Ref. Mazda Tribute, Benzene, V6, 3 litre, Auto-Transmission, 16 Years old approx., 165,000 km approx., 5th Owner

The car has been parked on the street under daily heat from the sun for many months, without being started. I recently tried starting it, however the battery had died, so I replaced it.

The following sequence occurred as I tried reconnecting the new battery:

  1. Connected positive terminal to the positive battery post
  2. Started to connect the negative terminal to the negative battery post
  3. At that moment, arcing occurred between the terminal and the battery post, and some motor (I believe it was in the engine bay) started to turn
  4. Immediately retracted the negative terminal from the battery

Note that there was no contact between the negative and positive terminals, so it was not a short.

I have a few questions:

  • Did any damage occur from this?
  • Perhaps a small animal has shorted the wiring?
  • What is the problem happening here?
  • 2
    First guess is that the key is in the ignition or on position.
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 21, 2019 at 16:32
  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! When you state "arcing between Return Clamp and Negative Terminal" ... how much did it arc? Was it like a welding arc with a bright flash, or was it just enough arcing for you to see/hear it? Mar 21, 2019 at 17:32
  • This could be normal after battery removal, some devices draw power with the key off for a short period of time. Small amount of arcing is normal.
    – Moab
    Mar 21, 2019 at 21:23
  • Nothing in the ignition ; But, there may have been some device selected as on ; I confess to not think ahead for that state, & also that I am not an experienced driver, & also to not being very knowledgeable about the use of the controls of this model.
    – Sean Sean
    Mar 21, 2019 at 22:54
  • 1
    I then tried to start the engine by inserting Key in Ignition & turning clock-wise ; Success ! ; Thank u for ur great help, & other educative matter around this topic that u imparted.
    – Sean Sean
    Mar 23, 2019 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


I think the last person who drove the car was using the heater or air conditioner and he left the fan ON when he turned the car off.

  • 1
    The fan is off when the key is in the off position.
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 24, 2019 at 23:03

Most likely no damage was done.

It is very common for arcing to occur when connecting a non-used electrical device to a battery. For example, I have a 24-volt battery and an inverter running on 24 volts. If I connect a non-used inverter (not used for several days) into the battery, I see a big spark. It's just the first time, though. If I remove the inverter from the battery and connect immediately again, there is no spark. The cause is a capacitor that is charged with the battery energy.

As for the motor, there are several possibilities:

  • Brake booster. In normal gasoline engines it's operated by engine vacuum, but there are at least three reasons why it might be operated by an electric motor: (1) if the engine controls air intake not by a throttle plate but by variable valve lift, (2) if the car is a hybrid car that can be driven some distance without the engine running, (3) if it's a diesel car with no throttle plate obviously. It could also be possible that some peculiar car could have an electric motor operated vacuum pump without any of these three reasons just because the car manufacturer had too many vacuum pumps.
  • ABS actuator.
  • EVAP system vacuum pump.

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