After a while, corrosion can build up on a car battery’s terminals, affecting the car’s power source and even preventing the engine from starting. If there is a fair amount of corrosion, it can stop the battery’s power between the cable ends and terminals. Corrosion can form for two reasons: when the terminal and cable end are different metals or if the battery is off-gassing hydrogen while charging.
Corrosion shows up in the form of a hard, fuzzy looking substance around your car battery terminals and cable ends. Fortunately, this corrosion can be cleaned off using a few different methods.
Remove Battery Terminals
To properly clean your battery terminal connections, disconnect the positive and negative cable ends from the battery. Have the following materials on hand to avoid accidental injury from battery acid.
- Battery terminal wrench
- Eye protection
- Loosen the battery cable ends, starting with the negative cable first.
- Loosen the nuts; if it’s a top-post battery, loosen the nuts until there isn’t any tension on the clamp.
- Loosen the cable end; if it’s a side-post battery, loosen the cable end until the cable is removed.
- Lift the top-post battery cable end of the terminal. You may need to wiggle and pry the cable end off.
Clean the Battery with Household Items
You don’t need expensive equipment to correctly clean your car’s battery terminals. A few common household items can clean the battery and fix your connection.
- Baking soda
- Petroleum jelly
- Wire brush
- Sprinkle baking soda over the battery terminals. You’ll want a thin coat on and around the terminals.
- Pour a couple tablespoons of water on each terminal. The baking soda will start to bubble for a few moments.
- The reaction from the baking soda (a base) neutralizes the acid and makes it safer to handle.
- Repeat the previous steps for the cable ends.
- Scrub the terminals with a wire brush or a stiff brush.
- After the corrosion is removed, rinse the battery and cable ends with clean water.
- Let the battery dry entirely; if you’d like, blow it off with compressed air.
- Finally, put a thin layer of petroleum jelly to conduct electricity between the terminal and cable end and to protect the battery from corrosion.
Clean the Battery with Professional Supplies
- Battery cleaning spray
- Battery terminal brush
- Protective spray or grease
- Disconnect the battery cables and spray the ends with a battery cleaner spray.
- Let the battery and cable ends soak in the spray for a moment. The color may begin to dissipate.
- Spray the battery terminal and cable ends again lightly with the cleaner spray. If the color doesn’t change, the acid is neutralized.
- Rinse the battery completely with water to completely remove the cleaner spray.
- Clean the battery posts and cable ends with a battery brush to remove any corrosion buildup.
- Follow up with a battery protector spray or wipe a thin layer of petroleum jelly onto the terminals.
- Don’t get the spray on your paint job. Some dyes could permanently stain the paint or change the color.
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