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How to Clean Battery Terminals in Your Car: The 6 Step Process

car battery

Clean battery terminals can keep your car from stalling at the most inopportune time. Knowing how to clean battery terminals and the connection points will free them of residue and keep your car running. Here’s how to clean battery terminals in six steps.

1. Locate the Battery

Most car batteries are located underneath the hood and are on the left or right side of the engine bay. With some models, such as in the Chevrolet Cobalt, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the BMW 5 Series, the battery is located in the trunk. Other vehicles like the Grand Cherokee, Audi A7, Ford Transit, or Mercedes ML the battery is located under one of the front seats. Some Dodge vehicles even place the battery behind the front wheel inner fender liner. If you can’t find your battery, consult your owner’s manual.

2. Lift the Terminal Covers

Plastic or rubber covers protect most batteries and must be removed to access the clamps that connect the cables to the terminals. In some cases a build up of residue, identified as a white powder, may need to be cleared away. Don’t forget to put on a pair of work gloves and don your safety glasses.

3. Disconnect the Car Battery

Each clamp fastened to the terminals must be disconnected. You will do this by loosening the negative clamp first, followed by the positive clamp. The clamps are commonly held on via bolts and nuts. If excess corrosion is present, you may need to use metal pliers to disconnect the terminal from the batterer post. If the terminal is really stuck, you may need to try a special tool called a battery terminal puller. While working on the battery, avoid touching other metal objects, such as the frame of the car, otherwise you risk shorting out the battery.

4. Choose Your Cleaning Agent

Clamps as you would find with a car battery.

When it comes to cleaning the car battery, you have a choice of two cleaning agents. The most common one is baking soda. Here, you will mix two tablespoons of baking soda with an equal amount of water in a clean container. Stir the solution to form a paste, then use a toothbrush to apply the paste to each terminal. The solution will begin to sizzle as it interacts with the corrosion. Use a wire brush to remove the remaining residue. Alternately, you can use a cola product to clean the terminal. Simply obtain one new, 12-ounce can. Then, evenly pour the entire contents directly on the battery terminals to get the job done. The advantage here is that you don’t need to make a paste. Just follow up with the wire brush, if necessary.

5. Rinse and Dry

With the terminals now nearly free of residue, you’ll need to remove the paste or soda to finish cleaning. A spray bottle containing water will do; simply wash each terminal to remove the dregs. Then, use a rag and dry each terminal. Lastly, spray battery terminal protector on each post to curtail future corrosion.

6. Reconnect the Clamps

Connect the positive clamp first, followed by the negative clamp. However, if you notice residue, clean it off before reattaching. Use a wrench to tighten as needed. Lastly, put the rubber or plastic covers over each junction. Your work is done, the battery is clean and you’re ready to put your tools, cleaning agents and gloves away.

Maintaining your car’s battery should help keep it in sound working condition until it’s ready to be replaced. The average life of a car battery is about four years, therefore it should be tested with a multimeter on occasion. Hot weather is its biggest enemy and will degrade a battery faster.

Check out all of the batteries available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to clean battery terminals, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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