The Best Method on How to Clean Car Battery Terminals

Jul 20, 2018 | Same topic: Handy maintenance tips
Let us guide you on how to clean car battery terminals safely and thoroughly.

Batteries are amongst the car engine’s parts that have a great contribution to the vehicle’s performance but are often ignored. In fact, not everyone knows how to clean car battery terminals, or worst, they have no idea that car batteries need to be cleaned.

Generally, the batteries are responsible for storing electricity that is needed to ignite the fuel for the engine to work. Once their terminals or connections are covered with corrosion and dirt, electrical power won’t be able to flow and delivered to the engine properly. Hence, your car won’t start, and you get stuck in the middle of the traffic, in the parking lot, or anywhere else.

Sample of by-products of corrosion

White deposits that indicate corrosion

When you come to a point wherein you need to clean your vehicle’s battery terminals, you actually do not need to bring it to the auto shop because you can do it on your own with very minimal cost.

1. What Precautions Do You Need to Take Before Cleaning the Battery Terminals?

Before we start learning the manner on how to clean car battery terminals, let us give you some safety tips that you need to keep in mind.

1.1. Read the Car’s Manual

One of the most common car maintenance mistakes of people is that they ignore the owner’s manual, which is totally wrong because it has all the information that they need about the car. In this situation, you need it so that you can locate where the battery is; some have it in front while others at the back of the car. The manual will also help you become familiar with the parts of the battery and the terminals.

1.2. Turn the Engine Off

Of course, the car shouldn’t be running when you clean the battery terminals as it will surely injure you and damage the car. It is then, highly recommended that you wait for at least 30 minutes after the car engine has been turned off before beginning the task. Nonetheless, if it has been parked for quite some time, you can already proceed.

1.3. Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Don’t get us wrong; the method of cleaning is not too technical and dangerous but, of course, you must always be ready for any untoward incidents. Usually, the corrosion on the terminals is caused by a buildup of car battery acid, so it is required that you wear goggles and gloves; you may also wear an apron if you want to.

>>> More tips for car battery maintenance on Philkotse.com:

2. How to Clean Car Battery Terminals Safely and Effectively?

Now that you and your car are all prep up and you have located the battery, it’s time to learn the basics of cleaning the car battery terminals or connections. The method below will only take you an hour or less, and both inexperienced and experienced individuals can perform it.

2.1. Cleaning Solutions

First off, you need to understand that there are different cleaning solutions that you can use. You can buy them in the designated stores, or they are just around your kitchen.

  • Battery Cleaner Spray: This is a ready-made solution that contains chemicals, which can soften and release by-products of corrosion and deep-seated dirt, as well as neutralize the acid. Some brands even contain special acid indicators to allow you to determine the extent of corrosion.
  • Homemade Solution: If you want to spare some cash, look into your kitchen pantry and search for the ultimate cleanser: the baking soda! For this, just carefully mix one teaspoon of soda to one cup or a pint of water until it forms a paste. As similar to cleaner sprays, this solution can also neutralize the acid and release corrosive materials.

2.2. Cleaning Tools

For the tools, you’ll need a brush (old toothbrush, special battery terminal brush, wire brush, or soft-bristled brush), two soft rags or pieces of clean cloth, and petroleum jelly or protective spray. At times, you might also need a wrench or pliers.

old toothbrush cleaning car battery terminals

An old toothbrush is a helpful tool to clean car battery terminals

2.3. The Method

Cleaning car battery terminal deposits involves the following simple steps:

Step #1: Cover Removal and Inspection

Car batteries have either two plastic or rubber covers that need to be removed or opened in order for you to have access to the battery clamps, which are responsible for connecting the cables to the battery terminals.

Check the car battery terminal clamps and cables to determine if there are wears and tears. If there are, do note that they should be replaced immediately. Similarly, inspect the battery case for any signs of leaking, bloating, and swelling; if any of those are present, do not proceed to the cleaning process since you are already required to replace it with a new one.

Step #2: Terminal Disconnection

Locate the battery’s terminal with a negative or minus sign (-) symbol then start to loosen its clamp by turning it counterclockwise; you might need the help of a wrench or pliers, depending on the extent of corrosion. For side-post batteries, the next thing to do is to loosen its cable until it’s removed, while for top-post batteries, you might be required to carefully wiggle and pry the end of the cable for it to be removed. Do the same for the positive terminal.

car Battery Terminals

Correctly identify the (+) and (-) terminals

Step #3: Clean the Deposits

For the baking soda solution, follow these steps:

  1. Spray the terminals if the solution is placed in a spray bottle. Upon contact, you would expect a sizzling effect, and this is totally normal and indicates that the corrosion or dirt is being neutralized. If not placed in a spray bottle, dip the brush into the solution or pour some on the terminal's surface.
  2. Slowly and firmly, but not too hard, scrub the terminals and clamps with the help of the brush.

Baking soda at work on car battery terminals

When it sizzles, it's neutralizing

For the battery cleaner spray, this is what you need to do:

  1. First off, read and follow the manufacturer’s guide.
  2. Spray the terminals and clamps and leave it for a few minutes or until you notice color dissipation.
  3. After which, repeat the process a few times until you no longer observe any color changes.
  4. Brush the terminals and clamps.

Step #4: Rinse, Dry, and Treat

For this step, you need to have a clean spray bottle that contains clean water. Spray the areas that you have brushed in order to remove all the deposits that have been loosened. Then, follow it up with a clean cloth so that you are assured that all the deposits are removed. Once done, get another clean cloth or rag and dry thoroughly. When everything is all dried up, lubricate the terminals with petroleum jelly or spray them with a special protective spray (again, follow the product instruction).

Step #5: Battery Terminal Reconnection

The last thing to do is to reconnect the cables and clamps. At this point, you must start by connecting the positive end followed by the negative. Then, put the clamps and tighten them by turning them clockwise with the help of a wrench or pliers.

Battery Terminal Clamps

Don't forget to tighten the clamps!

If you need more assistance, here's a helpful video for you:

How to clean car battery terminals using a baking soda solution

3. Final thoughts: Treat Your Car’s Battery Well

Remember that your car’s battery is designed to have a long lifespan, but it wouldn’t reach that and perform well if you won’t take care of it. Maintain it and keep it free from any deposits by following Philkotse.com’s five steps on how to clean car battery terminals.

Source: Charisse Kim