How To Clean Battery Terminals

Cleaning battery connections on my car with the easy methods

Car batteries usually experience build-up of corrosion on the terminals and this is due to chemical processes.

Grime is also another cause of dirt on the battery that needs to be gotten rid of.

You need to maintain your car battery in the following ways to ensure that it is in good condition and so that it has a longer lifetime, since a well maintained car battery, has the capability to last more than four years.

Here is how to clean battery terminals below:

Step 1. Lift The Car Trunk And Assess The Battery’s Condition
Step 2. Check On The Corrosion That Is On The Car Battery As Well As The Car Cables
Step 3. Disconnect The Clamps
Step 4. Make A Solution Of Baking Soda To Use As Cleaning Agent
Step 5. Apply A Paste Of Baking Soda To The Connections Of The Battery
Step 6. Use A Suitable Knife To Scrap Off Build-Up Of Corrosion
Step 7. Use Water To Clean The Battery
Step 8. Use A Dry And Clean Rag To Wipe The Car Battery Terminals
Step 9. Apply Petroleum Jelly On The Terminals
Step 10. Connect The Car Clamps Back Onto The Battery

Cleaning your battery terminals is not difficult to do if you follow these ten steps above I provided.

You can now read some other related information you may want to learn about, and I have also written each step deeply you will have to take for cleaning car battery corrosion below.

What Should You Know Before Cleaning Car Battery Terminals?

Whenever you try to switch on your car and you notice a weak crank or nothing at all, then there are high chances the issue is with the car battery.

The highly likelihood for this is that the battery is poorly maintained or you simply left the car headlights or stereo on for a long time that the battery got drained.

However, when the trunk is opened the scene might be ugly; that of a dirty, greasy and highly corroded car battery.

Such is the case of poorly maintained car battery or one that is rarely cleaned.

What happens is the car battery terminals tend to oxidize at a fairly high rate even as the car engine just sits there idle.

This then leads to the white and ashy build up on the terminals that occur due to corrosion.

If this is the case, then you will just have to get your hands dirty; the car battery terminals have to be thoroughly cleaned for them to get back to good condition once again.

This will ensure that the car has no hindrance whatsoever when it comes to supplying power to your car.

Otherwise, the task is not difficult, you just have to ensure that you are not in harm’s way while undertaking it.

What Can I Use To Clean Battery Terminals? Here Is The List Of Car Battery Terminal Cleaning Kit

Car battery cleaning will need that you get all the following equipment so that you get the cleaning done fast and effectively:

  • A good choice of pliers
  • Protective gear like gloves or goggles
  • Special brushes that are used to clean car battery posts and clamps
  • A good wrench
  • An old toothbrush
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • A clean rag
  • Petroleum jelly or even grease

As seen above, most of the tools here are metallic meaning that shorting between the car and the battery is highly probable.

It is a safety measure that you avoid this baby not touching onto the terminals and the car frame or any other metallic part of the car.

Best Way To Clean Car Battery Terminals In 10 Easy Steps

You probably have decided to deal with the headache and clean the car battery terminals on your own.

The first step is to probably just switch off the car battery to prevent power from running through the connection as you will be dealing with water; water and electricity is not a good idea.

This should be easy provided you follow the procedure underlined below:

Steps 1. Lift The Car Trunk And Assess The Battery’s Condition

Unlike what most people think, cleaning the car battery should not be a difficult task; like not a fully hands on deck type.

You will realize that you will not even have to remove the car battery wholly from its position in the trunk of the car.

You just have to locate it in the trunk and set yourself up before you start.

The next step is to basically check on the condition of the car battery; if it is leaking or even if it has bulges on its side.

It would be risky for you to deal with a car battery that is wither cracked or leaks of acid which can turn out to be quite dangerous.

Cracks on the car battery will mean that you just have to buy a new one altogether.

Steps 2. Check On The Corrosion That Is On The Car Battery As Well As The Car Cables

The next step is to just use your eyes to check on the degree of corrosion on the car battery terminals.

This can be done by lifting up the plastic covers that cover the terminal of the car battery.

You should also check whether the corrosion has spread to the cables.

