Clean your battery terminals using common household items

You know that saying “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” right? The same applies to maintain your car, as regular car care activities for both the exterior and interior keep your vehicle away from problems that may arise in the future. One of the things most people tend to overlook is cleaning the battery terminals; something that may cause ignition problems. 

Avoiding future problems rooting from corroded battery terminals is easy; you just have to know how to properly clean them. But don’t worry about overspending, though, as cleaning your car battery terminals can be done using household materials. All that’s needed is an old toothbrush, a box of baking soda, a steel brush, a couple of rags, a jar of petroleum jelly, and you’re good to go. With all these items common to most households, we can now lay out the simple steps.

Are your battery terminals heavily corroded?

If you encounter problems starting your vehicle, you might want to check if there’s corrosive build up on your battery terminals. Corrosion is the snow-like powder you’d usually find if you haven’t checked on your battery terminals for a long time. It is caused by the evaporation of hydrogen gas from the sulfuric compound found inside the battery. The hydrogen gas trapped under the hood gets mixed with the varying elements in the atmosphere also trapped in the engine bay, forming bluish or whitish build up covering both the clamps and the terminals. 

Beware of corrosion on car battery terminals as it affects electrical supply, leading to problems like loss of power in your vehicle. This will make starting the car hard, or worse, prevent the car from starting up at all.

The cleaning solution

Baking soda

Since corrosion deposits are due to the sulfuric acid inside the battery, you will be needing a solution that will neutralize the acid. Scrubbing the build-up without neutralizing the acid first poses risks on your skin and your health. What you need to do is mix a tablespoon of baking soda into a cup of warm water. Mix it well and then set it aside. 

Before you even touch anything under the hood, apply a small amount of the solution on the corroded terminals just to dissolve the build-up, enough to access the nuts holding the clamps attached to the terminals. The solution will start to bubble up seconds after the application. This is the corrosion dissolving, as the baking soda mixture neutralizes the acid. Wash it off with water then wipe it dry with a clean rag. 

Take the clamps off the terminals

battery terminals

Separate the clamps connecting your battery to the car from the terminals using a crescent wrench. Disconnect the terminal with the negative (-) sign on it first using a 10-mm crescent wrench. You may also use an adjustable wrench if the aforementioned size is not available. Do the same thing to the positive-charged (+) terminal after the negative one’s been removed. You could easily differentiate the negative and positive terminals by their colors. Negative terminals are usually connected by a black cable and red cable for positive terminals.

Cleaning the terminals with the baking soda mixture

old toothbrush

Using an old regular toothbrush and the rest of the baking soda mixture, rub the battery terminals thoroughly. An old toothbrush works best than a rag as it has a long handle that keeps your hands from being exposed to both the solution and the corrosion. You also must make sure that you’re wearing rubber gloves, although the baking soda solution is safe to work with. Remember, safety comes first.

However, rubbing the solution won’t dissolve all corrosion that easily. This is why you need a steel brush. 

Chafe off excess build-up using a steel brush

steel brush

After the application of the baking soda paste, there will be a few remaining deposits that are hard to scrape off using a regular toothbrush. Time for a brush with stronger bristles to do the job – time to use a steel brush. Steel brushes are easy to find at any hardware store. It comes in varying shapes and sizes, depending on their usage. If in case, you don’t have a steel brush, you may improvise by using a bunch of steel wool and a stick. 

After you’re done scraping off, rinse the terminals with water and dry it using a clean cloth. Be careful in rinsing off the dissolved corrosion as it might get into the battery vents and mix with the battery fluid. Corrosion sipping into your battery could spell bigger problems that could result in replacing the battery.

Apply petroleum jelly to keep it from corroding again

petroleum jelly

Since corrosion is caused by the hydrogen gas excreted due to the sulfuric battery fluid, applying a hydrophobic substance could prevent it from happening. One of the most common hydrophobic substances in households is petroleum jelly. With gloved hands, use a finger to apply petroleum jelly to the cleansed battery terminals. 

Once done, place the clamps back on and tighten it with a wrench. Some cables come with rubber caps protecting the battery terminals and clamps. Put these covers back on and, voila, you’re all set with a clean car battery. Remember to regularly check your battery for leaks, as the recurring presence of corrosion may mean there’s a possible problem lying around. 

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