How to Clean and Prevent Battery Terminal Corrosion

We’ve all been there before. You turn the key on your car and…nothing. Not even the tell-tale clicking sound of the starter solenoid.

Your first reaction is to pound the steering wheel and curse the darkness. But it should probably be to grab a battery terminal cleaning brush and pop the hood. In many cases, cleaning the white, flaky deposits from the battery terminals is all you need to restore the flow of electricity and summon your car back to life.

 

What is that flaky powdery stuff, anyway?

A battery is just one big chemical reaction, and the white, scaly deposits on the posts are simply one of the byproducts. A typical car battery is made up of individual cells, with each housing alternating plates of lead and lead coated with lead dioxide submerged in a sulfuric acid solution. This causes a chemical reaction that releases electrons, providing the juice that spins the starter motor, powers the radio and keeps the lights on, among other functions.

Sometimes, especially on cheap batteries, the seal around the post allows sulfate in the battery to escape and react with lead in the post, producing white, flaky deposits. If bad enough, they’ll interfere with the battery connections and prevent the flow of electricity, leaving you stranded.

How to clean battery-terminal deposits

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest areas of your vehicle to maintain. Just make sure to wear safety glasses and protective gloves since sulfuric acid can be dangerous.

Water and baking soda is a tried-and-true cleaning method. Mix them to create a concoction the consistency of pancake batter and smear it on the terminals. The mixture will slowly eat away the deposits. Although it works, it’s a mess. I remember my dad performing this trick on my sister’s Ford Pinto back in the 1980s. Incidentally, my dad rarely swore, but my vocabulary expanded a little every time he had to work on that “rolling piece of…”.

I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks.

I’ve heard you can accomplish the same effect using Coca-Cola. But why waste a good can of sugary goodness (Yeah right lol),  when you can use a battery terminal cleaning brush. I have about three of them scattered around the basement and garage. One reason I like them is because they’re like me – cheap, but effective.

How to prevent corrosion

I like preventing battery-terminal deposits even better than cleaning them. Battery-terminal grease can be applied to the terminals to help prevent corrosion. It’s available at any auto parts store and usually comes in a little ketchup-like packet.

Another great option is AMSOIL Heavy-Duty Metal Protector. It creates a protective coating on terminals that wards off corrosion. Plus, you can use it as vehicle undercoating to guard against rust.

Whatever your method, pop the hood periodically and give the battery terminals a good cleaning. Living where sub-zero cold is common, I clean my battery terminals every fall regardless how they look to ensure I’m not met with that a dead engine when I turn the key on a cold morning.

12Dec 2018
Thick Foam cleans glass better

Introducing the Three Newest AMSOIL Products Jamie Jarvi|Aug 08, 2018 1:28 PM AMSOIL is well-known for its products that protect the internal parts of an engine. But you may not know about our products that protect the outside of your vehicles and equipment, too. Hot on the heels of the revolutionary new SEVERE GEAR easy-pack, we’re excited […]

10Dec 2018
differential oil in a easy pack or squeeze pack

The New SEVERE GEAR Easy-Pack Enthusiasts pride themselves on finding their own solutions to tough problems. When there’s no manual, they roll up their sleeves and make it work. But even the most inventive gearhead inevitably throws down an oily rag and wonders why the process has to be so difficult. Changing gear lube is […]

10Dec 2018

Why Does Motor Oil Turn Black? John Baker|Oct 11, 2018 2:00 PM What causes black motor oil? And when your oil darkens does it mean it’s time to change it? Well, there are a couple of factors that can cause the former. Let’s dig in. Factors causing black motor oil Heat cycles naturally darken motor […]

10Dec 2018
Snowblower maintenance

Never Overlook This When Maintaining Your Snowblower John Baker|Nov 06, 2018 10:01 AM Thanksgiving day, 2016. While my family was gathered in my dining room, imbibing spirits and making merry, I was in the shed disassembling the carburetor on my snowblower, reeking of petroleum as rivers of gasoline flowed under my jacket cuffs and saturated […]

03Dec 2018
diesel gel recovery

Diesel Recovery Relaunches Temporarily unavailable over the summer as we explored new package options, AMSOIL Diesel Recovery relaunches in 30-oz. (887-ml) bottles (DRCQT) in the U.S. in late October. The new containers will be available in Canada (DRCQTC) when supplies of the existing container (DRCCNC) are exhausted. The 1-gallon (3.78-litre) bottles (DRC1G) and 55-gallon (208-litre) […]

03Dec 2018
Icy mornings can be fun

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Chris Sharon|Dec 18, 2017 9:19 AM Originally posted Nov. 11, 2016 With the worst of winter right around the corner, now is a good time to get your vehicle prepared for the worst. Being based in northern Wisconsin, we at AMSOIL talk a lot about how synthetic lubricants make life a little […]