The white ashy substance is the corrosion that I am talking about here. It might appear as bluish deposit in some car batteries.

The cables should not be highly corroded as if that’s the case then you will just have to get a new set so that the power delivery to the car is at maximum capacity.

Steps 3. Disconnect The Clamps

The battery has to be disconnected next by loosening the clamps, the nuts have to be unfastened to accomplish this.

The wrench comes into play here when dealing with the nuts.

The first clamp you will have to loosen is the negative clamp that is usually marked with a “- “sign or is associated with a black or blue.

After removing the negative clamp, you can then move on to remove the positive clamp: has a “+” sign. This is a safety precaution that should not be taken for granted.

Depending on the degree of the corrosion build up, the car battery might turn out to be difficult to remove.

A good set of pliers might do the trick fairly well in a matter of seconds.

If you will be forced to work with the pliers, you should avoid shorting the car battery by touching the pliers on both a positive terminal and the car frame.

Step 4. Make A Solution Of Baking Soda To Use As Cleaning Agent

At this stage, a little chemistry education will have to play in.

You will need to make a fairly concentrated solution of baking soda with water; advising take three tablespoons of baking soda and mix with 20ml of water.

Miss the two baby stirring gently until you can get a thick paste, the stirring will have to continue until you see that the baking soda is dissolved well in the water.

If you are good in chemistry, then you will have probably understood why the baking soda is being used here.

Here, the baking soda is highly alkaline, while the corrosion is acidic in nature given it results from the reaction of the car electrolyte which is basically acidic.

When the two are combined, you get a neutralization reaction. This helps get rid of the dirt that prevents the normal functioning of your car battery in the trunk.

Step 5. Apply A Paste Of Baking Soda To The Connections Of The Battery

You will then have to take the old toothbrush and dip it into the paste of baking soda.

Rub the paste on the corroded parts of the car battery, when you see foam, then the activity is going on well.

Foam occurs due to the reaction of the acid and the alkaline paste. After applying, you will have to wait slightly more than quarter of an hour.

This will give the baking soda time to soak in and probably work to make the corrosion loose and hence scrapable.

You should avoid at all cost spilling the baking soda to other components in the car trunk.

This will help avoid complications in the normal working of the car in the coming future.

Step 6. Use A Suitable Knife To Scrap Off Build-Up Of Corrosion

Some batteries have a lot of corrosion that has probably stuck deeply on the terminals and hence you will need a scrapper.

The scrapper or even a good type of knife will do the trick of taking out the corrosion especially when you are dealing with tough and stubborn bits.

Once done with this type, you can get a handy wire brush and start working on the lesser deposits of corrosion. Even a normal steel wool or even a sponge will do the trick.

You should avoid putting yourself in even the slightest harm by wearing gloves; vinyl gloves used for washing dishes are recommended.

This will help avoid irritation due to your skin coming into contact with corrosion.

You could also go for a recommended set of special brushes that are used for the battery posts and clamps.

These are highly effective as they are designed especially for this task.

Step 7. Use Water To Clean The Battery

Once you have gotten rid of the corrosion deposits then you can use clean or even distilled water to clean the battery.

The water should not be too much, just enough to get the task accomplished.

Avoid filling the battery vents with baking soda solution and this will cause a reaction with the acid and thus cause it to be unable to perform well in its lifetime.

You should be able to notice the vents which are always along the sides of the car battery; they are connected to vent tubes which are long, and this directs to where harmful gases are disposed from the car.

Step 8. Use A Dry And Clean Rag To Wipe The Car Battery Terminals

Using dry rag, you will have to completely dry the car battery; since there will be water droplets at the top part.

A good rag is recommended as paper will only lea bits of itself over the car battery and this will not get the job done.

Step 9. Apply Petroleum Jelly On The Terminals

When you still have your vinyl dishwashing gloves, take the petroleum jelly and smear just enough on the either the positive and the negative terminals.

This is a maintenance practice that will significantly lower the chances of the car battery getting corroded soon.

Step 10. Connect The Car Clamps Back Onto The Battery

As you complete the task, your hands are probably greasy by now, you will have to reattach the clamps you had taken out.

