How to deal with corroded battery terminals

We continue with our series of articles answering frequently asked questions pertaining to your car battery. In this article, we will deal with the issue of corroding terminals on car batteries.

My car battery has one more corroded terminal and my car won’t start. How do I clean them?

The corrosion on the terminals of car batteries is the likely reason why the car isn’t starting. However, they can be cleaned easily and here is how.

  1. First, make sure you have the engine turned off.
  2. Loosen the negative battery cable first with a flat-head screwdriver and lift it off the battery terminal. Then place the negative cable away from the positive terminal and any metal.
  3. Now remove the positive car battery cable the same way. Make sure you don’t let the positive and negative terminals make contact with each other.
  4. Take some Coca Cola or baking soda and water and pour it on the car battery’s terminals and cable ends.
  5. Using a toothbrush, scrub the battery terminals and cable ends firmly until you see the corrosion is removed from them.
  6. Now pour some water on the battery terminals and cable ends to wash the Coca Cola or baking soda off completely.
  7. Let the battery terminals and cables dry for a while.
  8. Apply a slim coat of Vaseline to the battery terminals for lubrication.
  9. Take the positive battery cable and slide it onto the terminal and tighten
  10. In the same way, take the negative battery cable and slide it on the correct terminal and tighten.

Here are some important precautions you should note and be aware of while carrying out this procedure.

  1. The battery terminals referred in the above guide are the two posts on the top of the car battery that the battery cables connect to.
  2. In order to make sure you don’t get an electric shock, make sure you remove the negative battery cable before the positive.
  3. In order to prevent an electrical short in the car, do not place the removed negative battery cable on any metal part or component of the car.
  4. While replacing the cables after the drying, make sure the positive battery cable is connected first.
  5. Do not let the negative and positive battery cables touch in order to prevent an electric shock.


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Car Battery FAQ

We begin a series of articles answering frequently asked questions pertaining to car batteries. In this article, we will mainly look at addressing car battery leakage issues. We will list more than one possible cause and solution to each question wherever applicable.

My car battery seems to be leaking fluids even though I have not overfilled it with water.

Answers:

  1. Get the overall charging system of the battery checked out by a certified mechanic as the reason for it could be that the alternator is overcharging the battery leading to the water boiling inside the battery and leaking out of it.
  2. The battery may have a cracked casing. You can try to investigate this yourself but make sure you wear protective clothing and gear before you do so. If you can’t find one, get it checked by a certified mechanic.

My car battery is leaking fluid out of the positive terminal

Answers:

  1. This is a frequent problem seen in GM cars with side-mounted battery posts as they sometimes leak through the terminal. It’s compounded by the bolt head on the cable stripping easily. Changing over to a normal top post battery with cables that have ends reaching long enough is a solution.
  2. This can also have to do with summertime heat. It’s because the acid inside the car battery expands due to the heat. Make sure you clean your terminal caps properly and fit them snugly on the post, then spread a bit of grease on the terminal clamps as this prevents oxidation and corrosion from it.

If my car battery is leaking acid, does it mean the battery has to be changed?

Answers:

  1. It primarily depends on where the acid is leaking from. If it’s only on the battery posts, it’s normal and can be cleaned with baking soda and hot water. However, if it is coming out from anywhere else, it could be due to a crack in the battery. In that case, a new car battery is definitely the way to go.

My dead car battery leaked fluid into the trunk of my car and now it smells bad. How do I clean it?

Answers:

  1. Cover the affected area with baking soda and scrub it with a brush. Let it dry and then vacuum it. Do it over if needed and the next time, add enough water to make a paste out of the baking soda and scrub it. Then let it dry and vacuum again. This should remove the bad smells as baking soda neutralizes the acid.


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Dealing with dead car batteries

One of the most annoying and common problems facing the average automobile user is a dead battery. All of us have tried to start our vehicle sometime and found that it wouldn’t start due to a dead battery.

So the immediate question that comes to mind is, what to do about it. The first thing you can do is find out how long a car battery will last. A car battery will last for approximately somewhere between three and five years. Most cases, you will find that it usually lasts more toward the lower end of this range and need to be replaced around the three-year mark. There are quite a few variables that determine just how long a given car battery will last. Some of the factors that can make it run out early are listed below.

Short trips: Making a lot of short trips during the life cycle of the battery can reduce their life. If your automobile has an average running time of less than 20 minutes, your alternator will not get the opportunity to recharge your battery fully.

Temperatures: Exposure to extreme temperatures are another reason for dead car batteries. The outside temperatures affect the internal chemical reactions inside the battery. Most batteries are encased in an insulated jacket for this season as it allows the battery to go through its normal temperature changes gradually and can extend its overall life. Make sure this cover isn’t discarded by mechanics or by you.

Diagnosis: If your car battery goes dead and its more than three years old, it’d be best if you would replace it with a new battery. However, if you aren’t sure just how old it is, you should charge and test out the battery. Make sure you were safety glasses and protective clothing and battery acid is extremely harmful if made contact with human skin or eyes.

Preventive care: Just remember that as long as you take care of your car battery, it will take care of you. Get into a habit of regular maintenance when it comes to your battery. Ideally, you want it to last up to five years, and for this you have to take good care of it. One of the best ways to do it is to use terminal protector spray. When applied to a new or clean battery’s terminals, it will significantly reduce the amount of corrosion that builds up over time. Corrosion is bad for your car battery as it can prevent its automatic charging using the automobile’s alternator. Follow the procedure every six months.

