How To Clean Your Battery Terminals

How To Clean Your Battery Terminals

| By: Christian Brothers Automotive

Running late due to a car that simply won’t start? And after popping the hood to see what’s going on, you notice something – white crust covering your battery and its terminals. While you may assume your battery is done for, it may instead be suffering from a poor connection due to this corrosion around the battery, its terminals, and your car’s cables. Routine cleaning of your terminals will help keep your battery in good health to last longer and perform better – and not leave you stranded with a crusty battery and no connection.

What is Battery Corrosion?

Corrosion on your car’s battery can be incredibly easy to identify, which is probably why you’re here. Typically, the corrosion is white in appearance, one only could describe as “crusty.” It may turn a blue or greenish color when exposed to moisture. The corrosion takes over the battery’s terminal and reduces the connection due to corrosion remaining a terrible conductor of electricity. The power is then thrown into a transient current flow, returning to the battery.

The corrosion can be caused by a variety of things due to hydrogen gas being released from the sulfuric acid inside the battery. As the gasses react to the atmosphere in the battery, it begins to produce a corrosive environment leading to battery fluid leakage. When the likes of salt or moisture are thrown into the equation, the process of corrosion will pick up speed. 

Some reasons for battery corrosion include:

  • Overcharged – If the battery is overcharged, the fluid can expand and escape through overflow holes. Once this acid touches the terminal, corrosion begins. If this occurs, simply clean away the corrosion regularly to ensure reliability.
  • Gas Escape – In every battery, there are tiny vents the hydrogen gas escapes through. If these gases come in contact with your battery’s terminals or car’s cables, corrosion can occur. This depends on the placement of the vents and how much gas escapes through them.
  • Age – If your battery is older than five years, you should accept it's probably on its way out. When batteries get old, corrosion is merely a side effect and not much can be done. Even if you clean it and it begins to work, you should probably have it replaced with a new battery as soon as possible.

How Do I Clean My Battery Terminals?

Now you’ve determined your cause, let’s get to business. This simple process involves battery acid, so you must be taking the proper precautions needed to protect yourself. This includes wearing the proper rubber gloves and eye protection.

Here is what you need to clean your battery:


  • Baking soda
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Anti-corrosion pads
  • Stiff-bristle brush, wire brush, or professional tool
  • Water
  • Protective gear
  • Shop towels


Once you’ve gathered, your materials, you’re ready to begin. Pop your hood and follow these simple steps:

1. Disconnect Your Battery Cables

First and foremost, ensure your car is completely off and disconnect your battery cables. Always begin with the negative cable first, marked by the (-) sign, and is usually black. Next, remove the positive cable, which is marked by (+) and is usually red. If the corrosion is extreme enough, you may need to wiggle the connectors loose even after any bolts are loosened.

2. Inspect Your Battery and Cables

While you’re here, it’s important to take a good look at your battery and cables. If you notice any other type of buildup, whether it’s from dirt or other grime, this may be causing your trouble as well. If you notice that your battery is swollen, cracked, or bloated, be sure to schedule service right away to have it replaced. Inspect the cables to ensure they are free of any fraying, cracks, or anything else that may contribute to a bad connection and have these replaced as needed.

3. Clean Away Corrosion and Rinse

Using around a teaspoon of baking soda, or more as necessary, coat your battery terminals and other affected areas. Pour a small amount of water on each terminal then use your brush to scrub the corrosion away. While a steel wire brush will work the best, an old toothbrush can work with enough elbow grease. Alternatively, you can also combine the water and baking soda in a cup to create a cleaning solution. Dip your brush in it and scrub away! You can repeat the same cleaning process to clear away any corrosion found on the end of your battery cables.

Either way you go about cleaning the terminals, you’ll notice the baking soda react with the corrosion, neutralizing the acidic nature and making it safe to handle. Once the corrosion has been removed, rinse it away with clean water.

4. Thoroughly Dry Battery

Once the battery has been rinsed, let it dry. You can either use shop towels or an air compressor to speed things up. You want to make sure it is completely dry before reconnecting. 

5. Apply Preventative Measures

Once everything is dry, you can use cost-friendly anticorrosive pads, also known as battery terminal protectors, to help prevent this problem from repeating itself. You can also apply a generous layer of petroleum jelly to the terminals which can help improve the conductions between the cable and battery. The jelly will also work to reduce corrosion in the future.

6. Reconnect Battery Cables

Once the preventive measures are in place, you can reconnect your battery. You will be reconnecting the battery in reverse order of how you disconnected them, with the positive (+) being connected first and the negative (-) end being connected after. If you feel like you should add more petroleum jelly or other extra preventive measures at this time, be our guest!

Request Your Battery Service Today

After this process, you should be able to start your car up and resume your normal schedule. If things still aren’t working, your battery may be dead. There may even be an issue with your car’s battery cables or starter so battery service is critical! Whatever the problem may be, or you’re not comfortable cleaning away your car’s corrosion, turn to the team at Christian Brothers Automotive.

Whether it’s your battery or an alternator problem, our free vehicle inspection can pinpoint the cause and get you on the road to a solution. Our team is here to help educate our customers, offering services designed to prevent future trips to your local automotive shop. Call today!

Searching for a “car battery shop near me?” We can help! Locate your nearest Christian Brothers Automotive location here.

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