A corroded car battery in need of cleaning

If your vehicle is struggling to start, it’s a good indication that there is a problem with the battery. Now before you shell out money on a new car battery, keep in mind that one of the most common battery-related issues–corrosion–can be fixed by simply knowing how to clean a car battery properly. With a little elbow grease (and perhaps a little luck), your battery will be corrosion-free and performing as it should in no time flat.

What Causes Car Battery Corrosion?

Battery corrosion occurs when the sulfuric acid in your car battery releases hydrogen gas that reacts with the metal terminals and moisture in the air. The result is a white or light blue powder-like substance that adheres to your vehicle’s battery. Typically corrosion starts to build up on the negative terminal. Corrosion is a poor conductor of electricity and if it accumulates, it can weaken your battery’s connection and affect its ability to charge and/or start your vehicle. And while there’s not really anything you can do to prevent corrosion from occurring, you’ll be pleased to know that removing corrosion from your battery is a fairly simple process you can handle on your own with a few household items.

Cleaning Corrosion Off A Car Battery

If your vehicle cranks without starting, it’s likely a battery issue. And hopefully that issue is that built-up corrosion and not something more serious. This is by far the easiest and cheapest issue to rectify. Cleaning corrosion off of your car battery can help strengthen the terminal connections and keep your battery operable for longer. To clean corrosion off of your vehicle’s battery, all you’ll need is some hot water, some baking soda, and a wire brush or toothbrush (might we suggest an old toothbrush). 😉 

Step One: Turn Off the Vehicle

Before tampering with anything under the hood of your car, the first step is always to shut off the engine. If your car has been running fairly recently, it’s best to let it sit and cool for a few minutes before beginning.

Step Two: Disconnect the Battery

With an adjustable wrench, loosen the nut on the negative terminal and remove the connector. Once that is disconnected, repeat this step on the positive terminal.

Step Three: Check for Battery Damage

Now that your battery is disconnected, give it a quick visual examination. If you see any substantial damage (cracks, dents, etc.), then excessive corrosion may not be the cause of your battery dilemma. You can still proceed, but if your battery is damaged, it might be time to look into replacing it anyway.

Step Four: Mix Baking Soda and Hot Water

Mix a tablespoon of baking soda into a cup of hot water and stir until it makes a paste. Dip your wire brush or toothbrush in the solution and use it to scrub away any visible corrosion on the battery itself. The baking soda solution will neutralize the acidic corrosion.

Step Five: Rinse and Dry

Rinse any excess corrosion and baking soda concoction away with clean water. Once the battery has been thoroughly cleaned, make sure it is dry before reconnecting. You can use a towel or air compressor to speed up the process, but if you have the time, letting it air dry is fine too.

Step Six: Reconnect the Battery and Start the Vehicle

Reconnect the positive terminal first followed by the negative terminal (opposite of step two). Once the battery is reinstalled properly, go ahead and start up the vehicle. If it starts up as it should, congratulations! You’re all done! If it still struggles, it might be time to have your battery tested and/or start pricing out newer options.

BONUS: Is it Safe to Pour Coke on a Car Battery?

We’ve heard this semi-viral “life hack” before. Basically, it says that pouring Coca-Cola on a corroded vehicle battery will effectively rid your battery of any visible corrosion. And while it would never be our first plan of attack, we can confirm that yes, if you’re in a pinch, pouring Coca-Cola on the corroded terminal should get the job done. Just be sure to rinse and dry it thoroughly before reconnecting the battery.

Conclusion

Your vehicle isn’t going anywhere without a fully operational battery. And while knowing how to clean a car battery can help prolong your battery’s life, the fact of the matter is that no battery is going to last forever regardless of how well it is maintained. So if you run into a battery issue that can’t be solved with baking soda and water (or Coca-Cola), stop by and see the experts at Telle Tire. We specialize in batteries and electrical systems and would be happy to help you diagnose and rectify any issues relating to either.