Car battery corrosion is one of the main causes of decreased battery life and performance. Not only can built up battery corrosion prevent your vehicle from starting—which would be a hassle in the morning when you’re heading to work—but it can lead to a number of other issues, including damage to the vehicle’s air conditioning and electrical wiring.
Luckily, car battery corrosion is easy to spot. Very often, and especially with older batteries, you will start to notice a white, green or blue-tinged covering around your vehicle’s battery terminals, battery posts, or battery cables. This build-up of chemical garbage reduces the conduciveness of the battery, and leads to a transient current flow, which is a fancy way of saying that it can result in a malfunctioning battery due to electrical resistance.
Keeping your vehicle battery clear of corrosion promotes an extended battery life and battery performance. But fear not! The process of cleaning battery corrosion is straightforward and simple, and can be done by anyone.
Yes, even you.
Follow these simple 6 easy steps to remove car battery corrosion.
Disconnect Your Battery Cables
To avoid being struck with electricity and being severely burnt, make sure to disconnect the negative battery cable BEFORE the positive battery cable.
You can identify negative and positive cables by checking what they’re marked by: the negative sign (-), the abbreviation ‘NEG’, and/or the colour black; and the positive sign (+), the abbreviation ‘POS’, and the colour red.
Check the Battery Cables for Damage
Damaged and worn battery cables are a common culprit for non-starting engines. If you notice that the cables’ insulation is showing signs of corrosion, or are frayed, splintered, peeled, dried, or cracked in any way, then that should serve as an indication that you should have them replaced straight away.
Remove the Corrosion from the Battery and Battery Terminals
Once the cables have been removed, you can focus your energy on the removal and neutralization of the battery corrosion. There are a few different methods to accomplish this step, so we’ll briefly delve into the best of them.
- Where there is corrosion on the battery and battery cables, apply a battery cleaning agent. Your best bet would be to opt for commercial grade battery cleaners. These will not only clear the corrosion from the battery, but will also neutralize the battery acid. If you don’t have access to any commercial grade cleaners, there exists some common household items you could use instead, such as baking soda and Coca-Cola. However, while some people swear by Coca-Cola as an effective and cost-efficient method, we suggest you exercise some caution, as the beverage contains synthetic sugars and phosphoric acid that can be damaging to your engine.
- The baking soda method, for its part, is tried and true as well as simple to perform. All you need is a glass of water and a teaspoon of baking soda to prepare the solution. Then use an old toothbrush or bristled brush to scrub said solution on the corroded areas. Cover the battery terminals and other corroded areas with a coat of baking soda. Then pour a small amount of water on each terminal. You’ll notice the two ingredients react with each other when they start bubbling. This neutralizes the acidic corrosion and makes it safe to handle. If you need to, repeat the same process on the battery cable ends.
Rinse and Dry
After that, you’ll want to use your tooth-brush or bristled brush to scrub the corrosion off.
Be careful not to let the solution nor the corrosive elements fall on the other engine components to keep your car protected from the damage these could potentially cause. We advise you to take the battery out completely, if possible.
Also, be warned: if you use professional-grade supplies, don’t let the battery-cleaning agent come in contact with your vehicle’s paint job, as some cleaning-agents can permanently stain your vehicle.
Once you’ve scrubbed away all the corrosion, rinse the battery and cable ends completely with clean water and let it all dry.
If you can, use an air compressor to speed things up.
Take Some Corrosion-Preventative Steps
Apply anti-corrosion pads once everything dries. Also known as battery terminal protectors, these little guys help protect to your battery posts. Use pads coated in a battery-corrosion preventative compound.
Alternatively, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly on the battery terminals once everything is dried off. This will serve to improve electricity conduciveness between the terminal and the cable-end. It will also help protect the battery terminals from future corrosion. Be generous in the amount that you use.
Reconnect Your Battery to Your Vehicle
Once you clear the corrosion (step 3), let everything dry completely (step 4), and apply some preventative substances to your battery parts (step 5), you’re ready to reconnect your battery to your vehicle.
Do this in REVERSE order to avoid injury. Start with connecting the positive battery terminal first, followed by the negative one.
At this point, if you want to apply extra battery-corrosion preventative compounds, go ahead!
Want to Skip Steps 1 to 6?
Car battery corrosion removal is a must-know maintenance task. Keeping your battery clean will add years to its lifespan and help maintain its performance levels.
You’re now equipped with the knowledge to get the job done yourself, but if you prefer, you can always bring your vehicle in to your trusted neighbourhood Go Auto location for your battery maintenance needs.
- Further Reading: The Newbie’s Guide to Car Battery Maintenance