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There are many reasons you might need to disconnect your car’s battery, but will it somehow damage your car’s computer? To help you answer that question, we have researched all of the best resources to find out how to perform this procedure and what kinds of negative consequences it can have on your car’s computer. This will allow you to decide if it is worth the trouble, or if pursuing another route is better for your situation.
Disconnecting your car battery will not cause any permanent damage to your computer or ECU (electronic control unit), but it can have some adverse effects. Those include canceling your preset radio stations, forgetting learned shift points, and your car’s ideal fuel/air mixture. Depending on your vehicle and its anti-theft system, it may also lock you out of the car.
But wait, there’s a lot more to know about your car battery and computer, so stay with us. In this article, we will discuss the correct procedure to follow anytime you disconnect the battery. We will also discuss how to reset the computer without going to all of that trouble.
Will Disconnecting a Car Battery Harm The Computer?
While disconnecting the battery will not permanently damage your vehicle’s computer, it can cause it to function differently. That’s because, if you disconnect your battery for long enough to reset the computer, it may cause the processor to forget everything it has learned.
That’s right, your computer learns as you drive – where the best places to shift are, how you like to accelerate, and even how to best mix fuel and air to create combustion inside the engine.
Leaving the ECU without power for a significant amount of time (over 5 – 10 minutes) will likely cause it to reset back to square one. This means it will have to re-learn all of those things. Because of that, your car won’t run like you are used to – the engine may run a bit rougher, and the acceleration and shifts might seem “off” as well.
Some cars even require you to use a scanner to input batter information before the computer functions. These vehicles are programmed to adjust to the battery’s charge rate, so giving it your battery’s data will allow it to charge the battery correctly as it ages.
Will Disconnecting a Car Battery Reset The Computer?
The answer is, maybe. Disconnecting the battery for a short time may not do the trick because the car’s computer, or ECU, still has some current in it. Waiting for over 15 minutes after disconnecting the engine will help ensure the equipment is reset.
How To Reset Your Car Computer Without Disconnecting The Battery
While disconnecting the battery is the most common method of resetting your computer, it’s not always the best way. That’s because disconnecting the car battery causes your computer to lose its memory. So, things like your preset radio stations, shift points, and your car’s ideal fuel/air mixture are forgotten. Also, your anti-theft system may lock you out of the vehicle.
If you need to reset your computer without disconnecting the battery, there is likely a precise series of steps you must follow. This procedure is different for every vehicle, however, so you might have to do some googling or look in your owner’s manual to find the correct process for your needs.
Here are the steps for some of the most popular vehicles.
Because it is the most popular model on sale today, we will start with the Ford F150. Note, however, that this procedure will work for many other Ford models, including Super Duties and Explorers, as well.
- Disconnect the negative terminal
- Place a rag or something non-conductive over the negative terminal
- Connect one end of a jumper wire (like this one on Amazon) to the positive terminal (which is still attached to the battery)
- Connect the other end of the wire to the un-attached negative cable, making sure it doesn’t come into contact with the battery terminal
- Wait for 5 – 10 minutes, then disconnect the cord
- Reconnect the negative cable
- Turn on the ignition and idle the engine for 5 to 1o minutes. This allows the engine to learn the idle values – turn off all accessories during this time.
- Take your vehicle on a test drive to allow it to learn shift points – make sure to hit each gear in your car using light acceleration
Another super popular vehicle is the Honda CR-V crossover. Here is the process for resetting the computer:
- Open the fuse box (located under the hood)
- Remove the box’s cover by opening the tabs and lifting the top off
- Using a fuse tool or needle-nose pliers, pull out the 7.5A fuse (labeled”Back-Up”) and the 15A fuse (labeled “ECU”)
- After about 10 minutes, plug the fuses back in
- Start your vehicle, let it idle for a few minutes, then take it for a test drive to check that it worked
While it is not the sales leader it once was, there are still tons of Camrys on the road. Here is the procedure for resetting the ECU:
- Find the fuse panel located under the steering column
- Pull down to open it
- Using the included fuse diagram, locate the fuse for the ECU (electronic control unit)
- Using fuse puller included inside the fuse box, pull out the ECU fuse
- Put your key into the ignition and turn the car on (without starting it)
- After a few minutes, re-install the ECU fuse
- Test your process by idling and then test-driving your Camry
How Do You Safely Disconnect a Car Battery?
If you decide that you need to disconnect your battery, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. It is essential to get it right, both for your safety and that of your vehicle. First off, you will need to make sure you have the right tools to complete this job safely and correctly:
Ensure you own the correct-sized socket for your battery terminals (and an extender might be necessary, depending on your wrench and your car).
Prepare Your Car and Yourself
Before you begin, it’s essential to make the right preparations for the task at hand. This isn’t all that hard – turn off the ignition and put on some gloves and safety goggles.
Remove the Negative Terminal
The most important thing to remember is this; you must always remove the cable attached to the negative terminal first. Now, locating the negative terminal is easy. Terminals are the point where the wires from your engine connect to the battery – the negative one is always under a black cover. It usually has a minus sign next to it, as well.
Using a socket wrench, loosen the nut holding the cable clamp onto the battery terminal, then slip the cable off. Just a few turns should be plenty to get the clamp loose enough. Once the cable is removed, be sure to place it somewhere that it will not come into contact with the battery during the rest of the process. Placing a rag over the terminal will ensure that the cable doesn’t swing around and make contact with it.
Remove the Positive Terminal
Now it’s time to take the cable off of the positive terminal. If you haven’t guessed yet, this is the red terminal on the opposite side from the negative (black) terminal.
Follow the same procedure as in the previous step to get the positive cable removed. Once it is off the battery, it is essential not to let the positive cable contact any metal in the engine bay. At this point, your battery is disconnected, and you are free to continue with whatever job you are working on.
What Happens If You Disconnect The Positive Terminal First?
So, why is it so important to follow the above steps to disconnect the battery? First, let’s understand what those terminals actually do and why they are labeled differently.
The positive terminal connects to everything in your vehicle that uses electrical power. Meanwhile, the black terminal is connected to a couple of bolts inside the engine bay. Connecting the two terminals runs a current of electricity through whatever lies in between them, as long as this item conducts electricity.
Because the negative (black) cable is attached to a metal surface inside the vehicle, the positive (red) wire will complete the circuit by touching just about any unpainted metal surface on the car. The electric current can even jump between the cable and a nearby metal surface. This can easily result in a nasty shock or even a fire. Fortunately, this scenario is easily avoided by disconnecting the power to that negative terminal first.
Does Disconnecting Battery Reset Check Engine Light?
Yes, disconnecting the engine is one method of resetting your check engine light. Because some of the electrical current is preserved in the computer for a while afterward, most sources recommend leaving the battery disconnected for at least 15 minutes to make sure the computer forgets the code before you reconnect the battery.
Other experts recommend turning on the light switch for a few minutes (the lights won’t come on) after disconnecting the engine to drain any remaining current on the computer.
Remember, before you go this route, that this method of resetting your check engine light has some negative consequences as well. If you would rather not deal with those, note that you can also use an OBD2 scanner tool to reset these fault codes if your vehicle was built after 1996, and you have access to one of these tools like this one for sale on Amazon.
Knowing how to care for and maintain your vehicle is a rewarding skill, and it is never too late to start! We appreciate that you took the time to learn the ins and outs of disconnecting your battery. No matter the reason you need to disconnect it, be sure to follow the correct steps outlined in this article to keep you and your possessions safe.