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Battery Terminal Cleaning: Tools, Steps + Safety Techniques

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Battery terminal cleaning is needed when the battery has leaked acid, when weather conditions have led to filth, or even because of age. Here's what to do.

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  • Battery Terminal Cleaning: Tools, Steps + Safety Techniques

Over time, grime can build up on your car's battery, sometimes leading to corrosion and even acid leaking from your battery. To maintain the lifespan of this precious (and expensive) component, it's valuable to inspect and clean the battery terminals regularly.

Depending on the state of corrosion, you can do this at home. Follow these steps to carry out your own battery terminal cleaning.

Keep in mind : This guide is for combustion-engine cars only. You should never attempt to clean the battery of an electric car, as this is both highly dangerous and ineffective.

Step 1: Gather The Right Tools

First off, make sure you've gathered the necessary equipment to perform a safe and thorough job. You may have some or all of these items at home already. Gather up:

  • Baking soda.
  • An old toothbrush.
  • Water.
  • Towels/rags.
  • Protective gloves.
  • Wrench.
  • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
  • Optional : A battery brush.

Before you start, check that your engine is off and lift the bonnet of your vehicle. Now, visually inspect the battery to ensure that it isn't cracked or leaking.

If it is, don't start the cleaning process yet. Instead, call your local Autofusion for a free battery health check. This will ensure you don't accidentally damage the terminal or run your car on a defective battery, which is dangerous.

If nothing is cracked or leaking, you can begin the process.

Step 2 – Mix Your Battery Cleaning Solution

To create an effective at-home cleaning solution, simply mix:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of baking soda .
  • 1 pint of water.

Stir together until the two are thoroughly combined.

Step 3 – Initial Scrub And Dry

Using this mixed solution, you can begin scrubbing.

  • Dip the toothbrush into the solution.
  • Scrub the terminals and around the base of the posts, one at a time.
  • Take care when applying the solution, so you don't spill it over other components.
  • Now, pat them dry with a clean, dry cloth.

This initial clean should help you to remove the terminals from the posts in the next step.

Step 4 – Remove The Terminals, Negative First

Now you should remove the terminals. This can get tricky, so be sure to:

  • Start with the negative post (marked with a minus symbol and sometimes coloured black).
  • Use a wrench to loosen the nut and remove the terminal.
  • Do the same for the positive post (marked with a plus symbol and sometimes coloured red).
    • It's crucial that you remove them one at a time and in this order. This will keep yourself and your battery safe.
  • You may need to twist and pull in order to remove each of the terminals.
    • If you find this step particularly difficult, enlist the help of a pair of pliers.
    • When using metal tools, be careful to stay well away from the positive terminal while the negative is still connected.

If you still can't get the terminals off, they may have corroded severely. In this case, give Autofusion a call.

Step 5 – Clean The Inside Of The Terminals

Once the terminals are free, you can:

  • Take a battery brush or your toothbrush.
  • Dip it in your battery cleaning solution.
  • Clean the inside of the terminal.
  • Rotate the brush back and forth to remove as much corrosion and grime as possible.

Step 6 – Scrub The Posts

After this:

  • Using the brush and cleaning solution, clean the outsides of the posts that were previously covered by the terminals.
  • Ensure that the two posts are uniformly shiny (or at least, as close to shiny as you can get them).

Step 7 – Clean The Top Of The Battery, Rinse, And Dry

To finish up:

  • Use a rag made damp with your cleaning solution.
  • Wipe the top of the battery (it's often surprisingly mucky).
  • With the bulk of the cleaning done, give the battery a "rinse" by using a damp cloth to wipe it down.
  • Dry all components with a towel.

Step 8 – Reattach The Terminals, Positive First

This is the final step.

  • Before you reattach the terminals, dab some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) onto them. A little goes a long way here.
    • This provides lubrication for reattaching and helps to prevent corrosion.
  • Now you're ready to put the terminals back onto the posts.
  • Start with the positive terminal.
  • Once it's connected, attach the negative.
  • Lower your bonnet.

You're good to go!

Failing Battery? Give Us A Call

If you experience any problems with your battery, such as severe corrosion or a flat battery, don't hesitate to get in touch with your local Autofusion. We can even provide mobile battery changing if you need repairs but can't get your vehicle to our local shops. No matter what your car needs, we're happy to help.