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Corvette Battery Saver - Start Me Up

Installing A PriorityStart Battery Saver

Tom Benford Apr 14, 2009
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I opted to go with the PriorityStart Pro Max unit which provides some additional circuitry to protect the electrical system and battery from surges and spikes. The LED below the words "surge protection" is a status indicator to let you know the unit is doing its job properly. The little silver "Y" piece in the plastic bag is the negative connector tab, and the black rubber band is what holds the unit in place on the battery.

If you don't start or drive your Corvette frequently, there's a good chance the battery will run down and have insufficient power left to start the car when you do decide to fire her up. This is especially true if you have accessories or components that continually drain the battery, such as a clock or, in the later-model Corvettes, the security system, "memory" for the seats, stereo, and so on. When this occurs, you'll have to get out the jumper cables, the "hot box," or hook up a battery charger to rejuice the old girl.

There are several ways to prevent this from happening. The first is to install a simple battery-disconnect switch. While this is indeed an inexpensive and effective solution, it requires you to open the hood and turn the knob on the switch to disconnect the battery, then open the hood again to reconnect it when you want to use the car. The second option is to have a trickle charger, such as the Battery Tender, connected to the battery to keep it fully charged at all times. This also requires opening the hood to connect and disconnect the charger in addition to having an AC outlet to power the charger in close proximity to it. The third solution, and the one that I'm presenting here, is to install a PriorityStart module in your Corvette. It's a noninvasive installation that takes about 15 minutes to do and requires only a couple of wrenches

The PriorityStart is an electro-mechanical device that works with either top- or side-mount terminal batteries. What it does, essentially, is monitor the available battery voltage. If the voltage gets below 11.7 volts (11.9V in some older Corvettes) for a full minute, the unit automatically disconnects the battery, preventing any further drain. The PriorityStart then automatically reconnects the battery as soon as a light switch is activated (e.g., by opening the door), stepping on the brake pedal or turning the ignition key-no buttons or switches to fiddle with-just start the engine and away you go.

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If you have a side-terminal battery as in the C5, you'll need to use a 7/8-inch wrench to remove the terminal post adapter from the PriorityStart unit. If you have an older Corvette with top-mount terminals, you can skip this step.

OK, so how does it do all this? Well, the PriorityStart has a bidirectional motor and a whole bunch of Mr. Wizard gears inside it that move a heavy-duty contact switch to the open position, which prevents further discharge from any draining devices (clock, CD-changer memory, and so on). As soon as a switch is activated (e.g., plunger-switch that turns on cabin light when the door is opened) the gear motor causes the contacts to re-engage, thus restoring battery power so the car can then be started, and it does all of this stuff instantaneously and automatically, so you don't have to open the hood to reconnect anything or do anything else to start the engine.

The PriorityStart ( is available in a Standard version and a Pro Max version, the latter of which also includes surge and spike protection circuitry that provides additional protection for your electrical system and your battery. I got my PriorityStart unit from Mid America Motorworks, and here's all it took to install it in my C5.

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Under the hood, the first thing to do is to remove the negative cable from the battery, followed by the positive cable. Always remove the negative first. A 5/16-inch wrench does the trick for these side terminals.

Well, you're not quite finished yet if you just installed the PriorityStart on a C5. Anytime the battery is disconnected or totally dead, the keyfobs have to be reprogrammed, and that's what you'll have to do now. It's a simple process that takes only a few seconds to complete, and you'll have to do this for both key fobs. I should mention here that a lot of folks panic when their keyfobs don't work for some reason and totally forget that they can still use the key to unlock the door and start their Corvette normally. That being said, here's how to reprogram your keyfobs.

1. Stand at the rear of your Corvette (the radio receiver is located in the rear of the car near the taillights).

2. Press and hold both the "lock" and "unlock" buttons on the fob for about 7-10 seconds, "aiming" it at the rear of the car.

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Mount the terminal post adapter you removed from the PriorityStart unit on the positive terminal of the battery.

3. Continue holding down both buttons until you hear the horn toot to confirm the Corvette is aware of and communicating with your keyfob. Repeat this exact same procedure with the second keyfob, and that's all there is to it.

If the voltage drops to a point where the PriorityStart kicks in and cuts the power, you'll have to reprogram the keyfobs and other accessory settings again. But then, if you use a battery cut-off switch or the battery goes dead on its own, you'd have to do that anyway, right? At least this way, however, you won't have to use a battery charger or jumper cables to get things going again. And you'll have to let her sit for quite a while before the voltage gets low enough for the PriorityStart to cut the power, so it's really a good choice when you compare all the other alternatives.

One last note-if you're into boating, PriorityStart also makes a marine model as well as 24V versions for trucks, RVs, and other applications.



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