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Jul 02 2020

Corrosion on the Terminals of your Car Battery? We Explain How to Clean It

 

Car batteries store electricity. The electricity that makes the motor and the rest of the components work. When the battery posts are covered with corrosion, neither positive nor negative charges can flow properly, which can lead to premature battery death. Raise the hood of your car and take a look. Do you see a white, powdery substance on the metal terminals? That is corrosion.

Many drivers experience difficulty starting their vehicles at one time or another in their lives. Sometimes a dead battery is to blame, but many others are a frustrating event caused by the accumulation of corrosion in the connectors and around the ends of the cables, and the speed of formation increases when the motor and battery are not working. Learning how to clean the terminals (and do it) can avoid unnecessary expense and worry.

What is Car Battery Corrosion?

Corrosion appears to be a foamy, powdery substance, usually whitish in color, which forms around the battery posts. It is created due to the chemical reaction that occurs at the terminals and ends of the cable. When this occurs, the wiring cannot properly supply power to the car's various electrical systems, starting with the starter motor. Or even worse, that the car is stalling while we ride with it.

What Causes Corrosion in a Car Battery?

The main reasons why a battery may have corrosion are:

  • Battery Age: Like the batteries in a watch, the life of a car battery can vary substantially. However, if it has already passed four years, it is quite normal to see corrosion. Cleaning it is silly, you have to change it.
  • An Overload: Regardless of the type of battery, we are dealing with, an overcharge can help its internal chemicals to be pushed out through the vents or creating cracks, leading to corrosion.
  • Chemical Reaction with Copper Clamps: Copper is used to making the clamps that connect the cables and the battery. If you are good at chemistry, you will know that copper cannot corrode on its own. However, the current through it produces copper sulfate, which results in corrosion at the terminals.
  • Electrolyte Leakage: One of the reasons that cause corrosion in a battery is electrolyte leakage. If a battery is not well maintained, the electrolytes will leak and accumulate at the terminals, causing corrosion.
  • Excess of Water: Having too much water in a battery is another reason that causes corrosion. Since the terminals are made of corroding metals, if there is a lot of water, the excess will come out of the vents and will corrode the terminals.

How do you Clean the Corrosion of a Car Battery?

The truth is that it can be done in a simple way, using household items and some somewhat more specific materials. If we add to this that you have to have a little patience, it is not that you need to be the most handyman in the world. As already highlighted, corrosion can cause leakage and consequently shorten battery life. That is why we insist that good maintenance of our car can save us a lot of trouble.

Before addressing the cleaning of a corroded battery, a few precautions should be mentioned. Since skin and clothing can come into contact with corrosive materials (acid), it is advisable to wear protective glasses, gloves, and a gown (or a set that you are not very fond of). Avoid touching metal parts of the vehicle (beyond the battery), including the frame or nearby parts, to reduce the risk of a short circuit. If you see any cracks or leaks, replace it.

It goes without saying that the car must be turned off before doing anything with the battery. First, the negative and positive cable ends must be disconnected to properly clean the terminal connections. To do this, first, remove the negative (-) cable by loosening it with a flat-blade screwdriver and lifting it off the terminal. Avoid touching the positive cable and do not leave anything metallic on top, if you do not want a shock or short circuit, respectively.

Following the same technique, remove the positive (+) cable. If you're having trouble removing any of the cables, try twisting them while pulling up at the same time. Once removed, it is time to get down to business with the need that has brought us here. To start cleaning the corrosion, you will need rags, a container with half a liter of water and two tablespoons of baking soda or cola, and an old toothbrush, although if it has metal spikes better than better.

Dip the brush into the mix as many times as necessary and rub the top of the battery to remove corrosion build-up. You can even immerse the ends of the cables in hot water to dissolve the corrosion at the ends of the cable. Rinse the battery and cables under cold water and make sure to remove all the baking soda/cola soda and corrosion. Dry the battery and clamps with a clean cloth. To finish, lubricate all the exposed metal with petroleum jelly or a specific spray.

To finish, reconnect the battery terminals. First, reinstall the positive (+) cable into position. On some batteries, the end of the cable needs to be fully moved or knocked down into position, tightening the clamp nut to lock. Then try adding another quarter turn. Reconnect the negative battery cable in the same way as you do the positive cable. The plastic covers are already the final touch.

What If I have to do an Emergency Cleaning?

There are always times when we don't have time to organize a cleaning as God commands. In this case, using a pair of gloves and the correct size wrench/screwdriver, loosen each terminal slightly with your wrench. Do not remove the cables completely. Pour the cola soda over the battery from the center out in one direction. Repeat in the opposite direction and let it work for two minutes. Then rinse everything with water and tighten the wires again.

As the last note (really good), it should be noted that many of today's cars have an electronics management module that can cause many of the on-board elements to be deconfigured if we leave the car without power. In other words, if we remove the battery, systems such as ESP, Start / Stop, energy recovery in braking, radio, or alarm, among many others, will not behave exactly like the first day.

In this case, unfortunately, you will have to go to an authorized workshop to reprogram those elements that are not well calibrated. And no, it is not a "you must do it if ...", it is a "you have to do it, period ball". Just like in the latest mobile phones or computers, car manufacturers are continuously one step ahead of us, looking for the way in which you can do nothing by yourself and have to go to the workshop.




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