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An incident in which a full-size GM van crashed head-on into a bridge pillar provides one of the more remarkable examples of the durability of a battery. The impact crushed the front end of the van, trapping the driver, who was alone in the vehicle. The hood buckled, exposing the top of the battery. Close examination revealed that both covers over the battery cells had blown off and the battery casing was cracked. Battery acid was evident all around the corner of the van. The assumption was made that the battery was “dead.” This was a mistake.
During extrication work, crews cutting down the sidewall of the van experienced some arcing and sparking of electrical wires. To their surprise, the vehicle was still energized!
Photo By Ron Moore
Rescuers must prepare for crash situations where the vehicle’s electrical system remains energized. This is especially common if the battery was not damaged.
The lesson learned from both the test laboratory and the real world is that you cannot judge a battery by its appearance. After double-cutting or disconnecting the cables, take that extra moment to size up any of the electrical components of the vehicle. Do a little “power size-up” of your own. Check out the headlights. Look closely at the parking lights. Is the dome light still lit? What about the instrument panel lights? If you are in a bright sunlight condition and it is hard to tell if the lights are on or not, how about the electric windows, the radio or the horn? Is the electrical system really shut down? Make sure and don’t judge a battery by its cover.