Newer vehicle designs may surprise service personnel by complicating common, once-simplistic automotive services. Battery service is a prime example of a task that may demand more time and planning than expected. Here's why.
Traditionally, the battery has been located somewhere under the hood. But gradually, more and more auto makers have relocated it to another part of the vehicle. For instance, it may be mounted in the trunk or under the rear seat or rear floor.
Obviously, removing the battery from the engine compartment frees up precious space there. Shifting the battery's weight rearward also can improve vehicle traction and handling. But perhaps the biggest advantage to relocating the battery is that it runs substantially cooler, prolonging battery life.
But eventually technicians must access the battery to perform certain electrical tests. If the battery is still under the hood, a tech often can reach it by standing in front of the vehicle. Even if the battery is to be replaced, the tech can perform the entire task in front of the vehicle. It doesn't matter if that service bay is on the narrow side or if vehicles are present in the adjacent bay(s).
Now, heading to the opposite end of the vehicle, imagine a car with the battery in the trunk. This situation resembles the traditional battery location in that the tech can stand behind the car—instead of in front of it—and access or replace the battery.
But consider several potential issues here: The tech has to be able to open the trunk in the first place. This may require a standard door/ignition key instead of a "valet" key. A service writer has to have the foresight to be sure the customer has left a standard key instead of a valet key.
The tech also may have to empty the trunk of all the customer's personal belongings before reaching the battery. Sometimes customers foolishly leave valuable items in the trunk, so it behooves you to stow them safely until the technician is finished. If the goods aren't pricey and the shop floor is particularly clean, the tech can place the stuff on the floor of the bay. But in sloppy rain-and-snow conditions, the belongings may have to be moved temporarily to the interior of the car.
Regardless, carefully moving property out of and back into a trunk burns up time and interrupts work flow—but it's got to be handled correctly.
Next, let's consider a battery under the rear seat. You could encounter this format on vehicles such as full-size General Motors Co. cars and Germans vehicles. Once again, a tech may have to move the customer's belongings from the rear seat to a safe place—perhaps the front seat or front floor. Next, he or she must remove the lower rear seat cushion assembly quickly but without soiling or damaging the cushion.
Then the cushion must be stored in a safe place.
Some service managers and techs I know keep a nice set of blankets handy for these occasions. They spread the blanket across the car's roof or trunk lid. Then they place the seat cushion smooth-side down on the blanket for the duration of the battery job. This approach is fast, neat and effective—if you've planned for it.
I've noticed that on a vehicle such as Buick's Enclave, the battery's under the rear floor instead of the seat. The access panel covering the battery is much smaller and easier to stow temporarily than an entire seat cushion. But like the vehicles with a battery under the rear seat, you may have to move the customer's belongings out of the way first.
Like the setup with a battery under the seat, you have to work with a rear car door fully open. Maybe a tech in the next bay also is working with a car door open. Hopefully your service department has plenty of space between bays or there's going to be a conflict here.
These kinds of interruptions don't occur on every vehicle every day in every service department. But certainly they do take place. Service personnel should anticipate them and plan contingencies for them.