Here is a short list of some of the problems that can occur when disconnecting or replacing the battery on the following vehicle applications (refer to the OEM service literature for specific model and year applications and cautions):
- Chevy Tahoe Loss of voltage to the vehicle electrical system causes the 4WD module to go to sleep permanently. The module never wakes back up when power is restored, and the only way to restore normal 4WD operation is to replace the module with a new one (a repair that may cost you over a hundred dollars!).
- Mercedes (various models) Loss of voltage to the vehicle electrical system will prevent the A/C from working. The climate control module must be reset to restore normal operation. It may also disable the Stability Control System. The ABS module has to undergo a relearn procedure for the steering angle sensor to restore normal operation.
- Toyota (various models) If the battery is disconnected while the key is on, it can set a fault code for the airbag system and turn on the airbag warning light (which deactivates the airbag system until the fault is cleared with a scan tool).
- Subaru (various models) Disconnecting the battery can trigger the anti-theft system, preventing the vehicle from starting when the battery is reconnected.
- Saturn L-Series The body control module may forget the odometer display reading. Nice if you are selling a car and want a 0 mileage reading, but expensive to fix because it requires replacing the BCM (at a cost of $300 to $400) and reprogramming the odometer reading.
- Honda (various models) Disconnecting the battery will set a code and turn on the air bag light (which also disables the airbag system). The dealer must reset the system with a scan tool to restore normal operation.
- BMW, Audi & VW (various models) Disconnecting the battery requires numerous module relearn procedures which can take up to several hours with a factory scan tool
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 Climate Control module. On some vehicles, the module will not start working again until a special relearn procedure or reprogram procedure is performed with a factory scan tool. That means no A/C until the module is programmed with the correct instructions.
- 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 replacement.