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Mike S.
Mike S., Mechanic
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 5255
Experience:  25+ years experience as an auto mechanic.
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I have just noticed that the cable

Customer Question

I have just noticed that the cable at the positive post on my battery has a smaller, black negative clamp and vice-versa. The cables themselves are correctly connected.

The positive clamp on the negative cable came loose from the negative post yesterday, and that's when I noticed.

I had a new battery installed two years ago but the wrong installation of clamps looks like it happened long before that.

Is this a problem? And should the mechanic installing the new battery in 2010 have noticed and done something?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Car
Expert:  artssvc replied 2 years ago.

artssvc :

The important thing is that the cable connections are clean and tight. Many times aftermarket battery cables way not be the same color as the factory cable. I would not recommend using any type of shim as they just allow for room for corrosion to begin. If the cable ends can not be connected tightly to the battery you will have to then replace the cables or ends to make a proper repair.If you decide that you need to replace the terminal ends, do not use the emergency style ends. Use only solder on terminal ends or replace the entire cable as needed.

Customer:

By 'terminal ends' do you mean the battery posts?

Customer:

Sorry I took so long to respond. I could not access your message of 3:38PM. The system said that its payment processor could not verify my Visa details and so I didn't have enough credits to access your reply. I had to go through the process again. I didn't change anything that was already there from my first input, but second time around it asked for my address, which it didn't ask for first time. That seemed to work. So far, not a good experience.

artssvc :

terminal ends being the part that wraps around the post on your battery. The part that connects the cable to the battery post.

Customer:

The comprehensive message I sent you yesterday has not only not been answered, it has disappeared! I'm sorry, but this system is simply not working.

Expert:  artssvc replied 2 years ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Expert:  artssvc replied 2 years ago.
artssvc says:11/4/12 8:38 PM

The important thing is that the cable connections are clean and tight. Many times aftermarket battery cables way not be the same color as the factory cable. I would not recommend using any type of shim as they just allow for room for corrosion to begin. If the cable ends can not be connected tightly to the battery you will have to then replace the cables or ends to make a proper repair.If you decide that you need to replace the terminal ends, do not use the emergency style ends. Use only solder on terminal ends or replace the entire cable as needed.</pCustomersays:11/4/12 8:52 PM

By 'terminal ends' do you mean the battery posts?

11/4/12 9:01 PM

Sorry I took so long to respond. I could not access your message of 3:38PM. The system said that its payment processor could not verify my Visa details and so I didn't have enough credits to access your reply. I had to go through the process again. I didn't change anything that was already there from my first input, but second time around it asked for my address, which it didn't ask for first time. That seemed to work. So far, not a good experience.

artssvc says:11/4/12 9:06 PM

terminal ends being the part that wraps around the post on your battery. The part that connects the cable to the battery post.</pCustomersays:12:00 PM

The comprehensive message I sent you yesterday has not only not been answered, it has disappeared! I'm sorry, but this system is simply not working.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.


My lengthy email yesterday that went missing in your system made the point that a black-painted 'terminal end' on a positive battery post was not quite the non-issue that you mentioned. Moreover, the wrong size (i.e. the bigger, positive clamp) on the neutral post had likely caused the contact to fail, and the car not to start (leaving us stranded - a pair of disabled senior citizens). I also repeated that I found your use of terminology confusing: 'cable ends', 'terminal ends'. I still don't think that 'terminal ends' is clear at all. 'Emergency style ends' was the latest. That just does not mean anything to me. Sorry again, but this experience has not worked out. The two malfunctions in the system are enough on their own for me to say never again.

Expert:  Mike S. replied 2 years ago.

The cables are wrong. Something has to be done.

The difference in between the battery cable ends that the other expert was talking about between emergency cable ends and solder cable ends are shown below. The emergency one you just strip the insulation off the end of the cable and insert it into the clamp and tighten the 2 bolts. The solder one is just that solder the cable once it's in the hole.

graphic

graphic

You have to make the cable ends fit correctly on the battery posts. You could either change the cables or change the cable ends.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.


