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Regularly cleaning car battery terminals is crucial to avoid corrosion and later problems that arise due to corroded terminals. That said, how to clean battery terminals using homemade solutions?

Your battery sulfuric acid causes the corrosion on your terminals. Therefore, you need an alkaline solution that neutralizes the acid deposits. You will need baking soda and warm water. Put one tablespoon baking soda in one cup of distilled water and stir the ingredients thoroughly. There you have it, a homemade solution that will effectively clean your battery terminals.

I found this complete cleaning kit and solution very convenient.

What do you need to clean car battery terminals? Is it okay cleaning your battery terminals without disconnecting? How do you effectively remove car battery corrosion? We’ll get into those questions later. let’s get into the step by step guide on how to clean battery terminals efficiently.

I strongly recommend installing a charge controller to protect the battery.

how to clean battery terminals

What do you need to clean car battery terminals? Is it okay cleaning your battery terminals without disconnecting? How do you effectively remove car battery corrosion? We’ll get into those questions later. let’s get into the step by step guide on how to clean battery terminals efficiently. The following guide applies on both corded and cordless batteries.

Required Tools:

– Toothbrush
– Wrench
– Gloves
– Personal protective equipment (PPE)
– Safety goggles

Things Needed?

– Baking soda
– Distilled water
– Petroleum gel

Step By Step Guide on cleaning Battery Terminals

Turn off your car engine

To prevent damage to your car, turn off the engine before you start cleaning. 

Use protective equipment

Wear your PPE gloves and glasses.

Disconnect the terminal

Start with the negative terminal for safety purposes. Use a wrench to loosen the clamp. To avoid electrocution, ensure the metal wrench does not touch the positive terminal while working on the negative, and vice versa. Once you have disconnected the negative, it’s time to disconnect the positive.

Scrub the dirt and grime

Use the toothbrush to apply the baking soda solution. Scrub until the dirt and residue come off. You may want to leave the applied solution for 5 minutes to let it set and dissolve the dirt and corrosive residue.

Rinse and dry

Rinse the corroded battery terminal using a clean wet towel and then dry using a clean cloth.

Apply corrosion protector

Once the terminals are dry, apply petroleum gel or grease. Petroleum gel helps in reducing corrosion. 

Reconnect the battery clamps

It is now time to reconnect your car battery. Start the process in reverse. In this case, you will start with reconnecting the positive battery terminal followed by the negative.

Test your car

Start the car engine to test if the engine starts well. Once the battery terminals are clean, your car should not have a problem starting. Start your car and listen for any cranking. Check the interior lights, headlights and all other electronics to ensure the problem is resolved. 

Things to consider before Cleaning Battery Terminals

When choosing a cleaning solution on you will need to factor in the following:

  • Safety for you and the car
  • How effective the solution you choose will be
  • Degree of corrosion
  • Your car battery type. Sealed Lead Acid Batteries( SLA), the most common being Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM) and Geliffied Electrolyte also known as Gel Cell

Advantages Of Cleaning Battery Terminals With Baking Soda

  • Baking soda is alkaline and therefore neutralizes the acid
  • Baking soda is effective in dissolving and cleaning heavily corroded battery terminals
  • The method ensures safety both for you and your car

Disadvantages Of Cleaning Battery Terminals With Baking Soda

  • The process is quite tasking since you have to disconnect and then reconnect the terminals

What’s next to keep the battery terminals rust free

Applying dielectric grease, petroleum jelly or spraying specialized anti-rust spray on your battery terminals will help them stay rust-free. Installing corrosion protectors on terminals helped me save a lot of troubles recently. Consider getting a maintainer for an improved life expectancy of the battery.

  • Always wear protective gloves and eyeglasses when cleaning your car battery terminals. Never risk getting sulfuric acid in your eyes.
  • Ensure your car engine has been switched off.
  • Do not clean the battery terminals without disconnecting.
  • Take off any metal jewelry and accessories. Non-insulated metal can cause arcing. That includes having metallic tools to close to the terminals.
  • Ensure that neither you nor any items come into contact with both terminals simultaneously. That prevents any electrical current from passing through.
  • Car batteries are heavy. Get a good grip when lifting them.
  • Always have an alkaline solution around. You can neutralize the acid if you come into contact with it.
  • Visible signs of corrosion on your terminals. You will observe a blue or white powdery substance buildup on the terminal surfaces.
  • Trouble starting the car. If your car won’t start, that means the battery has a problem conducting power, and the engine fails to start. Cleaning the terminals will remove any residue and solve the problem.
  • When your car keeps losing electrical power. When the car loses power, you may experience slow cranking, or your engine keeps stalling.
  • When you hear a clicking noise when you turn the key.
  • When your car interior lights and headlights become dim.

Why is it paramount that you know how to clean your car battery?

  • Prevent corrosion and damage to your car battery.
  • They say, ” an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. The same philosophy applies to your car’s overall condition. Knowing how to clean your battery terminals will prevent any damages to its components.
  • As mentioned earlier, your battery has highly corrosive sulfuric acid. It’s can dangerous and will cause harm to you if it comes into contact with your skin by leaking.
  • Dead car battery
  • Problem starting the car
  • Short circuit on fuses and lights
  • Failing spark plugs
  • Failing car alternator

Dead car battery

Perhaps the most common issue car owners experience is a dead car battery. Just like most things, a car battery has a life span. Depending on the quality, most car batteries last for five to seven years with good care.

Problem starting the car

Are you finding yourself asking people to help jump start your car? A common problem is when your vehicle has a battery issues. Worn-out batteries don’t die instantly. If it keeps happening constantly, it is an indication you may need to replace your car battery or clean the terminals. 

Read my guide on how to fix car won’t start issues here.

Short circuit on fuses and lights

Like any other electrical connection, a faulty power source is likely to cause a short circuit. Blown fuses and lights maybe as a result of a problem with your car battery. 

Failing spark plugs

When the spark plugs are failing, you will experience an engine misfire. The misfire happens when the spark plugs stop producing power, which is attributed to battery problems. 

Failing car alternator

If the car alternator fails, it might send too much voltage to the battery, causing it to overheat. Or low voltage that prevents the car battery from charging. When this happens, you may notice the lights on your car dimming or the car stalling altogether.

Lack of charge controller

Car batteries don’t just power the electronics but also support the engine to power up. Different gadgets require different types of volts and power and handling the need should be done through a capable maintainer. My charge controller and wireless monitor never failed me.

Read my guide on how to fix alternator issues here.

Clean your battery terminals regularly

Regularly cleaning your battery terminus will prevent corrosive residue buildup.

Apply the best rust protector

Ensure the terminals are completely dry, and then apply the best rust protector. You may apply grease or petroleum jelly to protect the terminals from corrosion too.

Regularly inspect your battery terminals

Inspecting your battery from time to time will help you identify problems sooner and take action. For instance, replace bad alternators. Overcharging or undercharging your battery is a major cause of corrosion. 

Use anti-corrosion washers

Anti-corrosion washers are effective in preventing terminal corrosion. They put a sealing coat protecting the terminal from rust. Here’s the best anti corrosion battery terminal protector washer I use.

Use copper compression terminals

Copper compression terminals are made from tinned copper that provides complete contact allowing for equal distribution of electrical current. Here’s the best copper terminals for automotive batteries.

Wrap Up

So, to answer how to clean battery terminals, I’d say always use an alkaline solution. Baking soda with distilled water can do or you may get this complete cleaning kit and solution for convenience.

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