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Archive for Saturday, January 18, 1992

COLD WEATHER MAY MEAN BATTERY WOES

January 18, 1992

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Bone-chilling winter air can mean stalled cars that need a jump to get started.

But using booster cables to jump-start a vehicle can be dangerous if the procedure is not done properly.

"There's always a danger you could have a battery blow up if you don't do it right," said Ron Zeller, manager of Lawrence Battery Co., 903 N. Second. "Usually it occurs when there's a spark."

According to the Battery Council International of Chicago, an association of battery manufacturers, the following steps should be taken when jump-starting a car or passenger truck:

1. Connect the positive (+) cable to the positive post of discharged battery. The red line of the booster cables is used to connect positive posts.

2. Connect the other end of positive cable to the positive post of starting vehicle's battery.

3. Connect negative cable (-) to the other post of starting vehicle's battery. The black line on the booster cables is used to connect negative posts.

4. Make final connection on a metal part of the engine block of stalled vehicle away from battery. Stand back.

5. Start stalled vehicle and remove cables in reverse order of connection.

THE BATTERY council warns people who are executing jump-starts to shield their eyes and face from batteries at all times.

Other recommendations are:

Don't jump start a damaged battery.

Be sure the vent caps on the top of the battery are tight and level.

Place a damp cloth over vent caps on both batteries.

Zeller said car batteries contain sulfuric acid, which can cause severe burns if spilled on the skin.

But, he said the production of hydrogen gas, not acid, is what can make batteries explode.

"There's a chemical reaction that goes on in the battery that causes the electric current," he said.

Zeller said the chemical reaction causes hydrogen gas to be produced in and around the battery when the charge is greatest.

HE SAID good ventilation usually dissipates the gas, but a damaged battery may cause excessive gas to build up.

"When a battery explodes the gas acts like a fuse," he said. "A spark can ignite it from the outside and it travels to the inside of the battery," he said.

Thus, jump-starters should not smoke or use a flame near batteries.

A risk of explosion also is great when the polarity of jumper cables is crossed such as placing the negative jumper cable on a positive battery terminal, he said.

"When a battery explodes the plastic (outer casing) acts like shrapnel," Zeller said.

Zeller recommends that motorists using a jump-start make sure the areas around batteries are well ventilated when connecting the cables.

BOB RUSSELL, contract manager for Mayflower Contract Services, which operates 61 buses for the Lawrence school district, said vehicle batteries become weaker in cold weather because temperature affects their chemical elements.

"As the temperature decreases you have less of a charge," he said.

Also, colder weather may cause engine parts to contract and lubricants to become thicker, requiring more power to start the engine, said Chris Ogle, manager of the Lawrence Bus Co.

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