August 29, 2001
A word of caution: Lead acid batteries contain a sulfuric acid electrolyte, which is a highly corrosive poison and will produce gasses when recharged and explode if ignited. This will hurt you-BAD! When working with batteries, you need to have plenty of ventilation, remove your jewelry, wear protective eyewear (safety glasses) and clothing, and exercise caution. Do NOT allow battery electrolyte to mix with salt water. Even small quantities of this combination will produce chorine gas that can KILL you! Whenever possible, please follow the manufacturer's instructions for testing, jumping, installing, charging and equalizing batteries.
This FAQ assumes a 12-volt, six cell, and negative grounded, lead acid automotive battery used to start gasoline or diesel engines in automobiles, light trucks and vans. The contents would also apply to starting batteries found in trunks, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, jet skis, farm tractors, lawn and garden tractors, SUVs, etc. Aircraft, busses and large trucks use 24 volts and some airplanes use special purpose AGM and Ni-Cad batteries for starting. For 6-volt batteries, divide the voltage by two; for 8-volt batteries, divide by 1.5; for 24-volt batteries, double the voltage, and for 36-volt batteries, triple the voltage. The technical stuff is in italics.