Written by Steve Phillips for HotVWs Magazine
In this article I would like to talk about batteries for your VW. It's not so much about the battery but if you have it installed in the car safely.
Bugs and type 3’s have the battery under the rear seat. If you have one of these then you really should do something. There are two areas of concern here. First of all, is the battery held down? Most of you are going to say no. How do I know this? Because I've been guilty as well of this for many years. The other thing is, is the top of the battery protected from the seat springs hitting the posts of the battery? Who cares? I have been driving this car for years and nothing has happened. Yeah, me too. Let me give you a scenario. Tie a short rope onto gallon paint can, with the lid cracked. Now jerk it up in the air to the left or the right. What happens? Well one, did you rip the handle off? That could be one of the posts of the battery. Two, did some paint spill out? That could be the acid of the battery. Three, did you hit yourself with the paint can? That could be the battery coming loose and hitting you or something else, like the seat springs. If it hits the springs you could have a major short and the battery could explode or just plain catch the rear seat on fire. Understand now?
Now let's talk about the top of the battery. The terminals or posts are normally exposed. That’s great for jumper cables or chargers. A lot of batteries come with a plastic cover for the positive. Most of them fall off while driving. I have seen and I have tried all kinds of things here- rubber mat, plastic lid, etc. What I have seen and don’t recommend is any type of wood. I don’t have a tried and true fix here but do something. In my own experience, years ago I had three people in my bug. My brother who lets say is not a lightweight was sitting in the rear seat and yeah, you guessed it, over the battery. When I got home we all got out and all of a sudden I heard a large bang and then a fog coming out of the doors. Well when he got out he must have bounced on the seat and the seat springs hit the positive post. The bang was the battery exploding. The fog was smoke and battery acid flying everywhere. Let me tell you the acid ate a lot of stuff in the car. Point here is, do something. Or just take red duct tape and put a big red “X” on the seat above the battery.
Most Ghias and Things had the battery in the engine compartment. You won't have the rear seat problem like in the bugs and type 3’s, so the main thing here is just to get it secure. The positive and the negative cables are longer on these cars so back to the paint can sencerio. Tie a longer rope on the paint can. You can do some real damage now with that paint can, can’t you? Think about that flying around in your engine compartment. So get in there and secure it down.
On buses up to 1979 they were in the engine compartment just like the Thing and Ghia, so the scenario is the same. The big difference here and other reasons you should secure it is, have you ever noticed why you have so much trouble with the passenger side tail light? That’s because the battery is always slamming against it. If you secure it your tail light wont have any more problems.
As for drag cars and off road cars, well if you're racing one of these you won't pass tech without having it secure. If you have an off road car that’s not a race car and don’t have the battery secure well lets just say you're quite a few cards short of a full deck. The other thing here to note is if you own one of these types of cars it's really a good idea to get a dry cell battery. You never know when you might be on your lid and you don’t want acid pouring on you or anything else.
So let's talk about how to secure down the batteries. On cars up to 1966 that took a strap, one side bolted down and there was a hook for the strap on the other side. This was all great but the straps were made for a 6v battery, and most of the time they don’t fit. The other problem here is that a lot of times the hook for the strap is gone or the bolt or stud is gone, broken off, or just plain stripped. There is an answer here. Wolfsburg West makes (and a lot of people like myself carry these) the strap and the replacement (weld in) hook. They even make a strap for a 12v battery. Get one and take the time to get it installed. On cars 1967 and newer they had a cleat design. One side had a welded on cleat that the bottom of the battery slid into. The other side had a bolt in cleat. This cleat is available through many of your parts houses. The only thing here is the area the bolt goes in is usually ripped out, broken off, or even stripped. Most replacement floor pans have the welded cleat but no place to put the bolt in cleat for the other side. If your car is like this then make a place for the bolt. Make sure if there is no reinforcement on the back side you use a big washer or make a reinforcement.
Now as far as covering the posts, again Wolfsburg West makes a cover that looks like the 6v battery but fits a 12 battery. I line the inside with a thick piece of rubber and you're good to go.
So there you have it. Most of what I have said here is in case of a crash. I know you never plan on getting in one, but hey, better safe than sorry? Bottom line, just do it. The time and money it takes is worth the peace of mind.