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Summary
  • You can use a commercial battery terminal brush and cleaner to clean your battery terminals. If you want a milder cleaning agent, you can also use baking soda and water.
  • Before cleaning your battery terminals, you will need to disconnect the battery cables.
  • It’s best to spray the cleaner without disassembling the post and terminal. You can spray the solution even if they’re together.
  • You also need to inspect your battery and cables for any signs of faults.
  • Corroded battery terminals can reduce the performance of your car battery, so it’s important to keep them clean.

Over time, corrosion can damage your car battery, diminishing its performance. Good thing you can prevent this from happening by keeping your battery well-maintained. Cleaning your battery terminals is one way to prevent battery corrosion.

What Cleaner Is Recommended When Cleaning Car Battery Terminals?

There’s a wide array of commercial battery terminal brushes and cleaners you can purchase online. If you want a milder cleaning agent, you can also choose to make your own at home with just baking soda and water.

Both homemade and commercial cleaners can effectively remove any residue that can lead to battery corrosion.

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Why Is Baking Soda Effective for Cleaning Corroded Battery Terminals?

Baking soda and water creates a mildly alkaline solution that can effectively neutralize battery acid corrosion. This can make it easier to clean your terminals, preventing further damage to your battery.

How to Clean Battery Terminals

Before using a commercial cleaner, make sure to read the label carefully. Review the warnings and instructions on the packaging to make sure it’s the right one for your battery. You don’t want to damage your terminals by using the wrong cleaning agent.

You can also use coca-cola to clean battery terminals. However,  you have to make sure to rinse everything off afterwards to prevent attracting ants.

checking the car battery terminal for cleaning
Over time, corrosion can damage your car battery, diminishing its performance.

If you plan on using a homemade baking soda solution, here’s how the cleaning is usually done:

Disconnect the Cables from the Battery

Before anything else, make sure that your engine is off and that your vehicle has already cooled down. Locate the negative battery cable and disconnect it before removing the positive cable.

Inspect Your Car Battery and Cables

It’s recommended to inspect the condition of your battery first before cleaning. If your battery is bloated, swollen, or leaking, skip the cleaning and contact a trusted mechanic immediately.

You can also inspect your battery cables for any signs of fraying or cracking that can potentially cause your vehicle to malfunction. Replace these cables right away.

Prepare Your Homemade Cleaning Agent

Get a clean container. Mix two tablespoons of baking soda with an equal amount of water. Stir the solution until it becomes more like a paste.

Start Cleaning Your Battery Terminals

If there’s nothing wrong with your battery and cables, you can proceed with cleaning the battery terminals. Get an old toothbrush or a car battery brush and dip it in the cleaning solution you made. Clean the terminals gently and thoroughly until all dirt and residue are removed. You can apply the cleaner even without disassembling the post and the terminal.  

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When cleaning your battery terminals, make sure to eliminate all corrosion thoroughly; otherwise, it may just come back.

Rinse Your Battery Terminals

Put water in a spray bottle and spray down the terminals. You can also use a damp rag to wipe your battery terminals. Once you’ve rinsed the terminals, you can use paper towels or a rag to dry the terminals completely.

Apply Petroleum Jelly Onto the Terminals

Once everything is dry, rub petroleum jelly onto the terminals to prevent corrosion. Petroleum jelly creates a barrier that seals off moisture and oxygen, preventing the formation of new corrosion.

You also have the option to spray a commercial battery terminal protector. These protectors are readily available at various automotive supply stores, so it’s easy to grab one anytime.

Reconnect the Cables

Lastly, don’t forget to reconnect your battery cables. If you see any residue left on the connections, wipe them off completely. It’s recommended to connect the positive cable before the negative cable. You can use a wrench to tighten the connections.

What Happens When Your Car’s Battery Terminals Are Corroded?

Battery terminals link your vehicle’s battery to your ride’s electrical system. Corroded battery terminals can reduce the performance of your car battery. Severe battery corrosion can lead to starting issues and other electrical problems.

Reduced Battery Performance

Since corrosion impedes the flow of electricity from your battery to your vehicle, your headlights can become dim or you may observe slow engine cranking when starting your vehicle. As soon as you notice any symptoms of a bad car battery, don’t hesitate to contact a trusted mechanic.

Electrical Shorts

Corrosion can also cause electrical issues that can damage your car battery or shorten its lifespan. Electrical issues can also damage other electrical components in your car.

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Acid Leak

In worst cases, corrosion can cause your battery acid to leak. This is a serious problem as it can damage not just your car battery but other nearby components as well.

If you notice bubbling liquid seeping out of your battery’s cell caps, your battery is likely leaking.

You can try to neutralize the leak by using mild acids like white vinegar and lemon juice. But if you don’t have the time or advanced know-how for the job, it’s best to pay a professional to fix the issue for you.

No Start Condition

In worse cases, your vehicle won’t start at all. Since corrosion can impede the flow of electricity, the battery may not be able to deliver adequate power to the starter.

Do take note that there’s more than one possible reason why a vehicle might suffer from a no-start condition. It’s better to consult a trusted mechanic to get an accurate diagnosis.

How Often Should I Clean My Car Battery Terminals?

It depends on factors like where you live and your driving habits. You should also consider the condition and age of your battery.

Experts recommend cleaning them at least once a year—especially if you live in a humid or salty climate.

Your car battery is crucial to your car’s operation. Therefore, you should do everything you can to make sure it works. By prioritizing proper care and maintenance, you can maximize its lifespan.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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