|Removing and Replacing a Rusty Battery Tray|
One of the first items to examine for possible damage when starting any resto project is the battery hold-down tray. That also includes the area under the tray that is inside the fender well. Years ago, all the hold-down trays were made of metal and, after years of being exposed to leaking water or battery acid, many of them have virtually disintegrated.
When getting started, remember to put on safety glasses and gloves before working with or around automobile storage batteries. First, disconnect the negative (black) ground cable, then the positive (red) cable. Next, remove the battery hold-down clamps, pull out the battery and set it aside. Be careful not to touch your clothing: if there is any leakage or spillage from the battery, it will eat holes in your clothing. Trust us. For the same reason, it's a good idea to place the battery on wood or rubber (some say that if you leave a battery on a concrete floor it will drain the charge).
Unbolting and removing the old battery tray can be harder than it looks. The bolts on the tray shown in the Photo Gallery were fused with rust, so we knocked them off with an air cutoff wheel. (A cold chisel and a two-pound hammer will work just as well.)
Cleaning & Prep
Using a stiff wire brush or a hobby sandblaster, thoroughly clean the area to get rid of any rust and dirt. Once the area is clean, and the bare metal is exposed, you might notice the need to weld some repair patches on the surrounding sheetmetal before painting, but if that is not the case, proceed to wipe down and paint the area with a rust inhibiter. Rubberized undercoating also works very well. The area can then be painted any color desired.
Rather than making the same mistake twice and using a metal tray as a replacement, it only makes sense to use a hard plastic tray that is very strong, doesn't rust, and is acid-resistant. You can go with a basic tray that comes with the hold-down unit, or a battery-box type originally designed for marine use. The latter has become widely used in race and custom vehicles because it offers more protection and a cleaner appearance.