Thanks for the clear answer and the helpful photos. I've never seen the solder version, and that fact accounts for some of my confusion. But, more than that, there seems to be no standard name for the 'cable ends'. To me, 'cable end' means just about nothing. I've called them clamps, because they clamp on to the battery posts, but neither of you guys went with that word. First it was 'terminal ends' and now 'cable ends'. Is there no accepted standard? Explaining the terminology being used and then sticking with it is essential if people like me are going to be able to follow recommendations from even the best experts. Anyway, following your recommendations, I'll be looking to buy entirely new cables, with pre-fitted, soldered cable ends. But I'm still wondering how best to ensure that, prior to purchase, the new 'end' will fit tightly around the smaller battery post. The previous expert warned me off considering lead post shims (like thimbles).

Expert:  Mike S. replied 2 years ago.

If you take the car with you when you size the battery cables, then just check them for fit over the battery posts before installing them. If you cannot take the car or even the battery then measure the diameter of the posts.

To tell you the truth, I myself have always been a bit confused as what to call, "battery cable ends".

Mike S., Mechanic
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 5255
Experience: 25+ years experience as an auto mechanic.
Mike S. and 18 other Car Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.


In the end it turned out that the reason the car wouldn't turn over was not a bad battery connection, but a faulty starter motor (or solenoid switch?). The headlights shine strongly and do not dim or flicker when the ignition key is turned. Whacking the starter with the car's industrial strength jack while trying the ignition got the engine running almost immediately. I drove home immediately and have not tempted fate yet by trying it again. I have made an appointment for next Monday to get the starter looked at and most likely changed. One thing that puzzled me though was that at one point during this week-long saga I used my Sears charger/starter at home, set at 50A start. I tried the ignition for a couple of seconds only, but that was enough for the engine to turn over and start. But how does that tally with the need to try the starter-whacking treatment later on, away from home and with no access to a mains electric supply, when, without the whacking, the (fully-charged) battery on its own could only produce a click from the starter?

Expert:  Mike S. replied 2 years ago.

I usually would only hit a starter when the gear is stuck to the flywheel, but here are easiar ways to get that loose. Place the shifter in neutral put your left foot out the door and push the car backwards a few feet and slam the shifter into park. that will usually loosen a stuck gear.

Most of the time the copper disc on the solenoid gets burnt up over time. You used to be able to just take it off and flip it over.

What usually happens with the starter itself is the brushes wear down and the end bearings (bushings) go bad causing a drag.

It sounds like either the solenoid or the brushes.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.


I have now had the battery cable to the starter replaced. New starter too. New battery cable terminals. Battery is new. Still just get a click when turning the ignition. But not all the time. Sometimes the car starts normally. But when it doesn't... Anyway, the local service station has given up. I have the shop manual. (1970 DeVille).

Expert:  Mike S. replied 2 years ago.

It sounds like something is loose, making a connection sometime and sometime not. I think you are going to have to start off with a voltmeter and check voltage drops while you are only hearing that click and the starter not turning over. I will send you a wiring diagram, so place the voltmeter across the battery like you were checking battery voltage, it should read 12 volts or maybe a little more. Turn the key to start and when you only hear the click and see how much the voltmeter drops. That is how much voltage you are loosing somewhere, so that will be the amount we will be searching for. Let's say it drops from 12 volts to 8 volts. then you have a waisted 4 volt drop somewhere. Then move the positive test lead to the very next spot that isn't the same thing. That means, move the positive test lead to the copper cable exposed still right there at the cable end if it is one of those kind of battery terminal ends.

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Then the next spot to move the positive lead to would be at the other end of the positive cable at the starter but on the copper cable unless the cable end is solid, then on the cable end connector. Now each time you move the test lead, you should still have 12 volts when you turn the key to start.

What we are looking for is that 4 volt drop. So, when you actually get to the starter with the positive lead on the big lug and get a reading, the next thing to do is start moving the ground test lead, toward ground while keeping the positive test lead right there on the lug at the starter. Once you get to the positive test lead on the big positive lead at the starter and the negative test lead actually on the metal where the ground cable is attached, move the ground lead right there to the starter casing, that will check the voltage lose from the starter casing to where it's bolted, incase there is dirt or paint on the mating surface or the bolts are loose.

One second on the wiring diagram.

Expert:  Mike S. replied 2 years ago.
For the diagram, click here.

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Mike S.
Mike S.
Auto Mechanic
5255 Satisfied Customers
25+ years experience as an auto mechanic.