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As a car owner, you do lots of things to protect your car battery without even realizing, like making sure you don't leave your headlights on and, if you live in a cold environment, using a car plug-in to keep your battery warm in the winter. Your battery is one of the most important parts of your vehicle, so it’s important to do everything in your power to preserve and extend the life of your battery. Without it, you can’t start your car engine, which means you won’t be going anywhere without a replacement.
One of the issues that can affect your car battery’s performance is corrosion and buildup on and around the battery terminals. These contaminants can inhibit the flow of electricity to and from your battery, making it difficult—or even impossible—to start your car. Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this problem: all you have to do is clean your battery terminals to get your vehicle running smoothly again!
In this guide, we’ll teach you one of the basics of car battery maintenance, cleaning and protecting your battery terminals, to help you get the most out of your battery. All you need is a heavy-duty cleaner, dielectric grease, and a steel wool or wire brush!
It’s important to remove any corrosion that builds up on your battery terminals at least once or twice a year to help your car battery stay fully charged and ready to perform its job. By regularly maintaining your car battery, you ensure that starting the car will go without a hitch.
To remove dirt, grime and corrosion from your car battery, we recommend a heavy-duty car wash soap like M.A.X. Power Detergent used at full strength or a powerful, alkaline cleaner like Turtle Wax All Wheel & Tire Cleaner. These formulas are specially designed to neutralize acidic contaminants, so they’re perfect for eliminating corrosion on your battery terminals. You’ll also need steel wool or a wire bristle brush to scrub away any stubborn traces of corrosion on your battery terminals, as well as dielectric grease to protect these electrical components from future buildup and corrosion. You can find brushes designed specifically for this job and dielectric grease at any auto parts shop.
Note: If you aren’t comfortable working around your battery, we recommend taking your car to a service professional. Connecting the wrong terminal at the wrong time can create a loud spark that could damage your vehicle. Also, keep in mind that disconnecting your car battery will erase some of the settings in your car’s systems, including the radio, clock and potentially other electronics.
Start by rinsing your battery compartment with a garden hose to wash away any loose dirt or contaminants, whether they’re from the battery itself or just from running the engine. Carbon deposits can create similar battery performance issues and affect other parts of your car located under the hood. Once you’ve rinsed as much dirt as you can from your battery compartment, inspect your car battery closely for signs of corrosion. If you see any white or green, crusty material on or around your terminals, then you have corrosion buildup on your car battery, which means it’s time for a good cleaning.
If you’re using a car wash like M.A.X. Power Detergent, pour a little bit of soap all over your battery. Don’t worry, this won’t short out your system! If you’re using a wheel cleaner like All Wheel & Tire Cleaner, spray your cleaner directly onto the battery terminals and allow your product to dwell for 30 seconds to break down buildup and corrosion.
Use a piece of steel wool or a wire brush to scrub the top of the battery as well as the the terminals and cables to loosen any stubborn soils. Then, rinse your battery thoroughly with a hose and hand dry these surfaces with a folded microfiber towel.
Now, it’s time to make sure that your battery terminals are thoroughly cleaned and dried. You’ll need to remove your battery cables to view the surface of your terminal underneath. Be sure to remove and reconnect the cables in the right order. Disconnect the negative battery cable first, and then the positive cable. Use your wire bristle brush to scrub any corrosion from the battery posts and cable connectors.
Let’s face it: cleaning your car battery can be a hassle, even if it only takes a few minutes. You don’t want to perform these steps often, so you should protect these surfaces to keep your battery clean for as long as possible!
Using a clean, microfiber cloth, apply a small amount of dielectric grease to your battery terminals and cable connectors. This slick, silicone coating will repel dirt and inhibit corrosion. When you’ve finished, reconnect your cables, reversing the order in which you disconnected them: positive first and then negative.
And just like that, your car battery works like new again! Most car batteries last for around 3-4 years, but with regular cleaning and maintenance, you can extend the life of your battery to 6-7 years, saving you hundreds of dollars in car care expenses and a trip to the auto repair shop!
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