Everything you need to know about battery electrolytes

Updated Dec 31, 2019 | Same topic: Technical Car Terms to Know

What are car battery electrolytes? Should you worry when the electrolyte level is low? What should you do?

Most cars only have one car battery while some owners choose to have two. Regardless of how many your car has, a car battery’s job is no secret. At this time, we’re sure you know how important its role is in your car. You may also be aware of the liquid electrolyte that’s inside your car battery. But what if you were able to replace that with another type of liquid? Would your battery allow it? How would it affect the performance of your vehicle? Is there anything else you need to know about it? Know more about it right in this article from Philkotse.com:

1. The liquid inside your car battery

Battery electrolyte is a substance that you can find in most standard car batteries. Another name for this is battery acid. It’s called this way because of one obvious reason: the electrolyte is extremely acidic. As a matter of fact, electrolytes in a car battery are usually a combo of sulfuric acid and water.

If you let the level of electrolytes in your car battery drop too low, you may start wondering what liquid you can put in it. If you know a lot about electrolytes, you may start wondering which one to use for your battery.

car battery electrolytes

Battery Electrolyte is a substance that you can find in most standard car batteries

The question is, can you fill your battery with other substances like baking soda, saltwater, or even Gatorade? If you didn’t have the actual electrolytes for the car, would you consider using any of these in an emergency? We’ll keep the answer short and sweet for you this time. No, you should never put any of those in your lead-acid battery.

Gatorade contains electrolytes and the company makes sure people know it on ads. Saltwater also has electrolytes. Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda also breaks down to become electrolytes. Despite those facts, you should never even consider pouring any of these in your car battery.


Gatorade contains electrolytes and the company makes sure people know it on ads

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2. What can you add?

If your battery is ever in need of a top-off, the only thing you need to feed it with is straight water. You can also consider sulfuric acid. But this only applies to rather specific circumstances -- such as if you tip the battery over accidentally. The electrolyte might leak so adding sulfuric acid will help it function properly again. Aside from that, never add any other liquid in your battery.

adding water in car battery

If your battery is ever in need of top-off, the only thing you need to feed it with is straight water

>>> FYI: 10 reasons of a weak car battery

3. Why should I worry if the battery’s electrolyte level is low?

If an expert, a car enthusiast friend, or a licensed professional told you that your battery electrolyte level is low, this could only mean one thing: that the fluid level in the battery cell is below the lead plate. This could be the case with one battery cell or more.

Your car battery is made of lead plates submerged under a combination of sulfuric acid and water. These two ingredients are what make the electrolyte. It’s highly important that the electrolyte never drops below a critical level in all cells. It should always be above the lead plates.

If you let the electrolyte drop below the plate top, and it has contact with air, sulfation will start to take place. This is a chemical process that you do not want to happen to your car battery. It can dramatically shorten the service life of your battery.

This process interferes with the cells’ normal operation. The lead plates absorb the sulfuric acid when the battery discharges. It is then released to the electrolyte once your battery is charged up.

car battery with low electrolyte

Never let the electrolyte drop below the plate’s top, as it must not have contact with air

>>> Also check: How to keep car battery from dying and everything you need to know

4. Adding the right electrolyte to your car battery

Gatorade and other sports drinks are packed with electrolytes. Unfortunately, these aren’t the electrolytes that your battery needs. Why is that so? That’s because these electrolyte drinks made for people are mainly composed of potassium and sodium. These can also have traces of chlorine, magnesium, and calcium. The other sources of electrolytes mentioned earlier are also packed with the non-compatible type of electrolytes.

adding water in the car battery

Aside from water and sulfuric acid, never add any other liquid in your battery

>>> Make sure you know: 7 factors that affect your car's battery life expectancy

When it comes to salt water, it has sodium chloride as its electrolyte. In the case of baking soda, sodium bicarbonate is the main component. If you add anything other than water to a battery, this will instantly receive damage. But some liquid elements can cause worse effects than others.

For example, baking soda will undoubtedly neutralize your battery’s sulfuric acid content. If you read our other articles related to battery maintenance, you’d know that baking soda and water can clean corrosion. You can use this to clean the cables and battery terminals.

An even better representation is the vinegar-volcano experiment. If your teacher had you do this in science class, you pretty much have an idea of what will happen to your battery.

Hanna Sanchez

Hanna Sanchez


Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.

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