Saturday, September 18, 2010

Second Project--The Battery

I didn't take a "before" photo of the ridiculous battery. It was disgusting. It was easily perhaps the worst battery corrosion I've ever seen. I noted the date on the old battery--February 2004! Gee, six and a half years old, eh?

Just getting the old battery out of the Zuki proved to be a substantial challenge. Everything was frozen up. Luckily, the terminal nuts came loose and I was able to pry the terminals off. Then I used channel lock pliers to remove the tie down wing nuts. Luckily, nothing broke. But the real challenge was getting the top bracket loose from the battery itself. The thick corrosion had bonded itself to the battery and wouldn't budge. I finally brought in a large rubber mallet and a 18 inch piece of 2x2. After whacking awhile on the bracket, the corrosion broke loose in a big cloud of acidic dust. (NOTE: I was wearing a full face shield, a full protective mask and latex gloves for this phase of the project.)

Before pulling out the battery, I was convinced I'd find the sheet metal below the battery completely rusted through. Imagine my surprise when I saw that NONE of this metal had been damaged! WHAT? How could this be? Luckily, someone had put a thin piece of rubber beneath the battery--that helped a LOT. But I also realized that someone had sprayed an aftermarket protective coating beneath the battery. The coating looks like a mirco thin bed liner sort of coating. Clearly, that saved this vehicle's battery bacon in this case. Most sheet metal beneath old Zuki batteries is long gone! So, at least I had a reasonable hope of being able to get it all back together.

But first....

I put the bracket and one of the tie down posts in a tub of water and baking soda. You should have seen it boil and fizz! I let it sit overnight and meanwhile bought more baking soda for the work ahead.

Then I went to Sam's Club with tape measure in hand and decided a Group 58-N battery might be able to fit. I carefully took the 58-N measurements and, just to be safe, returned home to double check the available space. I put the old battery in a Home Depot orange plastic bucket and then returned to Sam's to buy the new battery. I fit the new battery back into the bucket and brought it home.

The next challenge was removing all of the dried corrosion that had formed beneath the battery. I bought a $24 one gallon mini-shop vac and put on all the personal protective gear and began merrily sucking it up with the vac. I needed an ice pick, two wire brushes and a knife to break loose most of the corrosion residue.
For the remainder, I mixed some baking soda with water and put it in a spray bottle. Then I gave the area repeated doses of the soda solution while soaking up each round of spray with paper towels. In this manner, I was able to thoroughly clean the battery compartment.

One of the tie down posts couldn't come out of the compartment so I had to clean it in place. The corrosion was so bonded to the post, I had to use channel locks to bite away at the big chunks clinging to the post. Meanwhile, most of the caked corrosion had dissolved from the bracket--but not all of it. There was a substantial amount left. So I put the bracket in the shop vice and used wire bristle wheels attached to the electric drill to grind out the remainder. it was very stubborn stuff! For good measure, I buffed the entire bracket and the wing nuts and painted them green. I would have painted them black but I didn't have any black paint.

While the paint was drying, I went to Harbor Freight and bought two felt washers for a buck to go under the terminals. Then I went to Checker and spent $1.37 on some di-electric anti-corrosion grease for the terminals.

Next came an unexpected surprise: I could pry the battery out of the Home Depot Bucket! No way, no how. So, I had to get out the aviation snips and destroy the bucket. I had to make two cuts top to bottom in order to free the battery. Who knew a battery could be held captive in a bucket?

Luckily, the battery fit the compartment. There was not even a single millimeter of space on either side. Whew! Meanwhile the negative terminal wouldn't quite fit and I had to put out the 2x2 and rubber mallet to "snug" the negative terminal down on the post. Luckily, I didn't break the top of the battery casing!

Once we got it all back together, it fit like a hand in a glove and looks real spiffy, too. The battery cost $63 including tax and there's a 36-month free replacement on it. I will put the receipt in an marked envelope in the glove box.
I'm glad that project is done. I don't like working with batteries at all!

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