Car battery terminals are responsible for connecting all electrical components of the car to the battery. However, over time, dirt, corrosion, etc. can accumulate on the battery terminal clamps, thereby degrading the battery performance.
Hence, it is important to regularly clean the battery terminals to ensure their smooth connectivity. A very common way of cleaning corrosion from the battery is using baking soda. However, if you want to know about some other methods of cleaning the battery terminals, then this article is for you.
When talking about some common issues that every car battery can develop, we can’t ignore the most common one, i.e., battery terminal corrosion. Before we can dive deep into the solution part, it will be better for you to understand the reasons behind the battery terminal corrosion. So, let’s talk about this first.
What Does A Battery Terminal Corrosion Look Like?
Some car owners tend to relate the corrosion on the battery terminals with metallic, brown rust. But if you look at that carefully, you will find that the corrosion is slightly different. Corrosion developed on your car battery terminals will appear as a blue, green, or whitish substance, and you can also see a granular or powdery texture.
On the other hand, the color of the corrosion will depend on the chemical reactions. A small amount of battery terminal corrosion is harmless, but if you do not treat it or properly clean your battery, the corrosion can lead to some severe consequences.
Causes Of Battery Terminal Corrosion
Most car owners must have encountered a bluish and whitish substance on their car’s battery terminal when opening the hood. Remember that the car battery is important for the smooth performance of your vehicle. The battery controls different electrical components, such as AC, radio, headlights, ignition, and more.
And when it comes to taking good care of your car battery, you should know about a common thing that affects the battery’s lifespan. In general, battery terminal corrosion generally develops after driving with the same car battery.
Battery Terminal Corrosion Causes
The most common cause of battery terminal corrosion issues is the electric leakage of hydrogen from your car battery. Sometimes, it can be caused when the alternator overcharges the battery slightly, and the incident is happening for a long time. On the other hand, chemical reactions with clamps can also be the reason. Well, some other reasons behind the battery terminal corrosion are:
Hydrogen Gas Leakage
Your car battery converts the acid into electric energy. However, sometimes, the battery’s hydrogen can leak and then find its way into the environment. The gas then reacts with different substances, causing battery terminal corrosion issues. You can easily check different battery problems based on which side the corrosion forms.
For example, if the corrosion is on the battery’s positive terminal, it is because of overcharging. If it is developed on the negative terminal, then undercharging can be a reason. If you encounter such a condition, don’t take any risk and call a professional car mechanic as soon as possible to fix the issue.
Leakage Of Electrolyte
This type of problem is quite synonymous with all lead-acid batteries. After using for years or due to any damage, the electrolyte inside the battery can leak, which generally accumulates on the car battery’s terminals. Overfilling the battery water can be a major reason behind the electrolyte leakage.
In general, copper is a good conductor. Besides, it doesn’t develop corrosion that easily. But when the electric currents move through the battery terminals made of copper, this action creates a harmful reaction, i.e., the development of copper sulfate, which can lead to corrosion in the battery terminal. A bluish thin layer on the terminals suggests the presence of copper sulfate. When this happens, you will find it challenging to start the engine. Copper sulfate affects the movement of electricity to the engine from the battery.
Overcharging The Battery
If the car’s alternator is overcharging your car’s battery, even if slightly, this can lead to battery terminal corrosion. How to check for it? Well, you can use a multimeter after turning your car on to check the voltage. Make sure that the charging capacity is not more than 14.5 volts.
As discussed above, when you overfill the battery, this will make the electrolyte leak from the battery. Well, not all cars come with refillable batteries. But you need to properly check the battery to see if it is overfilled or not.
Even though your car battery is not refillable, the battery has tiny vents the sulfuric gasses from the battery can escape. If the gasses contact the terminals or cable, corrosion occurs. The battery terminal corrosion issue may depend on the vents’ location on the battery and the amount of gas escaping through the vents.
