Car Battery put in Backwards

Hello, new to the car forum scene, but I am having a serious problem.

My car (Mistubishi Lancer OZ Rally 2002) was sitting all winter because I don’t have a heater. I couldn’t even jump the car to start it and then had my battery tested to confirm it was no good. I went and bought a new battery and tried to hook it up. When I did, the alarm went off and all of the lights went on. Also, it wouldn’t turn on. I read before to let it sit for a couple minutes and it should stop. It didn’t. After diagnosing it with a few friends we thought it might be cables or the starter, but then one found out the battery was in backwards. Then, we tried to start it again and it was cranking but wouldn’t turn over. There is no spark in the plugs.

My question is; could there be a short in the battery or is the solution going to be much more complicated? I realize I am an idiot and ignorant to the car mechanical lifestyle, but any help is appreciated. Thanks.

You will need to start at the fusible links near the battery. Some, if not all are burnt out. From there move to the fuse box and replace all burnt fuses and then attempt to start the engine. If by some miracle it starts congratulations. If not, post back for continued advice. If you are out shopping it will almost certainly be worthwhile to get a test light.

Are you sure the battery was actually in backwards? I think it’s unlikely the alarm would go off or anything electronic would work at all if the battery was connected backwards. I’m sorry to mention it but a pet peeve of mine is when someone asks if there’s a “short” in something electrical. To me that’s like asking if someone in the 17th century suffers from “vapors” or “fainting spells” If the battery was shorted (meaning that the normal circuit path inside of it was bridged and the current was able to take a shorter path, such as if someone hooked a piece of wire directly across both terminals), it wouldn’t work at all, at the very least.

If you’re sure the battery was connected backwards, checking the fusible links like Rod Knox mentioned is a good start. Also look at the fuse box(es) and check for blown fuses. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Unfortunately when a battery is connected with reverse polarity, it can wreak all sorts of havoc with the car’s electrical system—you may be looking at a blown PCM (computer), BCM (another computer), ABS system (another computer), fried audio system, and other problems.

If all the fuses and fuse links test good, check for spark at the plugs, make sure the fuel pump runs when you turn the key, and if you have a code reader, make sure the computer is alive and responding.

Good luck and I hope no serious damage was done.

The alarm probably didn’t go off - the horn blew and the lights turned on, which coincidentally is what happens when the alarm goes off. That’s normal.

Did you notice any smoke or burned wiring while the battery was connected backwards?

I doubt you could put the battery in backwards if you tried. The positive and negative terminals are different diameters, right?

Top post or side post battery? Cables are usually so stiff there is no way you can twist them to make connections wrong? But people are stubborn so tugging on cables usually works eventually.

@mleich The terminals are different sizes, but it’s possible that the clamps are sized so that either one can go on either post.

I actually did this once the last time I moved. I was tired from moving all day, and the MR2 needed a new battery so I could move it. I didn’t notice that the new battery had its posts on the opposite side from the old battery, so when I put it in facing the way the old battery faced, I had it backwards. When I connected the wires, the horn blew, the lights flashed, and I blew the main fuse, which just delighted me, and much swearing was heard. I lucked out in that the main fuse was the only thing that blew - could have been a lot worse - but I can attest from personal experience that what happened to the OP is in fact very possible.

With my side-post battery, thankfully the cables aren’t long enough to reach the opposite sides.

Yea, the clamps are the same size so it was hooked up backwards. Thanks everybody for the immediate help, it is much appreciated. I got lucky enough that it was just a blown fuse. I replaced it and it started up without a problem. I do have some questions about air conditioning and heating as well, but should I start a new thread?

Also, I am almost positive the backwards battery did do some damage to the wires. There is a clicking sound that sounds like my turn signal that will come and go randomly. Also, my battery and brake light will slowly turn on, shut off, then slowly turn on again. Would this be the wires?

Car designers realize the battery will be reverse installed sometimes by accident, so they take measures to limit the damage when it happens. The most likely things that are damaged in this situation are the fuses and fusible links, and sometimes the alternator. All are easily replaced. Sometimes electronics modules are damaged like the ECM. You don’t want that. Hold on to your wallet if the ECM is damaged. But it looks like you’ve escaped with no damage to the ECM and with not much in the way of really expensive damage in any event.

There are various electrical devices that will click like this if damaged by over-current. Or even if they just go bad by themselves. One time I had an old car where, for no reason at all, all the lights,headlights, parking lights, tailights, would turn on and off at about a 2 second interval. Caused by a short circuit and a circuit breaker that was repeatedly tripping.

Relays, circuit breakers, flashers, they all make a clicking sound. I suspect one of these was fried during your “battery reversal experiment”. And all that is needed is to find which one it is, and replace it. What you need to do, when you notice the clicking sound, pull the car into a parking lot, then get out and put your head under the dashboard and isolate where exactly the sound is coming from. Then you can tell your mechanic where to look or look yourself. You’ll have to remove various under-dash shrouds etc probably before you’ll be able to see the actual components. You’re looking for a little rectangular box-like thing that is doing the clicking. It might be near the fuses, or elsewhere. And it could be in the engine compartment too. You might need to rig up a stethoscope with some tubing etc to isolate the exact compoent that is clicking.

The battery and brake warning light – I assume you mean the warning light, not the tail light – often both will come on if either the alternator or the brakes have a problem. It’s a fail-safe, and is warning you this needs to be dealt with asap. The reason is that the car may stop running soon. Or it may fail to stop soon. Either situation is one that needs to be dealt with now.

I’d suspect that you’ve damaged one or more of the alternator diodes by your battery reversal. And that is why the brake and alternator warning lights are turning on. You probably need a replacement alternator. Consider though to find a local auto-electric shop. They can probably fix it and you’ll get by with less expense and better quality if you fix it, since it is the OEM original, rather than swapping it for an offshore-rebuilt cheapo unit which may fail again in two years. Best of luck.

The simultaneous glow of the BRAKE and BATTERY lights indicates that the alternator took a hit that burned a diode or two and will need replacement, most likely. The clicking is probably a relay that was toasted. If your engine will start up and run count yourself lucky.

Yes, I consider myself very lucky in this situation and I thank you for all of the valuable information. I will get my car looked at immediately to avoid any unwanted failures.

Also, there is a flat screen in my vehicle that is broken. The guy I bought it off of told me this was used to control the heater/AC, but everyone I talked to said this is pretty much impossible. Do you guys have any idea how much it would cost to get my heater and AC working again? I need the knobs as well but I can’t seem to find them anywhere unless I can use knobs from another vehicle. Thanks again.

I suggest you check some salvage yards for a used replacement or check Ebay for one.