Clamps and Batteries
The first time I saw a hose clamp holding the positive cable onto the battery I just couldn't believe it. Nobody prepared me for things like this. It's not the kind of thing covered in tech schools, or in one of those "how-to-fix-your-car" manuals. It's something that will surprise you the first time you see it… but then it happens again.
A few months later, I open the hood on another car, and low and behold… it's a pair of grip pliers attached the terminal. This time I took the pliers up to the customer and told him what I found. He didn't want the pliers back… OK, then… I'll clean them up, and put them in my tool box.
Now I've got a collection of these crazy battery clamp contraptions. They've kept showing up over the years without fail; from screws and nails tightening a worn out clamp to some foreign object taking the place of the original clamps. Ya just never know.
I think the grip pliers are probably the most popular form of substitution. Not much use as pliers anymore, the teeth are usually worn or something else is wrong with them. But, I don't want to just throw them away… I always think I'll find some use for them later… never do of course.
Wouldn't it make more sense to replace the clamp when it's time with an appropriate type of replacement clamp? And, it's not like some of these "wiz-bang" contraptions were just put on yesterday, oh no… some of these creations have huge amounts of corrosion and "fuzz" built up on the terminals.
There must be a misconception about how a battery clamp does its job? Has to be, why else would I see this so often, and it's not always on the good old hunting truck or the farm truck that hardly ever makes it out of the fields. It's the everyday soccer mom's car or the exotic odd-shape-battery-style cars, either.
Something else to think about… some thought has gone into these "home engineered" clamps. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish these inventive forms of electrical fasteners. I've even had a car that someone had taken strips of a soda can and used them as spacers between the clamp and the post. This wasn't just a quick little effort mind you. Somebody had to think about it, conjure up a plan… get a pair of tin snips, cut out strips from a soda can at just the right height to match the clamp and then carefully place a few of them into the gap.
Before ya knew it, the clamp was tight again… a genius at work I tell you…a genius!… maybe not MENSA material, but a genius for sure.
One time I had a car in where somebody used a high voltage connector for a battery clamp. The kind you would find on high voltage overhead electrical lines. It was a splice clamp used to hold two lines together. Apparently it was the only thing handy, and it did work; in fact must have worked for quite some time… I couldn't tell what it was until I removed the almost two inches of corrosion build up. I don't know what kind of material this clamp was made out of, but battery acid sure liked it a lot.
Then there was this rocket scientist attempt at improving on the old battery clamp… he used a hacksaw blade and cut the post down the middle. Then put the clamp back on with a small steel wedge down into the crack he made with the hacksaw. From the pounding the top of the battery had taken it looked like the guy used a sledge hammer to knock the little wedge in place. Of course, it wasn't long before the battery started to leak acid out of the post. What a mess…
A real favorite of mine are the ones that tighten, and tighten, and tighten the bolt clamp until that little bolt won't go one thread tighter. Then bring the car in thinking they have a major electrical problem, because at times the starter will click, or they'll lose all power to the vehicle. The place I'll always look at first are the clamps. 99% of time it's a simple clamp problem, especially when I can remove the battery clamp off the post without turning the bolt. (Yo' dude… that clamp is made of lead… it will stretch and deform out of shape. You can tighten all you want but it ain't going to get any better.)
Now let's talk battery size… really… is this all that hard to figure out? If the battery in the car had the positive post on the right, and you put a battery in that had the positive post on the left… uhmmm… do ya think ya might have a problem? Ya gotta put the right size back in… just 'cause it fit… doesn't mean it "fits".
The old air cooled VW is one that comes to mind. I've lost count of how many of those I've rewired after a too tall battery was installed and burnt the whole back end of the car.
It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing like a battery or a clamp can become such a traumatic fiasco in a car. Just boggles the mind at all the variations of craziness I've seen over the years with battery installations and repairs.
Many years ago a customer brought in a 75' MBenz that his grandson had put the battery in backwards. The car was ruined, but not completely… it could be rewired and repaired, but the cost was more than he wanted to deal with. I bought the car off of him as is, and tore it down and rewired it. I drove it for several years, and then later gave it to my daughter to use.
Battery replacement should be a basic simple repair; however, after seeing some of the creative ways people create their own connections or how they install them, looks like a complete loss of common sense to me. I'd like to think simple is the word to explain it, but simple doesn't even begin to describe it all.
These days I just laugh at the marvels of these back yard engineering feats. It's hard to keep a straight face when you get back to the front counter to explain to the customer that a paperclip and two bread twist ties aren't strong enough to keep the cable attached to the battery.
It's some of the best entertainment at the shop. Gotta love em'.
Just to let ya know, I've already got enough grip pliers, old hose clamps, coat hangers, screws, wire nuts, small bench vices, ratcheting wood clamps, fence pliers, clothes pins, meat skewers, and c-clamps to last me a lifetime, so if you would please, come up with a few new ones for me… I've got room in my collection for more…Oh, and I could use a few more laughs too.
Sometimes it's not a question of whether your right or wrong it's more of a question of "What the Hell just happened here?" That's usually what I ask myself after seeing some of the weird battery clamping devises I've witnessed over the years.
Funny to say the least. Hope you enjoyed the story... as always leave a comment, leave your input... ya never know and I certinaly don't know... if this story will ever make it into print... but strangers things have happened.