Batteries breathe life into our vehicles. No matter how great your engine is, it can’t run properly without a battery. So what do we do if our batteries show signs of corrosion?
Without their consistent power, much of life as we know it will come to an abrupt end. So keeping them in good working order is imperative. But how can you tell when your vehicle batteries are floundering?
Rather than watch your electricity supply die a slow and painful death, we’ve put together a short guide to help you clear battery corrosion and quite possibly avoid it altogether.
Let’s jump in!
What Causes Battery Corrosion?
You might notice the first sign of problems when you see a buildup of a white powdery substance on or near the lead-acid battery terminals. This is commonly known as battery corrosion, and ignoring it can bring your travels to an eventual stop.
Most battery corrosion is caused when the sulfuric acid in the battery releases hydrogen or electrolyte vapors as it stores energy. This gas release is the reason people always install lead-acid batteries with a vent. When these elements hit the metal terminals on the top of the battery, a chemical reaction occurs, creating corrosion.
You can remove this white corrosion, but you’ll most likely need to replace your battery if it turns blue.
How Does Battery Corrosion Affect Your Vehicle?
When corrosion collects around the terminals of your battery, it makes the connection less stable for the charging of your electrical system. This means the battery itself will not be able to maintain a charge or start your vehicle immediately.
At the same time, the alternator will find itself working harder to make up for the lack of power from the slow-working battery. If you allow the corrosion to continue, your RV or car will not start at all, and you may irreparably damage the battery.
How To Remove Vehicle Battery Corrosion
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to remove corrosion from batteries. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how you can do it yourself.
Before attacking the battery corrosion, make sure you’re wearing safety goggles and gloves. Battery acid can eat through clothing and can irritate your skin if not washed off quickly.
Disconnect your battery cables from the battery terminals, unhooking the negative(-) terminal first. You may have plastic post covers, so you’ll need to pull them back, then using a wrench, loosen the nut for each terminal separately. Set the negative (-) and positive (+) cables away from one another as you prepare the battery to be cleaned.
You may want to take the battery out of the vehicle and place it on dry ground before cleaning the terminals. This is to avoid the paste mixture, any battery acid, or corrosion getting on other engine parts under your hood. And by all means, prevent the acid from making contact with your vehicle’s paint job.
Start With Baking Soda
Because battery corrosion is created by the byproducts of sulfuric acid, a base is needed to neutralize the corrosion (remember acids and bases in 9th-grade chemistry class?) So we will use baking soda, with a pH of 9 to clean the battery terminals.
Mix a thick paste of baking soda with a small amount of water in a cup. Use a wooden popsicle stick or old plastic toothbrush to smear the paste onto the terminals, covering the corrosion with a thick layer of the mixture.
It’ll begin to bubble and fizz, creating the reverse chemical reaction to the corrosion’s creation. Wipe off the residue with a slightly damp rag to see if any corrosion is still present. If so, repeat your application.
With persistent corrosion, you may have to use the paste again, this time scrubbing the corrosion with a stiff wire brush. You can also substitute vinegar in place of the water to make the paste for a more thorough cleaning.
If That’s Not Enough, Try A Battery Cleaning Agent
If, after trying all of the above options, you still have corrosion, it might be worth using a commercial-grade battery cleaning solution like Noco Remove+, made specifically for tough corrosion removal. It’s a simple spray-on, rinse-off product.
Scrub Scrub Scrub
Scrubbing the terminals to get in the threads and clean off the top of the battery is a requirement to get rid of all the corrosion.
A wire brush will do the trick (sometimes with a little elbow grease), and in easy cases, all that’s needed is a stiff toothbrush. Don’t bypass this step, because any corrosion left will be an attractant for future corrosion buildup.
Let It Dry
Once the battery corrosion is going and you have wiped the battery and terminals clean, let them dry thoroughly. Give it time, as hooking up an electrical connection that’s wet is not usually a good idea!
Once you’re confident the battery and its terminals are dry, put it back in your vehicle and reattach the wires to their assigned posts. As you place the positive (+) wire on the positive post first, place a liberal dab of petroleum jelly on the post and all around the wire at its attachment post. Do the same when you attach the negative (-) wire to its post, as well.
This will assist in conducting the electrical current from the battery through wires and protect the posts from future corrosion.
How To Prevent Vehicle Battery Corrosion
For added protection to keep battery corrosion at bay, attach anti-corrosion washers on the posts just before attaching the positive and negative wires to the battery.
These washers are oil-based and keep the posts from actually resting on the battery box. Then place petroleum jelly on the wire and posts.
Simple Steps for Battery Maintenance
Vehicle batteries provide power for movement, electronics, and lights. As such, they’re essential to transportation of any kind and are easily maintained.
Even battery corrosion can be controlled with a little cleaning, so add your vehicle’s batteries to the maintenance schedule and keep everything running like clockwork.
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