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Battery Disconnect or Replacement

Disconnecting or replacing a battery on a computer-equipped vehicle may
cause starting, driveability and a number of other problems, including loss of
air conditioning, power accessory functions (door windows, seats, sunroof),
false warning lights, even damage to certain electronic modules! So if you are
replacing or disconnecting a battery for any reason, proceed with caution.

One of the things I wanted to do with the article was list all of the vehicle
applications that have known battery disconnect issues. Unfortunately, I have
never found such a list. Most vehicle owners manuals don't offer any
precautions about disconnecting or replacing the battery. There may be some
cautions in the factory service literature, but it is often hard to find even if you
know where to look for it.

On vehicles with known battery disconnect issues, there should be a big red
warning label on or near the battery to warn people. But except for shock
hazards warnings on high voltage hybrid batteries, no such warnings are
posted anywhere. None of the battery manufacturers warn consumers or
technicians about the possible risks of disconnecting or replacing a battery on
their websites. Consequently, most people do not realize that disconnecting
or replacing a battery may cause a problem until after they have done so.

Disconnecting Your Car Battery Can Cause Memory Loss

What kind of problems am I talking about? Loss of memory is one. When you
disconnect the battery on any vehicle that has computerized engine controls
(which is virtually every car and truck that has been built since 1981), the loss
of voltage to the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) causes it to forget is
adaptive memory settings in its Keep Alive Memory (KAM) chip. Adaptive
memory contains the adjustments the PCM has learned over time for the fuel
mixture, transmission shift points and other control functions. The Keep Alive
memory also includes all the results for the diagnostic self-tests the PCM
runs on itself, its sensors and emission control components, plus any fault
codes that may have been set (including history codes and freeze frame data
that may be needed for diagnosis).

An old mechanic's trick for turning for temporarily eliminating certain kinds of
driveability problems is to disconnect the battery ground cable for 10 seconds
to "reset" the computer. Essentially, this trick erases the stored fault codes in
the PCM's keep alive memory and turns the Check Engine light off. But this is
NOT a fix for a Check Engine light. All it does is turn the light of temporarily
and return the PCM to its initial base settings for the air/fuel mixture, idle
speed and other control functions. If the vehicle has a problem, sooner or
later the same fault code(s) will reset and the same driveability problems will
return because the cause has not been diagnosed and repaired. It may take
a few days, but the problem will be back.

Warning: Disconnecting the battery to reset the PCM on a growing number

of late model (2003 and newer) vehicles can do more than erase the Keep
Alive memory. It can also erase vital learned information that is absolutely
necessary for other modules to function normally.

Also Note: Disconnecting the battery will NOT allow a vehicle to pass
an OBD II plug-in emissions test. It may temporarily turn off the Check
Engine light, but this won't fool the computer at the test lane. When the test
computer is plugged into the vehicle diagnostic connector, it will check the
PCM to see if all of the OBD II self-diagnostic monitors have run. If all of the
monitors have not completed, the vehicle will be rejected at the test lane. You
will then have to continue driving your vehicle until all of the self-checks have
completed (which may take up to several days). If the Check Engine light
does not come back on after all of the self-checks have completed, the
vehicle will pass the test. But if there is a problem, the Check Engine light will
come on again and the vehicle will fail the test.

Problems That May Occur If You Disconnect Your Car battery

What happens when the battery is disconnected? It depends on the year,

make and model of your vehicle, but any of the following may happen:

Loss of learned values in the PCM's Keep Alive adaptive memory. This
may cause the engine to run poorly because the air/fuel mixture is too
rich or too lean for a period of time until the PCM can relearn the fuel
trim adjustments. This may take up to several days and 50 to 100 miles
of driving until engine operation returns to "normal."
Erasing the PCM's adaptive memory may also affect the way the
transmission shifts and feels. The transmission may not feel the same
until the PCM or transmission control module relearns the shift
adjustments. This may take 50 to 75 miles of driving.

It resets the FMEM (Failure Mode Effects Management) module on

certain late model Ford vehicles. This module provides an adaptive fail-
safe strategy that substitutes estimated or fixed data for missing sensor
data. Normally, this should not cause a problem UNLESS the vehicle
has a bad sensor and has been substituting data from the FMEM
module for a missing input.

