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5 Steps on How To Clean Battery Terminals

August 25, 2022

Cleaning your battery terminals is one of the most critical (yet overlooked) chores in your car’s routine maintenance. Clogged battery terminals can limit your vehicle’s ability to function and cause prolonged alternator damage and battery issues. You may also need a battery terminal replacement, depending on the level of corrosion and damage you already have. Learning how to clean battery terminals or how to remove corrosion from them is vital for your car’s health. 

Read on to learn the five steps you need to know to protect your car’s performance and function. 

1. Remove the connections from your car’s battery 

You cannot begin to clean your battery terminals until you safely disconnect your car’s battery circuit. You can do this step simply by removing the battery cable’s negative side first. You can determine which the negative side is by a (-) sign on the cable and its coloring. In general, negative cables will be black in color. Ensure that your cords are far away from anything conductive that could complete a circuit, which could result in electrocution. 

2. Assemble your cleaning paste 

If you’re looking to clean car battery corrosion off of your terminals, consider going with a homemade DIY option. It’s cheap, simple, and safe to use across different car brands and models. 

To make the DIY corrosion-clearing paste, you’ll need: 

Petroleum jelly can also be a nice touch for the last step of the process, preventing further corrosion and damage. 

Once you have your materials, simply mix your baking soda and water, adjusting the ratio until you have a thick paste. Then, put the gloves on to protect your hands as you begin step three. 

3. Scrub the paste onto your terminals 

After you create the cleaning paste, spread a thick layer onto your terminals. You can do this easily with a gloved finger, or with a plastic toothbrush. Depending on how corroded your terminals are, you may need to vigorously scrub for 10-15 minutes. After you do this, let the paste sit for about 5-10 minutes to continue breaking down the corroded fragments. 

4. Finish the wash process 

After the paste has cured, use a wet washcloth and scape the remaining paste off, discarding it. Rinse well and wipe clean with a wet washcloth and spray bottle, drying well when done. Repeat this for both terminals. You may also allow time to air dry after drying with a dry towel, as you won’t want to cause electrical damage or a safety risk by connecting your cables too soon. 

5. Connect your cables 

After the drying period has passed, it’s time to connect your cables to the terminals. For extra anti-corrosion support, use a clean gloved finger to wipe a thin layer of petroleum jelly on each one, paying special attention to where the connection will be. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about cleaning vehicle battery terminals 

Check out below the answers to some of the most common questions when it comes to cleaning a battery terminal. 

What can I spray on battery terminals to clean them? 

Cleaning battery terminals doesn’t require a special “spray” or cleaner. You can simply use DIY paste at home for an effective anti-corrosive cleaner. There are also specialty cleaners that you can purchase from Amazon or your local auto shop. 

How to clean a 12-volt battery terminal

There is no specific process for cleaning a 12-volt battery terminal vs. a regular car battery terminal. Simply complete the listed steps and continue operating your vehicle as you normally would. 

Can I use WD40 to clean a battery terminal? 

If your terminals are covered in gunk or grime, you can safely use WD40 to clean them. Simply spray, and scrub with a dry rag or gloved finger. You can also use a bristled brush for stubborn remaining muck. 

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