Many Hollywood movies give us the notion that a car battery can kill a human. A car battery has been used as a torture item in thrillers and spy blockbusters. However, that may be far from the truth. In reality, can a car battery kill you?
While some parts of your vehicle’s electrical system can harm you, the battery is also dangerous. Technically, your car battery’s amperage has the power to kill you, but the voltage cannot harm you. The mathematics behind this is complicated. The reason you touch a car battery’s positive and negative terminals without shock is its voltage.
A car battery’s shock is harmless under normal conditions. However, the battery may harm you in different ways besides the conventional electrocution that you might imagine. Here are a few ways that could happen:
- A leaking battery can burn the skin.
- A spark or flame in an improperly ventilated space close to a car battery can cause an explosion.
- If a cable short circuits a battery, the cable may catch fire if heated up.
- Sparks experienced between your car metal parts, and a car battery terminal may emit enough heat on the metal to harm you.
Things to Know about a Car Battery’s Current
You should be cautious when handling a car battery. As a result, you need to follow the instructions highlighted in your vehicle’s manual. Although a car battery lacks the energy to electrocute you, the strength of electricity to burn your tissue depends on its voltage and current. For instance, kids often experience hair-raising or shocking experiences from generators like portable Van de Graaff generators. Yet, they move on unscathed.
In contrast, you can get hurt if exposed to relatively low voltage with a high current. The amount of current running through you determines if an electric source can harm you and the resistance. Let us come down to a car battery that appears more complex than we think. The high current provided by your car battery cannot harm you. There is a simple explanation for this harmlessness of the battery. The maximum current supplied by the battery does not electrocute you. However, the current that races through you is the culprit.
First, the current that runs through an item depends on the following:
- The applied voltage
- The electric resistance of the affected item
- The amount of current provided by the source
See Also: How to Charge a Truck Battery
The Effect of Touching a Car Battery Terminals
When you touch a car battery, you feel nothing because of your skin’s extremely high resistance. As a result, the reaction leads to a low current. The car battery offers a low voltage and results in a low current. While a car battery can provide a high current, the human body can resist such current. The car’s voltage reduces the total current you receive from the powered-up battery, alongside the body’s resistance.
The Voltage of Car Batteries
The nominal voltage of a car battery is 12V. However, this voltage can vary depending on the amount of charge received. Alone, this charge cannot affect you. However, if you combine batteries, the voltage could be high enough to injure you. Typically, in short bursts, a car battery can provide enough amperage. This is the reason why we still use lead-acid technology.
For example, starter vehicles need enough amperage to function. When delivering a short, powerful burst electric current, you can use lead-acid batteries. However, there is a difference between the human body’s contact resistance and the starter motor’s coils.
Technically, your car battery can produce amperage that can kill you. However, the 12V DC cannot provide the pressure that can cause such damage to your body. Simply put, you experience tingles when you touch the terminals of your battery without a shock. This means that the Hollywood electrical torture with a car battery is far from reality.
A Car Battery is Dangerous
Despite the harmless nature of a car battery, it is still dangerous. It may not produce noticeable shocks when you touch it, but it can cause explosions. Gassing is the phenomenon that causes your battery to explode, and this happens when hydrogen gas is released during sparks and ends up causing a fire outbreak.
When gassing happens, you can experience showers of sulfuric acid. You can correct this problem when you adhere to the correct rules of connecting a battery charger. People can suffer from battery injury when they mistakenly bridge the terminals. A terminal bridging causes the metal wrench to become extremely hot to touch. If you accidentally drop the positive terminal to the ground, the effect can be devastating to everyone.
Many people suffered severe burns when they accidentally bridged their car batteries. A bridged truck battery can produce enough amperage that can kill a human.
Also Know: Car Radio Dead After Replacing Battery?
Electric Vehicle Batteries
There is a massive difference in their batteries when it comes to electric cars. The electric car makes use of batteries that produce excess voltage. You can get as much as 500V, which is dangerous enough to touch. The voltage moves into its motor from the cables and converts it into mechanical energy. Hence, the mechanical energy produces up to 240V electric current. In addition, this amount of voltage can kill a human.
However, you don’t have to think about an electric car battery shocking you, and you have your protection from such incidents. If you end up with a shock from this car, the experience is not good.
Higher Car Battery Voltage
We have made it clear that a 12V car battery lacks the power to kill you. Well, you should believe that. However, most car batteries are higher than 12V. We have seen cars running with 42 volts systems.
Meanwhile, some electric and hybrid cars have two batteries. The batteries are the battery pack and traditional acid battery. These car batteries may use nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion technology, and they often come with more than 200 volts. However, the electric and hybrid cars use color codes to guard against accidents.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it harmless to touch a battery whose fuse is blown?
When a car battery’s fuse is blown, some people erroneously believe the battery is safe. If you mistakenly touch the two terminals of your car battery with a shorted wire, you can experience a mild shock. The reason is that electricity moves through the terminals without insulation. As a result, you expose yourself to harm when you touch such terminals.
What danger can happen with your car battery?
Car batteries tend to suffer when they age, and this could lead to the leaking of hazardous materials like their corrosive acid. Hence, hydrogen gas is released to cause explosions due to the gas buildup. You should be mindful of using a car battery to avoid potential dangers.
Can a car battery electrocute you?
The answer is no. Your car battery can produce enough electric power or amperage to harm you. However, it lacks enough electric force or voltage to move the electrons around your body. A 12-volt car battery is not powerful enough to electrocute you.
Can a car battery stop the human’s heart?
A car battery can stop your heart. However, it requires at least 10 and 20mA to cause this problem. Meanwhile, a 9-volt car battery can cause more danger than this. However, the human skin has enough contact resistance to prevent current.
How dangerous is a shock from a car battery?
You may not experience a noticeable shock from your car battery. Hence, you will not suffer harm.
What happens if you touch the positive and negative on a car battery?
The battery will produce sparks that can damage the electrical system of your vehicle. However, this happens when the terminals are shorted.
Is it OK to touch car battery terminals?
A car battery may not electrocute you when you touch the terminals. The low voltage makes the battery terminals harmless. However, other parts of your vehicle’s electrical system may give you a serious shock.
What happens if you lick a car battery?
The effect depends on the voltage of your car’s battery. You may experience a mild shock if you touch both terminals and lick the battery. Therefore, the effect is not bad, but unpleasant.
What happens when the sides of a battery are touched?
When the two terminals of a car battery are touched with a metal wrench, it can cause sparks. The sparks cause the buildup of hydrogen gas to become explosive in the battery, and the reaction is gassing that could lead to permanent injury.
A car battery cannot kill you because of its low voltage and the human body’s resistance to current. However, a battery can kill you through gassing or other explosive reactions.