Understanding Battery Terminals
When performing this task, you should wear the proper protective eyewear and a face shield. Also, batteries tend to generate hydrogen gas, which is highly explosive, so make sure you stay clear of any open flames, and do not smoke while working on your vehicle. Finally, in the event of a chemical spill from the battery, you’ll need to neutralise the area with a paste made of baking soda and water or with battery cleaning liquid. After scraping off any left-over residue, you can rinse the area with water and resume your inspection or repair.
Tools and Materials Needed
First off, you’ll need to gather the necessary supplies such as:
- A spanner (or a socket wrench set just in case more than one size is needed)
- A mixture of a pint of water and baking soda
- A ratcheting screwdriver
- Protective gloves
- An old toothbrush
- Old rags and towels (make sure they’re clean)
- Petroleum jelly
- A battery brush (optional)
Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide
Make sure all tools and supplies are well within reach and that your car is parked in a level spot. This could be your driveway, garage (keep the door open for ventilation), or your parking spot by the curb. In the case of the latter, make sure you’re not blocking traffic or violating any of your local ordinances. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure your engine has cooled down completely.
2. Inspecting the Battery
Once you lift the bonnet, you’ll need to don your protective gloves and eyewear and closely inspect the battery for cracks and leaks. If you find anything of the sort, take the battery to a professional for a health check instead of starting the cleaning process. In that situation, you’ll need a replacement.
3. Disconnecting the Battery
If the battery passes your inspection, then you can move on to the next step which is to disconnect it. After you remove the plastic caps that cover the terminals, use the socket spanner to loosen the nut on the negative terminal. Then remove the cable and set it aside. Afterward, repeat the same steps to remove the positive terminal.
4. Removing Battery Corrosion
Next, you’ll dip your toothbrush into the baking soda/water solution and start scrubbing off any corrosion that you find around the base of the posts. You can also reverse this step with the previous one if the corrosion makes it difficult to unfasten the nuts to disconnect the terminals. Just make sure not to spill or splatter the solution all over the area.
5. Cleaning the Battery Terminals
Now, you can start cleaning the actual terminals. As you scrub, using the solution and toothbrush, apply some pressure to ensure that you remove all the buildup from inside the terminals. If you find that you need something coarser, feel free to use a battery brush. Also, you’ll need to scrub the posts until you see a sheen on both. Then using a spray bottle of plain water, carefully rinse off the solution. Another variation is to use a damp, clean rag to wipe off the leftover solution.
6. Drying and Reconnecting
Once you’ve completely cleaned and rinsed the terminals, you can now take a clean towel to dry them off along with any surrounding areas that may have gotten wet. After a few minutes of additional air drying (just in case), you can apply a small amount of petroleum jelly on the terminals. This will help with lubrication, which makes the reattachment easier and provides protection against future corrosion. Finally, you’ll reattach the positive and the negative cables in that exact order.
7. Preventive Measures
You can also take some preventive measures against corrosion. One is to apply a generous coat of dielectric grease or battery terminal protector. Neither of these products should affect the connection. Also, you’ll need to avoid over or undercharging the battery in the future. The overcharging causes corrosion on the positive terminal while undercharging corrodes the negative.