This needs to be done tightly to ensure that the car battery is in place well. Unlike when you detached, here the positive terminal needs to be reattached first before going onto the negative terminal.

You should use your wrench to tighten them in place. You should then put the plastic covers back on top of the terminal junctions.

There, you have it the ten basic steps for cleaning your car battery. This is quite an easy task; you just have to be safe when you are going through it.

Here’s the video I found on YouTube. Hope it helps!

Why My Car Won’t Start After Cleaning Battery Terminals?

You might have just performed the task of cleaning your car battery and tried to switch on the car but it just won’t work.

The issue here might be because of a poor connection as you had probably hurried up after finishing the cleaning part.

You might not have connected the terminals back well or even the clamps as properly as it should be done.

This makes the connection unable to power up the car and hence you are unable to switch on the car normally.

You should probably open up the trunk and check the entire connection before trying to start the car again.

If the issue persists then you can call for a technician to have a look at the car battery.

In most cases you might even be dealing with an already dead battery and thus it is unable to power the car.

Immediate replacement is advised for you to be able to use your car once again.

For you to get the best car battery, I highly recommend you to read this product review.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have gathered several questions below that people often asked when it comes to cleaning auto battery terminals.

If you are still eager to find out what those are, I highly suggest you check those out!

Q1: What Is That White Powder On The Terminals?

The whitish powder that forms on the terminals car batteries, often in old car batteries, is caused as a result of corrosion. It may either be white, yellow or even bluish.

The corrosion is caused by the reaction of sulphate with the lead that is used in the manufacture of the battery posts.

You see, the car battery has a seal that is usually meant to prevent the spilling of the acid. However, the seal may get loose and hence causing the acid to spill over.

From your chemistry, you know that when an acid reacts with a metal, a salt is formed; which is the whitish or bluish powder.

This is most common in old batteries as their parts are in poor condition hence incapable of performing their role well.

This may also be as a result of overcharging the battery or even having excess of the electrolyte.

The powder also forms in most cars that are driven for short durations and trips, like to the mall and back.

This inhibits the alternator from running long enough in charging the car battery and hencecauses sulfation to occur; and thus the whitish powder.

Q1-1: Is White Powder On Battery Dangerous?

You might be wondering whether the white or bluish powder on your car battery can harm you.

The thing is it is just a type of salt formed from the reaction of the acid an the metallic terminals, and hence there is no harm it can cause.

Touching it will not harm you in any way but you do not have to try and taste it as some it may be poisonous.

However, you should not just touch it with your open skin as it might be having some percentages of unreacted acid.

When such acids come in to contact with the skin, they will leave you with an irritating skin or even when it comes into contact with an open eye.

Chemical burns are also another effect when they come into contact with your body.

If you accidentally let it come into contact with your body, then you should wash it off with a lot of water.

The whitish powder might not be of great harm to your skin, but it prevents the car battery from delivering adequate power to the car.

The car demands a certain amount of power for it to operate well and the whitish powder prevents this.

Q2: Will Corrosion Affect Car Battery?

The corrosion builds up on the car battery will obviously interfere with the normal working of the vehicle.

This is because it will cause issues with the connection and hence make it difficult for the ca battery to even start.

The last thing you want to deal with is a car that will not start; embarrassing especially if you are on a highway.

Challenges in starting the vehicle, poor cranking or even rapid clicking are signs that might indicate that the corrosion build up is just too much.

Such things as corrosion build up, bulges on the sides of the car battery or even a faulty terminal are what affect the lifetime of the car battery and hence why most batteries do not even live up to their expected lifetime of about four years.

They should be given early intervention to prevent the need to buy a new battery too soon as this will be costly.

Q3: Why Is Using Hot Water Better Than Cold Water?

Hot water is advised for usage as it gets the job done thoroughly unlike cold water.

Moreover, the corrosion is caused due to a chemical reaction and hence hot water will speed up the rate of clearing any unwanted substances like the corrosion build up in this case.

Q4: Can I Clean Battery Terminals While Connected?

No, you can’t clean the battery terminals while they are still connected. This will put every other electronic that uses the car battery as a juice box at risk.

You will have to disconnected the clamps on both the negative and positive terminals before you can even start the cleaning process.

