How to Clean a Car Battery Terminal
If you have an old battery or a mechanical failing, that’s probably going to require intervention from an automotive specialist. But if the problem is simply that the terminals on your battery need to be cleaned, that’s something you can do yourself.
Here’s what you need to do to make sure your battery terminals are spotless:
- First and foremost, turn off your engine. While cleaning the terminals is a fairly straightforward DIY project, there is still a slight risk of injury. You can avert this risk simply by making sure you have the engine turned off while you work.
- Next, loosen the nut holding your negative cable in place; you’ll likely need a wrench for this. Detach the cable from the post. Then, follow the same steps with the positive cable.
- Take just a moment to visually inspect your car battery. Specifically, look for any fissures or cracks. If you see any, that means there’s a problem with your car battery that you probably won’t be able to fix on your own; more likely than not, you’re looking at the need for a battery replacement.
- You’ll also want to look at the cables and clamps themselves. Again, what you’re looking for is very obvious evidence of wear and tear. If your cables or clamps have big rips or tears, you’ll probably need to have them replaced. These things really can’t be mended.
- Assuming you don’t see any of these obvious signs of wear and tear, you’ll want to mix your cleaning solution—one tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of water. Mix ‘em up thoroughly, then dip an old toothbrush into the mixture.
- Use the toothbrush to scrub away any signs of corrosion you see on your battery terminals. Don’t be afraid to really scour thoroughly to get things squeaky clean. You may have to soak your toothbrush in the baking soda mixture a couple of times as you keep scrubbing away.
- When you finish, use a spray bottle with cool water to rinse off any residue. It is imperative to make sure all baking soda and corrosion is washed away. Then, use an old rag or towel to pat the battery and clamps completely dry.
- Use a little bit of petroleum jelly to lubricate the terminals.
- Reattach the cables to their correct terminals.
That’s the basic guide to cleaning your battery terminals—but here’s an alternate approach: If you’re on the go and don’t have access to the above supplies, see if you can find a Coca-Cola or a Pepsi somewhere, and pour it over the terminals. Let it sit for two or three minutes, then rinse your battery clean with cool water. Note: You’ll want to follow the same basic safety steps we outlined above, including turning off your engine and detaching the cables.
You wash, wax, and vacuum your car to keep it looking sharp. But have you ever considered cleaning things under the hood? By cleaning your vehicle’s battery terminals, you can actually help the car battery perform stronger, longer! We’ll show you how to clean the terminals and help prevent car battery corrosion in only FIVE steps—with materials you probably already have at home!
5 Steps to Clean Corroded Battery Terminals
- Protective gloves, like dish gloves
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush
- Petroleum jelly
Step 1: Mix up your homemade battery cleaner.
The recipe is simple. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of water, and stir it together until it’s thoroughly mixed.
Step 2: Undo the cables from the battery and inspect it.
Make sure your engine is off. Pop open your hood and undo the negative and then positive cable attached to your battery. (Turn to your owner’s manual for help on this part.) Then, assess your battery. Buildup, battery corrosion, and grime on the terminals can greatly impact your engine and battery performance. If you notice that the battery case is leaking, swollen, or bloated, skip the cleaning and head straight to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for a new battery. Yours is on its way out!
Step 3: Dip a toothbrush in your cleaner and start scrubbing!
Grab an old toothbrush, dip it in your baking soda cleaner, and start scrubbing the terminals. This will take a little bit of elbow grease and you’ll need to continuously clean off the toothbrush as you work. Clean the terminals thoroughly, until all of the buildup has been removed.
Step 4: Rinse off the residue with water and dry.
After you’ve removed all of the corrosion and dirt from the terminals, give the battery a quick rinse. Fill up a spray bottle with a bit of water and spray down the terminals. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can also wipe everything down with a damp rag. Then, use another rag to dry the terminals completely.
Step 5: Rub petroleum jelly onto the terminals and reattach the cables.
Once the terminals are dry, dab a bit of petroleum jelly onto them. This will lubricate them, help prevent further corrosion, and help strengthen the connection. Reattach the positive and negative cables, and you’re all set!
Keeping your car battery clean can help get things moving when your car won’t start and battery flow is weak. Staying on top of your battery’s charge is crucial to avoid getting stranded. Stop by for a free battery test at your convenience! Our technicians will let you know just how much “life” is left in your battery so you can hit the road with peace of mind – and a new battery, if necessary!