Common Battery Problems That Are Ignored
In the past we’ve learned that one of the most basic battery maintenance and battery-related diagnostic checks is to ensure that the battery cable clamps are both clean and securely fastened to the battery posts. A problem with either cleanliness or looseness can result in poor or intermittent electrical problems such as difficulty in starting your car due to the electrical contact between the cable clamps and posts are compromised.
Simple enough, right?!
But an even simpler overlooked problem is the fit of your replacement car battery with whatever style of straps, hooks, or edge clamps the make and model you own uses, to hold a battery securely to the battery tray while driving.
The problem with a “loose” battery in its tray is that it places stress not just on the cables connecting to the battery but can also place strain on the battery posts from too much movement that can separate the posts from the battery itself resulting in a ruined battery and sometimes a corrosive mess you do not want in your engine bay.
Related article: Toyota Prius Leaking Hybrid Battery Mystery
Unfortunately, too often either because the auto parts store recommended the wrong battery for a car or the owner decided to go with a cheaper wrong-sized battery to save money, batteries wind up slopping around on their tray because the fit does not fit.
Toyota RAV4 Recall
This reminder about battery maintenance comes in light of a recent Consumer Reports recall announcement of over 1.8 million RAV4 SUVs from the years 2013-2018 that turn out have a fitment problem with too-small sized recommended replacement batteries not securely attaching to their battery tray.
According to a recent warning from Consumer Reports about the recall:
“The problem stems from the tops of the batteries possibly having smaller top dimensions than the original battery. If the hold-down clamp isn’t tightened correctly for the smaller size, the battery could move during aggressive driving, enabling the positive battery terminal to contact the clamp and short circuit, risking fire.
This announcement follows a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation launched in 2021, looking at “thermal events.” Among the cases it looked at, the safety agency reports that ‘drivers experienced stalling prior to the thermal event in half of the instances where the vehicle was in motion.’”
Here's some additional info about the recall.
Recall Details You Need to Know:
How to contact the manufacturer: Owners may contact Toyota customer support at 800-331-4331.
Vehicles recalled: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 Toyota RAV4.
Check to see whether your vehicle has an open recall: NHTSA’s website will tell you whether your vehicle has any open recalls that need to be addressed. If you plug your car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) into NHTSA’s website and a recall doesn’t appear, it means your vehicle doesn’t currently have any open recalls.
However, as CR analyst correctly point out, “Because automakers issue recalls often, and for many older vehicles, we recommend checking back regularly to see whether your vehicle has had a recall issued,” they advise.
The fix: Toyota dealerships will replace the battery hold-down clamp, battery tray, and positive terminal cover with improved parts at no charge. HOWEVER, and that’s a big “however” as many of us have learned the hard way, those recall “fixes” can be years down the road.
The Simple Check and Temporary DIY Fix
If you are unsure if a loose battery in its tray is a problem or not with your RAV4 (or any car for that matter) all you need to do is to simply place both hands on the battery case and see if you are able to budge the battery at all. Even a small displacement is enough to cause battery damage. Especially for any off-road or other rough driving conditions.
A temporary DIY fix while waiting for Toyota to get to your vehicle is to try to stabilize the battery as much as possible with a non-flammable and physically shock-absorbing material. Oft times you can simply place something like a thick piece of leather or a small piece of an old tire between the battery and the tray or the battery and its hold-down clamps (depending on the style used) to snug up the fit. Use common sense, but if unsure, seek help from someone you know who works on cars and/or go to a mechanic for help with a temporary fix to hold you over.
For additional articles about your car’s battery, here are three selected articles for your consideration:
- The $20 Car Battery Tester Will Save You Over $200
- Important DIY Test After Jump Starting Your Car
- Best Jump Starter for Your Car This Winter
Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.
Image source: Deposit Photos