to find out if it is in need of replacement. Without the cables working properly, it will nearly impossible to start your car whenever it is needed. In some cases, the problems with the battery cable can be fixed through cleaning off of the corrosion that is on them. The corrosion that forms on the cable can prevents it from getting good contact with the battery posts. Whenever repairs is needed to the battery cables on your car, you might notice signs like:

  • The car will not start because of a bad connection
  • The car will only make a clicking noise whenever you try to start it
  • Various electrical parts in the cab of the car are not working
  • The cable has to be wiggled to make good connection with the battery
  • There is quite visible damage to the cable

Having the cables inspected by a professional is the best way to make sure that the right repairs are done. Trying to operate a car with damaged battery cables can create a lot of instability that might lead to you not being able to drive the vehicle. 

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Battery Cable

If you experience any problem in starting and powering the car or find corrosion on the battery terminals, you might need to replace a battery cable.

Battery cables are a crucial piece of any electrical system, as they are what directly connects the battery to vehicle’s electronic system. They are mostly made of heavy gauge wire covered in heavy duty insulation due to the high amount of current and power that flows through them. While their build and mode of operation is simple in nature, when they do fail, battery cables can lead to all sorts of problems for a vehicle. Mostly, when there is a problem with the battery cables, the vehicle will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver that a problem has occurred and should be serviced.

1. Problems with starting the vehicle

One of the first symptoms of a problem with battery cables is an issue of starting the vehicle. The battery cables transfer the power from the battery to the vehicle’s entire electrical system. If the cables have kind of problem, it may interfere with their ability to conduct power. Starting a vehicle takes a huge amount of cranking power, so any problems with the cables that hinder their ability to conduct power can lead to problems getting the vehicle started. The vehicle might experience intermittent or slow cranking, as well clicking sounds during cranking, these usually occur from not enough current being able to pass through the cables to start the vehicle.

2. Corrosion on battery terminals

Another symptom of a bad or failing cable will be the presence of corrosion on the terminals. Corrosion develops because of the acidic vapour produced by the battery when it becomes hot from exposure to the heat of engine operation. Over time, the vapour can start to corrode the terminal and cause corrosion to build up. Corrosion will lead to increased resistance along the contact surface of the terminal, and in more severe cases, can even completely block the flow of electricity. Corrosion can also seep into the insides of the cable and corrode the inside parts of the cable. Mostly, a cable corroded to this degree must be replaced.

3. No power to vehicle

Another common symptom which is commonly associated with bad or failing battery cables is no power to the vehicle at all. If the cables split or corrode to the point where they are not making a clean connection with the battery, then the vehicle will not receive any power. You might notice that turning the key does not activate the accessory power, crank the engine, or switch on the interior lights. Mostly, closer examination of the cables can reveal if the problem is related to the cables.

How to Change Battery Cables

Although simple in nature, battery cables are one of the most crucial components of a vehicle’s electrical system. They serve like the main connection between the vehicle’s main source of power, the battery, and the vehicle’s starting, charging, and electrical systems.

Because of the operational nature of automotive batteries, battery cables are often prone to corrosion build up both internally and on the terminals. Whenever the corrosion builds up on the terminals or inside the wire, the resistance of the cable is increased, and conduction efficiency is reduced.

In more severe cases, if battery cables become too corroded, or their resistance becomes too high, one might run into electrical issues, mostly in the form of starting problems or intermittent electrical problems.

As cables are generally relatively inexpensive, it is always recommended to replace them once they have become too corroded or worn out. In this step by step process, we will go over how to inspect, remove, and install battery cables, using nothing more than a few basic hand tools.

Replacing battery cables

Materials Required

  • Basic set of hand tools
  • Battery terminal cleaning tool
  • Battery cleaner
  • Heavy duty diagonal cutters
  • Replacement battery cables

Step 1: Examine the battery’s components. Carefully check and examine the battery cables that you are going to replace.

Trace and follow both the positive and negative cables all the way from the battery terminals to where they actually connect onto the vehicle.

Identify the cables to make sure the correct replacement cables are obtained, or, if they are universal cables, that the new cables are of sufficient length to replace the old ones.

Step 2: Remove the negative battery terminal. When disconnecting an automotive battery, it is quite a standard practice to remove the negative terminal first.

This removes the ground connection from the vehicle’s electrical system and removes the possibility of any accidental electrical shorts or shocks.

The negative battery terminal is mostly identified by a black battery cable, or by a negative sign marked on the terminal.

Disconnect the negative terminal and after that, set the cable out of the way.

Step 3: Remove the positive terminal. Once the negative terminal is removed, proceed towards removing the positive terminal in the same fashion as you removed the negative terminal.

The positive terminal will be exactly opposite of the negative, connected to the post marked with a plus sign.

Step 4: Remove the battery from the engine. Once both cables have been disconnected, just remove any securing mechanism at the base or top of the battery, and then remove the battery from the engine bay.

Step 5: Disconnect the battery cables. Once the battery has been removed, just follow both battery cables all the way back to where they connect to the vehicle and disconnect them both.

Mostly, the negative battery cable will be bolted to the engine or somewhere on the vehicle’s frame, while the positive battery cable will usually be bolted to the starter or a fuse box.

Step 6: Compare current cables with replacement cables. Once the cables have been removed, compare them with your replacement cables to ensure that they are the correct replacements.

Ensure that they are of adequate length and have matching terminal ends, or ends that will work on the vehicle.

If the cables are universal, take this time for trimming them to the correct length if necessary, using the diagonal cutters.

Also, remember to carefully examine both of the terminals and replace them with compatible ones if necessary.

Step 7: Install the cables. Once you have verified that the replacement cables will be compatible with your vehicle, proceed to installing them in the same manner as they were removed.

When bolting the cables down, ensure that contact surfaces are both clean and free of any dirt or corrosion, and that you do not over torque the bolt.

Secure both cables to the vehicle, but do not connect them to the battery just yet.

Step 8: Reinstall the battery. Use both hands for carefully placing the battery back into the engine bay to reinstall it.

Step 9: Clean the battery terminals. Once the battery is installed, just proceed to thoroughly clean both terminals using the battery terminal cleaner.

Clean the terminals to the best of your ability by removing all the corrosion that might be present to ensure the best possible contact between the posts and terminals.

Step 10: Reinstall the battery cables. Once the terminals are clean, proceed to reinstalling the battery cables into their respective posts. First install the positive battery cable and then the negative one.

Step 11: Test the vehicle. Now, the installation is complete. Just turn the vehicle key to the ON position to make sure that there is power, and then start the vehicle to ensure that everything is working correctly.

Video of How to Check and Replace Your Car’s Battery Cable and Terminal Ends

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