How to clean battery terminals
Step by step on how to clean battery terminals and posts
Before we start with the car battery corrosion cleaning procedure let’s get the terminology out of the way. The battery post is part of the battery the cable and terminal connect to while the terminal is part of the battery cable itself.
Why did I bring this up? Because you’ll find LOTS of articles and videos out there that pretend to show you how to clean battery posts and terminals with Coke, vinegar, spray battery cleaner and baking soda.
Those products will wash away the visible car battery corrosion, the powdery white and blue corrosion substance on the outside of the battery terminals. But those products will NOT remove the corrosion between the terminal and the battery post. You’ll think you’ve done a great job because the terminal looks good on the outside, and you will succeed in removing the VISIBLE corrosion. But you’ll still have corrosion in the electrical connection and THAT corrosion, and the high electrical resistance it causes is what kills car batteries and alternators in the first place. In fact, that corrosion can reduce starting power and cause added stress to your charging system.
Proper battery terminal and post-cleaning requires disconnecting the terminals from the posts. However, many late-model vehicles require constant power to retain memory settings for the electronic throttle body, radio, memory seats, power mirrors, steering wheel angle sensor, and anti-pinch power windows. If your vehicle has any of those features, you MUST provide backup power to the PCM/ECM while cleaning the battery terminals and posts. If you don’t, you’ll have to perform re-learn procedures for every component. On some vehicles, loss of the electronic throttle body zero calibration can result in a NO-START condition, rough idle or a lack of power (can’t accelerate past 20-MPH). If you don’t have the equipment to provide backup power, at least find the re-learn procedures so you can perform them after reconnecting the battery. See this post for information on how to provide backup power when cleaning battery terminals or changing the battery.
Tools required for proper car battery corrosion cleaning
Nitrile gloves to protect your hands
Battery terminal and post-cleaning brush
Acid neutralizer or aerosol battery terminal cleaner/neutralizer
Household spray cleaner and paper towels
Aerosol battery protector spray.
Step 1 Remove the NEGATIVE battery terminal
Using the correct size socket (usually a 10mm), loosen the hex nut on the negative battery terminal. Then wiggle the terminal and lift it off the post and out of the way. If you can’t remove the terminal, use a battery terminal puller.
Step 2 Remove the POSITIVE battery terminal
Following the same procedure as above, remove the positive battery terminal from the post and set it aside.
Step 3 Clean off all powdery residue on the top of the battery
Wipe off the powdery corrosion residue with a paper towel. Discard the towel
Step 4 Apply acid neutralizer to the battery top, posts, and terminals
Mix baking soda with water and brush onto the battery cover, posts, and terminals. Wipe off with paper towels to dry.
Step 5 Use the battery post brush to remove post corrosion
Slide the battery terminal brush onto
the battery terminal and rotate the brush several rotations. Remove the brush and check the post surface for remaining corrosion. Repeat if necessary until the post looks shiny.
Step 6 Use the battery terminal brush to clean the terminals
Slide the tapered wire brush into the terminal and rotate until the inside of the terminal is shiny. Repeat on each terminal. Then wire brush the outside of the terminal to remove any remaining corrosion.
Step 7 Clean the top of the battery
Grease accumulation on the top of the battery case can drain a small amount of current from the battery. So clean it off using a degreasing household cleaner. Spray it onto a paper towel and wipe off the dirt.
Step 8 Re-attach the POSITIVE battery terminal
Slide the positive battery terminal onto the positive post and tighten the hex nut with a socket until you can no longer rotate the terminal.
Step 9 Re-attach the NEGATIVE battery terminal
Follow the step above to re-install the negative battery terminal
Step 10 Spray both terminals with a battery protector spray
If the corrosion returns quickly after cleaning, see this post for the cause
For information on how to replace a battery terminal, see this post.
©, 2018 Rick MuscoplatPosted on by Rick Muscoplat