As per the experts, if your car battery is more than six years old, then the battery is nearing the end of its life, and you can also experience the poor charging ability of the battery. When a car battery reaches this stage, terminal corrosion can be expected. So, if your car has a five to six years old battery, then check it properly to understand whether you should replace it or not.
Some Problems Caused By Battery Terminal Corrosion
Battery terminal corrosion is not a major problem as the condition is easily avoidable. If there is battery corrosion, that means the battery is developing other issues, and by resolving those issues, you can prevent most of the future corrosion types. The best thing is that the battery is located in an accessible location. So, it will not be difficult to keep an eye on the corrosion.
But you should keep in mind that corroded battery terminals are a major reason behind the low battery life and decreased performance. The corrosion creates a layer of chemicals or powder, affecting the proper current flow between the engine and battery. So, this can affect your car in two ways.
When it happens, your car will not get sufficient power. On the other hand, the car’s battery will not get charged from the alternator.
A damaged or corroded terminal in the battery means your vehicle will not start up properly. That means every time you need to turn on your car, you may need to use jumper cables. Not good, right? On the other hand, as there will be an unstable battery performance, this can damage other electrical parts of your car, for example, the music system and AC. You may also face some issues with the car’s computer system. And an issue in the onboard computer can lead to various vehicle-wide complications.
So, if you find a corroded battery cable connector or terminal, it is advisable to get it cleaned properly as soon as possible, or you can take the help of an expert to get it done.
There are four basic steps you need to follow to clean your car’s battery terminals:
- Disconnecting the battery terminals
- Cleaning with WD-40, Cola, or a Battery Cleaner (as a replacement for Baking Soda)
- Rinse and dry
- Lubricate and reconnect
A Step-By-Step Guide for How To Clean Battery Terminals Without Baking Soda
- Cleaning product (WD-40, Cola)
- Warm water (for rinsing the product off)
- Toothbrush or wire brush
- Rags/paper towels
- Petroleum jelly Or Battery Protector
- Rubber Gloves
Step 1. Disconnect The Battery Terminals
Put on your rubber gloves and then disconnect the battery terminals. Make sure you remove the negative clamp first and then the positive one. Now, inspect the battery to ensure that there are no cracks, damage signs, punctures, etc. If you do find some faults in the battery, then cleaning won’t help you and you might need to get a battery replacement.
If there is no damage to the battery and everything looks fine with it, then ensure that it isn’t touching any metal. Otherwise, there will be increased chances of short-circuiting since there will be water involved while cleaning. In case your battery does have some damage, you need to have it inspected by a mechanic.
Step 2. Using The Battery Cleaning Product
#1 With Cola
For this method, you’ll need a pair of gloves and the right size wrench. Start with loosening the terminals slightly with the wrench and make sure you don’t remove the cables entirely. Now, pour the cola on the battery following a center to the outward route.
Once done for one direction, do the same for the other direction. Let it sit and soak for around 2 minutes or so and then rinse off the area with water. Lastly, tighten the battery terminals and now you can restart your vehicle again.
#2 Battery Cleaner Spray
You can also spend a few bucks and clean your car battery terminals with a store-bought battery cleaner spray. Some such sprays include an acid detector included in the formulation. Such cleaning sprays can be very convenient to work with. The acid will dissolve the alkaline rust on the battery terminals (if any) and make the cleaning procedure faster. However, make sure that you read the instructions given on the spray bottle since each one of these is used differently.
#3 With WD-40
Many people prefer using WD-40 when it comes to cleaning the car battery terminals. This works very well and is efficient at removing battery terminal corrosion but requires more effort on your part. Start with disconnecting the battery terminals. Then, spray WD-40 on your car terminals properly. You can also apply the same on the cable connections if you find them coated with grime. Let it sit for some time and then rinse off the WD-40 with hot water. You can also use this liquid to find vacuum leaks.
Now, you might need to scrub off the corrosion and grime with a toothbrush or wire brush even after rinsing it off. Moreover, you may also need to repeat the entire procedure a couple of times to clean it fully.