It resets the ABS (Antilock Brake System) and SIR (Supplemental

Inflation Restraint) or airbag modules. This should not be a problem
UNLESS one of these modules requires a special relearn or
reprogramming procedure after power has been lost. In that case, the
affected module may prevent the ABS or airbag systems from working.

It resets the Body Control Module (BCM). Like the Climate Control
module, the BCM may not resume normal operation until it has
undergone a special relearn procedure or is reprogrammed with a
factory scan tool. This can mess up the operation of power accessories
such as power windows, memory seats, power sunroof, or electronic
suspension settings. Worse yet, the BCM is the "gate keeper" module
on many 2003 and newer vehicles that have a CAN (Controller Area
Network) system. If the BCM cannot communicate properly with all of
the other modules, or it does not recognize the addresses of other
modules, it can cause all kinds of problems.

It may reset or disable the anti-theft system. The engine may crank but
not start because the anti-theft system thinks somebody is trying to
steal the vehicle. Again, it may require a special relearn procedure or
reprogramming the anti-theft system with a factory scan tool to resolve
the problem.

Loss of power window and/or power sunroof position settings. Unless

power is maintained to the vehicle's electrical system during battery
replacement, the power windows and/or sunroof may not work properly
until the position values have been reset using the vehicle
manufacturer's relearn procedure.
Loss of steering angle sensor settings. The steering angle sensor will
have to undergo a relearn procedure following battery disconnect or

It causes a loss of channel settings on an electronic radio and clock.

This is more of an annoyance than a problem, and can be fixed by
resetting the radio channels and the time.

Source of information:
Car Batteries
Every vehicle today contains a rechargeable battery. The battery powers everything
electrical and is vital to the vehicle's operation, such as the engine's computer, ignition
system, radio and headlights.
Your vehicle's electrical system is always on, as the battery continues to run the
computer that operates the vehicle's settings. These use little power, and under normal
circumstances, will not drain the battery.
Like all batteries, your car battery will eventually go dead without a built-in recharge
system. The recharging system consists of the alternator, alternator drive belt, battery,
voltage regulator, main fuses, charge indicator, cables and wiring harness.

Take care when jump-starting your battery, or pay the

By Peter DeMarco
November 24, 2011

The average car these days, he began, has 20 or more onboard computers. By crossing
wires - connecting a positive cable to a negative terminal, or vice versa - youre going to
cause an electrical short that could instantly fry some of those computers.

You may not find out the damage until your radio doesnt work or your power windows
dont work, St. Aubin said. The damage could be expensive. You might have blown a $100
microprocessor, but to get it diagnosed it may cost you another $200 because the
technician doesnt know what shorted out.

Electrical Issues After Replacing the Battery

Electrical Issues After Replacing the Battery
Electrical Issues After Replacing the Battery
Examples of how different modules can be affected by loss of battery power:

Door modules Loss of express-up feature due to loss of stored "pinch point"

Engine control module (ECM, PCM, VCM) Loss of learned idle speed which can cause a
stalling condition. Resetting of emission monitors can cause a smog inspection failure.

Power seat modules Loss of "learned" seat and mirror positions

Radio Loss of time, radio stations, and possible anti-theft lockout.

Transmission control module Loss of adaptive information; most late module

transmissions "learn" how you drive and "learn" to shift accordingly.

Electrical problems after battery re-installation

by Allex05 / June 27, 2011 6:39 AM PDT
In reply to: If it weren't for knuckleheads like that,the good techs.....

Your response to MazdaOwner was quite insightful. I'd like your help with a
similar problem I'm having with my Toyota Allex '05.

I had an HID bulb replaced for the left headlamp which required removal of the
battery to gain access. Since the battery's been re-installed I can't control the
windows on the left passenger side (front and back) from the driver's control
panel (it's a RHD). I don't think it's a fuse problem since the windows work fine
using the passenger control buttons (except for the auto function). Also, I've
noticed the tiny light in the control buttons for the affected windows have been
flashing since. The right passenger window had the same issue but came back
to normal about 30-45 minutes later. Any clues on this one?