Terminal protector sprays such as this one can go a long way to extending the life of your car battery

Another preventive measure is to always carrying a good set of battery cables and safety glasses in your car and be familiar with the hook up and operation of these cables. Or you could even have your own jump box as this can avoid the problems that could arise from hooking up your jumper cables to another vehicle without needing to ask anyone for help.



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What kind of car battery do I need?

Before you do anything, make sure you dispose of your old battery safely and responsibly, as they contain sulfuric acid, which poses a threat to the environment and can also pollute water or burn skin and eyes. Also, batteries contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, nickel and cadmium, which can contaminate the environment.

There are a few major factors you must keep in mind while picking out a car battery for yourself. First of these are of course, the size. This refers to the length, height and width of the battery. Usually, they come in group sizes to fit battery trays of most cars. However, it’s very important the battery fit tightly and securely. Make sure you refer to your car manual to know your car’s battery group size. Purchasing an inappropriately-sized battery will be not only be a waste of your money but it might also cause damage to your car.

Like for any product, brand is an important consideration. It’s the trademark given to a product (for example, Interstate Batteries). Usually, it’s best to go for the battery brand specified in the owner’s manual of your car. But in case that is too expensive, go through the specification requirement in the owner’s manual. Make sure you’re not tempted into buying the cheapest brand as it could cost you more in the long run than what you gain in the short run as they can be full of flaws or just perform poorly.

Reserve Capacity (RC) Rating is another important attribute. It refers to the amount of time the battery can supply continuous minimum voltage required to run the car should the alternator or a fan belt fail. RC Rating is measured in minutes. However, it’s usually not printed on the battery label, so check the documentation or ask the storekeeper to find out the true RC rating of the battery. The longer the RC of the battery, the better it is. It’s an attribute that could save you the inconvenience of getting stranded on a lonely country road somewhere, so consider it as part of your car’s emergency kit. Make sure you choose a battery with the exact RC rating that your vehicle can handle.

Make sure you look for the manufacturing date of the battery as the age of a battery gives you a good idea about how long it should be able to perform. If a battery is less than six months old, it’s considered ‘fresh’. Most manufacturing date codes are stamped on the battery case or label.

Finally, there’s Cold-Cranking Amps (CCA), which gauge the battery’s ability to start the car even during extremely cold weather. As the car’s oil thickens, chemical reactions slow down which make it harder for the car to ignite. CCA refers to the number of amps the battery will be able to support for upto 30 seconds at 0 degree temperature. So, if it gets really cold where you live, it’s wise to chose a battery with a high CCA number. Obviously, if you live in a warm or tropical climate, CCA isn’t that important of a feature for you to consider. Check the car’s owner’s manual and follow the CCA rating specified. Make sure you don’t choose batteries that have CCA ratings that are much lower or higher than that recommending by the car’s manufacturer.



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How a Does a Car Battery Work?

Getting the motor going, is the Car Batteries job. A car is as good as dead with out the electric energy from the battery. Not only does the Car Battery generate enough juice to start the motor. It actually makes its own when the motors run. That’s because this plain looking box, accomplishes two Diametrically opposed functions using exactly the same ingredients. It generates electricity, and it accumulates electricity. The Car Batteries manages this incredible feat by exploiting reversible chemical reactions.

Okay, so how does a car battery work? A car battery has a positive and a negative terminal there connected to the car, and send a flow of electrons to power the wipers, headlights, radio, air conditioning, and most importantly the engine starter. Inside the car battery are six small energy producing units called cells. Each cell has two sets of electrodes. Their made of eight over lapping metallic plates. For a total of 16 per cell. Together the plates form a compact grid, the bigger the grids overall surface the more power it generates. The positive grid, covered in led oxide, carries electrons in. The negative grid covered in led, releases electrons.

The plates soak in a chemical bath, 65% water, 35% sulfuric acid. Volatile chemicals, if you are not careful a drop of it will eat threw your clothes, and burn off your skin. But, the key to the Car battery, is all those powerful chemicals reacting with each other inside the cells. Reaction repeating as the battery drains. The bath of water and Sulfuric acid, acts as an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity. As the battery discharges, or unloads electricity, the acid bath reacts to chemicals on the plates. The led cover in one cell grid, and the led oxide covering the other. Dipping them in the electrolyte bath, releases particles called electrons. When they start racing in the grids, they create electricity.

As the electrons race from the positive grid of the first cell and out the negative grid, they produce 2 volts of electricity. The led and led oxide covering the electrodes have been chemically transformed. And when the electrons from the first cell zoom into the second cell, they pick up another 2 volts. For a total voltage of 4, by the time the electrons charge out of the sixth cell, they have a combined voltage of 12. That’s a fully loaded car battery, with enough juice to power the starter, and crank the engine. Once you’ve squeezed out all the juice to start the motor, the fuel system takes over and keeps the motor running.

The Car’s alternator take over the rest of the electrical chores, time for the battery to juice it self up. It recharges by reversing the chemical reactions. Electrons coming from the car’s alternator now enter the battery threw the negative grid of the cells and come out the positive side of the cell. The chemicals on the grid go back to normal, and the battery is recharged and ready to put out another 12 volts of electricity. That is unless you happen to leave the car lights on overnight, in that case, the chemical reactions move in one direction, draining the battery, which never get the chance to recharge it self, the inevitable result is a dead battery.



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