Maybe one evening you notice your vehicle’s headlights are a little dim. Or perhaps your vehicle is suddenly slow to crank. You pop the hood, and there it is: chalky white flakes, or green or blue material on the battery terminals. It’s corrosion, and it happens over time because of the battery’s chemical structure.
Don’t panic. It’s a common problem that’s not hard to fix. But don’t ignore it, either! Because of the essential role the battery plays in your vehicle’s starting and charging system, it needs to continuously operate at an optimal level. As car battery corrosion builds up, it can interfere with battery performance. So, let’s learn about car battery corrosion so you can remove it safely.
WHAT IS CAR BATTERY CORROSION?
Think back to Science 101, when you learned that dissimilar metals in the presence of acid could produce an electrical charge. Generally, a car battery’s posts, cable connections, and cables consists of three different metals:
The battery post is typically lead/steel
The cable connections are usually steel/lead
The battery cable is typically copper
Off gassing of hydrogen normally occurs during battery charge and discharge. Contained within this off gassed hydrogen is a minute amount of acid from within the battery. That acid mixes with debris and moisture in the air under the hood and corrosion naturally occurs.
MORE THAN JUST MESSY. CORROSION IS DETRIMENTAL IN TWO WAYS:
Diminished battery performance. The battery stores the electrical energy the starter motor and alternator need to operate. Corrosion is a poor conductor of energy, so if it’s allowed to build up, the battery can’t function as it should. You’ll begin to experience problems like slow cranking during start-up, dim or weak lights, a clicking sound when you turn your key in the ignition or press the starter button. If you don’t pay attention and address these issues promptly, you could find yourself stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery.
Shortened battery life. This one will hit you square in the wallet. The average life expectancy of a new battery is four to six years. Corrosion can prematurely damage and even destroy the battery post(s) and, if you want to keep rolling, you may need to replace your battery sooner than you expected had you’d just taken the time to clean the car battery terminal.
HOW TO CLEAN A CAR BATTERY
We’ve explained why car battery corrosion is bad. Now let’s cover how to remove it. Before you attempt to do it yourself, remember safety first!
Make sure the engine is turned off and has had time to cool down
Disconnect the battery cables
Always undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable (important: refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions)
Always wear goggles and rubber gloves
When it comes to how to clean a car battery, there are two popular methods: store bought chemical cleaners or the greener, homemade method.
Chemical cleaners - there are many brands available, and you can easily find options at auto parts stores or a retailer with an automotive department. Generally, you spray the cleaner on to the terminals and cables and wipe the corrosion away. Each brand is different and comes with detailed instructions that you should read and then follow to the letter.
Green method – you can make a cleanser by thoroughly mixing a tablespoon of baking soda into a cup of hot water. Dip an old toothbrush into your homemade solution and scrub away the corrosion. If the corrosion proves too tough for your toothbrush, you can buy a battery terminal cleaner brush that was designed specifically for this purpose. Wipe away the mixture with a soft, clean towel and allow the battery to dry completely.
Of course, you can always bring your vehicle to Jiffy Lube®. There are many drivers who, when asked “How to clean a car battery?” will respond, “I let Jiffy Lube do it!” That’s completely understandable. Not everyone has the time, or the inclination, to scrub away under the hood. Jiffy Lube technicians are trained to perform battery maintenance service.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU TURN TO JIFFY LUBE FOR BATTERY MAINTENANCE
Jiffy Lube technicians will be thorough and take these steps to detect and prevent battery damage to help preserve the life of your battery:
Perform a routine battery inspection to ensure the correct charge
Minimize vibrations by making sure the battery is secured by the hold-down
Fill the battery with water to optimal levels (if possible)
Check for signs of leaks or corrosion and, if found, recommend next steps to correct the problem
The results of this battery checkup will be presented to you. And, as always, the technicians welcome your questions. One of Jiffy Lube’s goals is to help drivers make educated decisions about their vehicles and service.
WHEN IT COMES TO PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE, JIFFY LUBE HAS YOU COVERED
The trained technicians at Jiffy Lube use quality products including Pennzoil® products (where available) and will consistently install parts that meet or exceed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations.