Cleaning Battery Corrosion Is a Beginner Job for Most DIYers. Here’s Everything You Need to Know to Clean Off Battery Corrosion at Home.
- DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Time Required: Five to 10 minutes
- Tools & Materials:
- Cloth or paper towels
- Battery cleaning solution or baking soda
- Scrubbing sponge
What Is Battery Corrosion?
Your car battery’s terminals, which are where the vehicle’s thick power wires connect to the battery, are made of lead, just like the plates inside the battery. Over time you might see a bright blue, green, or white dusty substance form on the terminals. This is corrosion, caused by the chemical reaction between the lead and the acid inside the battery. While a little build-up over the years is natural, seeing too much could indicate battery problems, or that you might have simply not cleaned it in years.
Fortunately, cleaning off the terminals is just as easy as it sounds. All you do is pour liquid, such as battery cleaning solution or some water with a little bit of baking soda, to loosen the built-up corrosion and then get scraping and wiping. Pretty much anyone can complete this task in minutes.
Is It Safe To Drive With Corroded Battery Terminals?
Dense corrosion build-up can be serious depending on where you see it. It prevents the battery and the cable ends from making a solid electrical connection. This not only causes the battery to provide less power to the vehicle than it should, but it also prevents the alternator from adequately charging the battery.
Based on how cheap and quick it is to clean battery corrosion, there’s really no point in asking a mechanic to do it. If you want to keep your car optimally powered, cleaning battery corrosion is easy. Consider it a small bonus task while checking your oil or completing other maintenance tasks that require popping the hood.
When To Clean Your Battery Terminals
The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule does not include cleaning your battery terminals. This is an “as you need it” maintenance task. As long as you have the hood up to handle other common car care tasks, it only takes a minute to scrub any noticeable corrosion and wipe it clean. Then, you can check once a week to see how quickly, if at all, the corrosion comes back.
All batteries corrode a little bit over time, but something’s wrong when it builds up enough to require repeat cleanings every few months. If you ignore problems like this, the battery’s condition could grow worse, indicating that your battery is failing.
What Are Common Symptoms Indicating You Need to Clean Off Battery Corrosion?
Apart from simply seeing corrosion, a few other signs are:
- A battery light on your dash
- The FIXD app showing the P1000 code for power issues
- Difficulty starting the car
- Low battery charge levels on the dash or when testing the battery directly
Keep in Mind
Just because you see corrosion doesn’t mean you have a bad battery. A little bit of corrosion over time is a normal occurrence, so don’t be too hasty about getting it replaced. Also, remember to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and do any of the tasks advised for your make and model. If you have already replaced your original battery, follow any recommendations on the packaging for the replacement battery to ensure its maximum lifespan.
For more guidance on service tasks, the Maintenance Timeline feature in the FIXD app can help you stay informed about upcoming services that your make and model might need, from fluid changes to brake pad replacement.
How To Clean Battery Corrosion
Here are the steps you can take to clean battery corrosion:
Step 1: Locate Corrosion
Pop your car’s hood and locate the battery. Some batteries aren’t located under the hood, so check your owner’s manual to see where it is if you don’t see a battery under the hood. Determine where the corrosion is coming from. The most common places are one or both of the terminals. Any possible openings for the fluid to escape could also leave corrosion marks. If there are any holes or cracks in the battery that don’t belong there, replace it immediately.
Step 2: Apply a Cleaning Solution
You have several easy home options for this step. The classic choice would be baking soda and water, but you could also use vinegar or other mildly acidic substances. If you use baking soda and water, make sure you dust the baking soda onto the affected area first and then apply water, which will make it fizz and loosen the corrosion. If your battery has built up a great deal of corrosion, it might be smarter to chip it away with a screwdriver or use a scrubbing brush first.
Step 3: Wipe the Loosened Corrosion Away
Once you’ve used a moist cleaning solution to wet and dissolve the corrosion, all you have to do is wipe it away and move on with your day.
Still Need Help?
Cleaning your excess corrosion off your battery starts off as no big deal, but if it comes back after only a few weeks, you might need a deeper diagnosis. Want an expert mechanic on speed dial to walk you through DIY repairs and answer questions? Join the FIXD Mechanic Hotline for unlimited access to our Master Mechanics.
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this story are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.