Step 3. Rinsing and Drying
If any residual grime is left, make sure you wash it away by rinsing it with plain and hot water. Once the region is clear of corrosion, grab a clean and dry towel or cloth to wipe the entire battery. If the corrosion hasn’t cleared yet, you need to repeat the cleaning procedure.
Step 4. Lubricating or Protecting The Terminals
Before you reattach the terminal clamps, use a small amount of petroleum jelly inside the terminals. This allows you to reconnect them properly and avoid future corrosion. You can do the application by using a clean rag.
You can also use certain products to prolong the lifespan of the battery terminals like a battery terminal protector. It doesn’t have an expensive price tag but petroleum jelly is always cheap and easily available at home.
Step 5. Reconnecting the Battery Terminals And Turn It On
While reconnecting the battery terminals, make sure the region is dry. You need to reconnect the positive terminal first and then reconnect the negative terminal. Once done, put on the junction covers and turn the car on.
Things to Remember While Cleaning The Battery Terminals
- If you need to remove the terminals of the battery to clean them, make sure you remove the negative one first.
- Also, when the cleaning is done, the negative terminal should be the last one to be attacked.
- The positive and negative terminals should not be touching each other.
- Don’t forget to wear protective gear while working with the car battery.
- Make sure you remove all jewelry (if you are wearing any) before starting the cleaning procedure. Jewelry pieces like rings or bracelets can be grounded or get caught up in the engine parts while working with the battery terminals.
- In case, your skin or eyes come in contact with acid or chemicals, immediately flush the area with lukewarm water and continue rinsing for 15 minutes at least.
Some Effective Ways To Prevent Battery Terminal Corrosion
As discussed above, your car battery produces electric power through a continuous reaction between different chemicals. The most commonly used chemicals or materials are acid and lead. As your battery has acid, after some time, you can see an accumulation of greenish thin on the terminals called corrosion, which affects the connection between the terminals and battery. If not treated, the corrosion can destroy the terminals.
Using the tips mentioned above, you can clean the battery and corrosion properly. But there are some effective ways to prevent the formation of corrosion over the battery terminals. Have a look at those useful tips.
Prevent Corrosion With These Tips
Now that you properly understand what battery terminal corrosion is and how to clean it properly, let’s look at different ways to prevent the problem from happening.
Using Petroleum Jelly
As per the experts, one can apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the battery terminals and connectors once they are done with the cleaning. After cleaning the battery and reconnecting it, use jelly to the area. It has been proved that petroleum jelly can keep any future corrosion from developing, and you can easily reapply the jelly after a few months.
Using Different Commercial Products
Nowadays, you can easily find various types of sprays and brush-on compounds that can be used to prevent battery corrosion. These products work just like petroleum jelly. First, clean and reconnect the battery and apply these products following the instructions mentioned on the product label. Some car owners prefer to use dielectric grease on the connectors and terminals.
Keep An Eye On The Battery Charging
Almost all car mechanics use a voltmeter to check the voltage level of a car battery. You can also use that for the same. Well, you can also take your car to an expert to identify the real cause and get it resolved as soon as possible.
If the experts say the battery has an undercharging problem, you may need to disconnect some items from the battery. However, if you want to keep using those items, you should prefer to upgrade your battery.
But while doing this, ensure that the car’s alternator can work properly with the new battery. A professional car mechanic can help you with that.
Use Copper Compression Terminals
You can use a good-quality copper compression lug at the ends of the battery terminals. These things are made using tinned copper. Due to their structure, they allow 360-degree contact with battery cable. As a result, the electric current will flow evenly, lowering the possibility of corrosion.
Follow A Proper Maintenance
Just like other electrical tools, your car’s battery also needs on-time maintenance. By keeping the battery adequately maintained, you can prevent corrosion and keep everything running smoothly. So, don’t ignore the services your car may require regularly. You should replace the alternator after every 1000K miles as per a general rule. And keep an eye on the battery’s overcharge and undercharge problem.
