Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Is is safe to drive with a leaking car battery?

Safe to drive with a leaking car battery?

If you discover that your car battery is leaking, you should get it replaced immediately. It is not safe to drive with a leaking car battery. Here’s why:

Most batteries sold these days are maintenance free

Maintenance free batteries are designed to recombine they hydrogen gasses and water vapor given off during charging, so the battery doesn’t run low on water and battery acid. If the battery is leaking, that means the case is cracked or the seals have failed and that can release dangerous and highly explosive hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen is given off when a battery charges and your battery is often charging when you’re driving. So, it’s really not safe to drive with a leaking battery.

What to do if your car battery is leaking?

Purchase a new battery. Do not try and seal the leak. Wearing protective gloves and eye protection, disconnect the battery terminals and then the hold-down bracket and remove the leaking battery. Place it in a plastic container and return it to the store for credit.

Mix a solution of baking soda and water and pour it on all all areas where battery acid has contacted the metal components. This will neutralize the acid. Then rinse off the baking soda with water.

Leaking battery acid eats through steel

Leaking battery acid can damage the hold down brackets, battery tray and even the inner fender (if the battery is located under the hood). If the battery is in the trunk or under the back seat, leaking acid can eat through the floor of your trunk or the floor pan below the back seat.

What causes a battery to leak?

Overcharging a battery can cause it to spit out  battery acid

Overcharging a battery causes the acid to boil and build up internal pressure to the point where it vents to the outside, spitting acid out of the vent holes.

Over-tightening the battery hold-down bracket can crack the case and cause a battery leak

Many DIYers over-tighten the battery hold-down bracket when replacing a dead battery. Over time, that can cause the corner of the case to crack and leak battery acid. Here’s what that looks like.

Battery leak due to cracked case

Broken car battery case from over-tightening the battery hold-down bracket

Gap between the battery case and battery post

As batteries age and expand and contract, it’s not uncommon to see a battery start to leak at the base of the posts. This shows up and battery terminal corrosion. If you clean the corrosion and it returns quickly, you have a leak and it’s time to replace the battery.

car battery leaking

Corroded battery terminals due to cracked battery case and battery leak

leaking car battery

Notice the corrosion and the wetness on the top of the battery. This car battery is leaking between the case and the post

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Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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