From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Check OEM Procedures Before Disconnecting, Reconnecting Batteries
Written by Mike Anderson, Autobody News
Published August 7, 2019
The “Who Pays for What?” summer survey looked at how often shops research the OEM procedures related to disconnecting and reconnecting batteries.
The results report won't be tabulated until early this fall, but for now, we can take a look at some of the intricacies of disconnecting and reconnecting batteries when repairing a vehicle.
What was once a seemingly easy step has become more complex and time-consuming as vehicle technology has evolved.
Disconnecting the battery prior to repairs has become a common requirement. In the past, it was often considered necessary prior to performing any welding on the vehicle; but, many other procedures require disconnecting the battery, such as removing or disconnecting any electrical component.
It’s important to remember that disconnecting and reconnecting the battery is a non-included operation. There is no standard for what procedures are required by the automakers when reconnecting the battery; it varies based on the specific year, make, model and options of the vehicle being repaired. That’s why you MUST research it for every single repair.
Let’s look at some examples:
- On a particular Audi, the automaker’s procedures state that when reconnecting the battery, you must “activate the one-touch up/down function for the power window regulators.” It also requires that you “Check DTC memories of all control modules, and delete the displayed entry “Undervoltage” under the vehicle diagnostic tester.” Most automakers say disconnecting the battery will set diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). You can’t check for those without doing a post-repair vehicle scan in conjunction with reconnecting the battery.
- Do you think reconnecting the battery is only a more complex process on high-end European models? Guess again. The procedure for the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze is seven pages! It notes that you also need to inform the customer that the “start/stop” feature on the vehicle “will not be available until the vehicle is allowed to sit for at least three hours undisturbed.” How would you know to do that unless you read the procedures for reconnecting the battery?
- Many vehicles have specific wait times after the vehicle is turned off using the ignition before the battery is disconnected. For the 2017 Nissan Armada, for example, the wait time varies even by engine type. You have to wait four minutes before disconnecting the battery on Armadas with some engine types, and 12 or even 20 minutes on Armadas with other engine types. Some automakers also have designated wait times after the battery has been disconnected before you can disconnect certain electrical components.
- You also need to check the OEM procedures for what systems need to be initialized or calibrated after the battery is reconnected. Toyota’s procedure for reconnecting the battery on some Camrys, for example, lists five such systems that need to be initialized.
- The OEM procedures also will tell you what type of test drive (or “drive cycle”) is necessary after a battery has been reconnected.
Hopefully, these examples alone are enough to convince you of the importance of checking the OEM procedures for every job before you do something as simple as disconnecting or reconnecting a battery. It’s not as simple as the procedure once seemed.
And two side notes: Don't put “R&I battery” on your estimate or invoice if what you are actually doing is just disconnecting and reconnecting one terminal. Doing so could be seen as “work billed but not performed.”
Also, have you ever had to buy a battery for a customer because the one in the vehicle died while it was at the shop? If so, avoiding that is another great benefit of performing a pre-repair scan of every vehicle when checking them into your shop. That scan can catch voltage errors that point to a weak battery. You can then inspect the battery, check its date, and maybe sell the customer the new battery they need on ‘day one’ of the repair.