Using Battery Terminal Protectors
These are small pads, and you need to be used between the battery and the connectors. These are made of a type of material that can prevent corrosion. These products are very cheap and cost-effective to prevent this issue.
To install this, first, you need to disconnect the battery connectors from the terminal and then slide the protectors over the terminals. Once done, properly reconnect the battery. While doing this, first, you should disconnect the negative terminals, but while reconnecting, first, you should reconnect the positive terminal.
Have A Look At The Battery Usage
Another effective way to prevent battery terminal corrosion is to lower battery usage when your vehicle is not running. When sitting inside the car and listening to the radio without running it or charging a device, the alternator is not working. As a result, your battery may develop an undercharging issue.
You will not like to waste gas but keeping your car running while charging your phone while parking in the front of a store is not wasting your car gas. This way, you can keep the battery protected from different unwanted issues.
Properly Check The Battery
You should routinely check the battery and look for any signs of battery corrosion. If you see corrosion forming on the terminals, take steps now and clean it as soon as possible. Besides, try to identify the reason behind this and correct it. You can also use the products mentioned above to lower the chances of battery terminal corrosion issues.
Always Keep The Connectors And Posts Clean
Dirty connectors, as well as posts, can be a reason behind the loss of conductivity. And this will lead to undercharging issues in the battery. This, in turn, will develop corrosion.
If the connectors and posts are dirty, disconnect them from the battery and clean them properly. Before reconnecting them, make sure that parts are completely dry.
Properly Check The Connectors And Cables
Always check the insulation of the cables for peeling, cracked, and dried areas. If the copper wires are exposed, they will not hold well to the different elements, and after a few months, they may become brittle. This can affect the current flow, leading to undercharging and then corrosion.
Ensure that all the cables are connected to the connectors. A poor connection can also cause corrosion. If required, hire a professional and replace the damaged cables with new cables. You should not take any risk here.
Use Right Type Of Battery
If you bought a used car, there is a chance that the car may not have the right type of battery for that particular model and make. On the other hand, if you use aftermarket AMPs and speakers, the old battery may not handle the power requirements.
So, it will be better for you to consult a professional mechanic or take your car to a reputed auto parts store and buy the right type of battery for your car to prevent battery terminal corrosion issues.
Is Battery Corrosion Bad For A Vehicle?
Yes, this is a common battery problem in a car that you should not forget. A corroded battery terminal can make your car not start properly.
Besides, this condition can also lead to other different car battery issues, like damage to the car’s electric wiring, AC lines, audio system, vehicle chassis, and more. So, don’t take it lightly and clean the corrosion immediately to keep your car running smoothly.
What To Do To Deal With Battery Terminal Corrosion Issue?
Even though it is advisable to get in touch with an expert to fix the issue, there are some ways that you can try to get rid of this at home. You can cover the terminals using baking soda after that.
The two ingredients will now react with each other, forming bubbles. This process will neutralize the corrosion on the terminals, and now you can safely handle it.
Can I Use Vaseline On The Terminals Of My Car’s Battery?
Yes, you can use it. But before using that, it is advisable to clean the battery terminals and remove any corrosion properly. Once they are dry, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly. This will keep them lubricated for a long time and help prevent corrosion.
Then reattach the negative and positive cables, and you are all set to drive your car. However, don’t use too much jelly, leading to poor connection.
What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Car Battery Last?
If you are taking good care of your car battery and it is in ideal condition, it can last for more than 4 to 5 years. Regular electrical demands, your driving habits, and climate, all these things can influence the battery’s lifespan.
However, you should get your battery tested regularly and, if required, replace the old battery with a new one to keep the electrical components of your car in good condition.
A little amount of battery corrosion is considered normal for your car because there will be some wear and tear over time. But, allowing it to build up for a long period can result in a thick grimy layer of corrosion on the terminals. This wouldn’t allow your car to get connected to the battery properly.
Hence, it is very important to properly maintain and clean your car battery terminals. Also, don’t forget to wear protective gear like glasses, gloves, and appropriate clothing while cleaning the car battery terminals.