Pulling the plug on a Rav 4
October 18, 2021 10:27 AM   Subscribe

My parents will be away for 2 months, they asked for my help disconnecting the battery on their Toyota Rav 4. I have no idea what I'm doing, please help.

1) Is this necessary / useful?
2) Is it dangerous? Do I need to wear rubber kitchen gloves? Is there some part that could shock me if I touch it?
3) Will this affect the onboard computer thingie? If so, is there a way to avoid this?
4) Can this be accomplished with needlenose pliers + monkey wrench? I don't have more car-specific tools.
posted by signal to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
 
I’d rather buy a Battery Tender ($30-$50) to avoid messing up any electronics. Especially if the car is a hybrid or has an aftermarket alarm/remote starter. (Those things can be a PITA with a dead battery.)
posted by Seeking Direction at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2021 [5 favorites]


1) If you don't want to do it, you can just go drive it around for 15 minutes every week.

2) Not if you do it right.

3) Somewhat. Not really relevant.

4) Yes.

Steps are as follows:

a) Open hood and locate the battery. You will see the cables leading up to it, red for positive, black for ground.

b) The cables are linked to the battery via two clamps on the battery "posts". Loosen the screw on each clamp, negative (black) first,

c) Once the clamp is loosened, you can move the cable so it is no longer touching the post.

d) Repeat for the positive post.
posted by kschang at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2021 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: kschang: " 2) Not if you do it right. "

What would doing it wrong entail? What should I avoid?
posted by signal at 10:53 AM on October 18, 2021


It's important that negative is disconnected first, and then positive. When disconnected they shouldn't be able to touch terminals but you can tape them with PVC tape to make sure. Other than that can't think of anything else to avoid.
posted by multivalent at 11:01 AM on October 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


Follow the above directions. The only thing that might be difficult is if you lack hand strength and they're on really tight.

If it would help you to SEE what you're looking for/doing before you ever open the hood, there are multiple videos on Youtube. Searching for "youtube disconnect battery on rav 4" gets a whole list.
posted by stormyteal at 11:10 AM on October 18, 2021 [2 favorites]


There is no reason to disconnect both terminals. Just disconnect the negative terminal-at that point the circuit is interrupted and what's connected to the positive terminal is irrelevant. Use a combination wrench, probably 10mm to loosen the nut on the negative terminal. Take great care not to bridge anything metallic across both terminals.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 11:18 AM on October 18, 2021 [12 favorites]


Things to do wrong:
1) Bridge the terminals with the wrench, or otherwise allow a short across the terminals. DO NOT DO THIS. It's not easy to do, but is a Bad Thing.
2) Round off the nuts. If using an adjustable wrench, and the nuts are on tight, it's easy to accidentally round the nuts by letting the wrench slip around them while they stay still. Avoid this by making sure the wrench is as tight as it can be and still fit on the nut. Or better yet, find a correctly-sized combination wrench or socket.
posted by agentofselection at 11:22 AM on October 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'm no car expert, but two months doesn't seem that long, and i'm unclear on why disconnecting the battery is better than using a battery tender. I had a car that was effectively marooned where I couldn't regularly access it for about 9 months (because pandemic), and the battery tender kept it in totally fine shape. (Leaving a car sitting without being driven for 9 months is not really advisable for a variety of other reasons, but in this case it worked fine, and definitely there were no battery or electrical issues...)
posted by primethyme at 12:45 PM on October 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I looked in my car and there's one of those thingies with a wrench on each side, one's marked 12, the other 10. That should do it, right?
posted by signal at 12:58 PM on October 18, 2021


For what it's worth, I have a 2017 Subaru Outback and the battery died on me because I wasn't driving it enough during the pandemic. I recommend a battery tender / trickle charger or making sure you drive it every week / 10 days for a good amount of time.
posted by jzb at 1:44 PM on October 18, 2021


I really wouldn’t bother with disconnecting the battery. It’s more trouble than any (supposed) benefit warrants. As others have suggested, either put it on a trickle charger or just go over once a week or so and run it for a few minutes.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


1) Is this necessary / useful?

Meh. Like others, I'd prefer either a battery tender or driving the car around every so often.

2) Is it dangerous? Do I need to wear rubber kitchen gloves? Is there some part that could shock me if I touch it?

Don't touch the positive & negative terminals at the same time. Disconnect the negative terminal first, or as Larry David Syndrome says, disconnecting just the negative is fine. Rubber gloves not needed. If the battery's good you might see a few tiny sparks or hear some minor electrical crackling, this is normal and still totally safe. I've gotten zapped by a car battery before (remember that part about don't touch the positive and negative at the same time?) and it's an "Ouch" and startle and you jerk your hand away, you're not going to be bodily thrown into the wall or anything.

4) Can this be accomplished with needlenose pliers + monkey wrench?

Needlenose probably won't be very useful. If by "monkey wrench" you mean adjustable crescent wrench (even if it's not made by Crescent) then that'll work, although as agentofselection notes there's a chance you could round off the nut.

there's one of those thingies with a wrench on each side, one's marked 12, the other 10. That should do it, right?

Maybe/Probably? The numbers are the width of the wrench in millimeters, 10mm is a really common size for batteries, so you might be good.

Seconding YouTube is your friend for simple car work like this.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:16 PM on October 18, 2021


Response by poster: Thanks all, I used the wrench I found and it worked.

Not sure why some are saying it's easier to use a "battery tender"–when a) I don't know what that is b) I do know I don't have one– or having to go repeatedly drive the car when it took me all of 30 seconds to disconnect the negative.
posted by signal at 5:06 PM on October 18, 2021 [1 favorite]


It's "easier" when you factor in potential issues to the car's electronics, battery health and your apparent unfamiliarity with car batteries.
posted by turkeyphant at 8:23 PM on October 18, 2021 [4 favorites]


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