You will need to disconnect the negative clamps first before moving on to disconnect the positive clamps.

This will help prevent being shocked while still handling a car battery that is only partially connected.

Electricity travels from the negative to the positive terminals and hence the reason why the negative terminals should be done with first.

Q5: Can I Use Coca Cola To Clean Battery Terminals?

Yes, you can. Coca cola works just as well as baking soda or any other good alternative works.

After disconnecting the clamps, you can pour a little bit of coca cola and add more if you observe the need to.

More amounts of coca cola will work to increase the rate at which the corrosion is being cleared.

A keen look and you will notice as there are bubbles being formed as the coke eats away both the corrosion builds up and rust.

After pouring the coke, you can move on to use the brush to clean the stubborn bits of the corrosion that are still on the terminals of the car battery.

Q6: Can I Also Use Vinegar To Clean Battery Terminals?

Yes, you can. If you can’t get baking soda, then vinegar will just get the job done as perfectly as baking soda would.

Vinegar is able to perform the same role as baking soda as a cleaning agent.

Both vinegar and baking soda are able to get the job done by reacting with the salt and ensuring that you are able to clean your car battery terminals well.

Q7: Is It Good Idea To Clean Battery Terminals With WD-40?

Yes, it is. The WD-40 is a highly effective method if you want to avoid the car battery from having the whitish powder build up-the corrosion build up.

It works just as well as any other option at your disposal and might even be discovered to be more effective than others as it is designed to get rid of moisture that encourages the rate of corrosion build up.

Q7-1: What Is WD-40 And How Does It Work?

As discussed above, there are numerous options that can be used to present the likelihood of the battery terminals corroding, some have been mentioned above; the WD-40 is another excellent option that you could go for. It works as follows:

The WD in WD-40 stands for “water displacement” and is a product that is manufactured to help preventing rusting and corrosion of equipment especially electrical ones.

It works through preventing the existence of moisture in this appliances and hence reducing the probability of corrosion occurring.

Some cases of battery terminals corroding are cause by water getting to the terminals, either just rain water or even as the car is being washed.

When it is sprayed on the terminals of the battery before the water incident then your car batteries will be safe.

This is because it is designed to act as a protective layer and prevent moisture from accessing the car battery terminals by all means.

This is a highly effective product that you might find to be as effective as applying petroleum jelly on the battery terminals.

Q8: How Much Will It Usually Cost To Clean Battery Terminals?

If you are busy that you are unable to clean your car battery terminals on your own, or rather you are unable to do it effectively, then you can have a specialist do the task.

You might probably be just missing the required tolls to get the job done. The good thing is thetas can be done by a specialist for not more than $20.

Q9: What Causes Acid Build Up On Battery Terminals?

You might have been wondering just how would the acid get to the surface of the car battery in the first place.

Normally, the acid in the battery is usually in the car battery and does not usually come out because of the seal used to cover any of the openings.

However, the seal might be tampered with and hence bits of the acid tend to spill of and get to the surface.

Some batteries are just too old that their parts are not that strong to keep the acid intact.

This cause the spilling of the acid to other parts of the car battery including the terminals.

When the acid gets to the terminals, it reacts with the metals forming a salt and that is the whitish powder you see on the car battery terminals.

All this is a chemical reaction that continues unless early intervention is made.

Q10: How Should You Keep Car Battery Terminals From Corroding?

There are quite a number of measures that can be taken to prevent the formation of corrosion on the terminals of the car battery.

One which is most effective, should target the major cause of the formation of the corrosion build up on the terminals of the car battery.

You will need basic regular maintenance practices to prevent your car battery terminals from corroding.

For instance, regular check-up is a must and also avoiding overcharging the car battery.

Old batteries that have bulges and cracks that are beyond repair should be replaced altogether in order to ensure that you are handling a battery that is safe.

Other highly effective options include applying petroleum jelly on the terminals will ensure that the battery does not get corrugated.

There are also special washers that prevent corrosion from occurring on the terminals of the car batteries.

You can also go for a special type of grease called dielectric grease that will help prevent corrosion from building up on the terminals of the car batteries.


Written by Kane Dan

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