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What Is Battery Terminal Corrosion?

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Apr 28, 2021 ·
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A functioning battery is essential to the operation of a vehicle. The battery provides the electricity needed to start a vehicle and to power other electrical components, like the windows or stereo.

Keeping your battery in good condition is important. Taking the time to perform regular checks will help you catch problems early and get them taken care of as soon as possible.

One problem to watch for is battery terminal corrosion, which can lead to the deterioration of the battery terminal materials as well as other parts of the starting system. It’s pretty easy to spot — typically, it’s a white, blue or green-tinged covering on the battery terminal, cables or posts. Corrosion on or around your battery’s surfaces can lead to increased resistance within the circuit, which can disrupt the electrical current.

Keep reading to find out more about some of the causes of battery terminal corrosion, as well as steps you can take to clean and prevent it.

What Causes Battery Terminal Corrosion?

There are several reasons corrosion can appear on your battery. When your battery runs, hydrogen gas gets released and is mixed with other elements, which can cause corrosion to build up. Some of the main causes include:

Overfull Battery

Some batteries are refillable and rely on water for their operation. However, overfilling can cause the excess water to make its way out through the vents. Once water comes into contact with the battery terminals, corrosion can occur.

Leaking Battery Fluid

Damage to the battery can cause cracks or holes to develop that can cause battery fluid leaks. Electrolytes from the battery can then build up on the terminals and cause corrosion to form.

Overcharging

Charging a battery for too long can raise its temperature too high, causing electrolytes to expand. Pressure is formed during this process, which needs a way to escape. Electrolytes can escape through vents and cause a buildup of corrosion on the terminals.

Chemical Reaction with Copper Clamps

Clamps made for connecting your battery to its wires are typically made from copper. If a battery is leaking sulfuric gases, it can combine with the current being sent through the clamps, causing a chemical reaction. This leads to the production of copper sulfate, which can cause corrosion.

Age

When it comes to a buildup of corrosion, sometimes the cause is something as simple as age. Most car batteries are designed to have a five-year life span, so seeing corrosion around this time is not uncommon.

How to Clean Battery Terminal Corrosion

If your vehicle has battery terminal corrosion, it’s important to care of it so your battery functions properly.

Cleaning battery corrosion is a relatively simple process, though it might take some scrubbing depending on how much has built up. It’s important to disconnect the battery cables first to ensure you aren’t at risk for electric shock.

After disconnecting the cables, you should inspect them thoroughly for any peeling insulation or excess wear. Cables that are frayed or otherwise damaged can cause battery issues, so replacing damaged ones is important.

Once you’ve disconnected and inspected the cables, you can use a stainless steel wire brush to clean the cable contacts and terminals until the corrosion is removed. Typically, you can use a mixture of baking soda and water to remove the buildup.

Battery Terminal Corrosion Prevention

There are preventive measures you can take to help avoid battery terminal corrosion. These include:

  • Invest in an anti-corrosive spray: There are a number of preventative sprays and brush-on compounds that can be applied to battery terminals and posts. Remember to disconnect the battery cables before applying.
  • Coat with petroleum jelly or dielectric grease: These perform much like anti-corrosive sprays but can be more affordable alternatives. Remember to disconnect the battery cables before applying these as well.
  • Avoid overcharging or undercharging: If your battery is overcharging, it’s important to take your car to an automotive technician who has the ability to check for electrical faults. Undercharging can occur if the battery is not receiving enough power to return it to a full state of charge.
  • Perform routine checks: Like other important car parts, your battery should be checked often. Taking the time to inspect the condition of the battery and accompanying parts can help you catch corrosion early before it gets out of control.

Train to Work on Starting Systems and More at UTI

Being able to work on your own vehicle and diagnose problems is one thing, but what if you could make a career out of it? In the Automotive Technology program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI), students are taught all about the maintenance and repair of import and domestic vehicles.

You can get hands-on experience working on everything from engines to starting systems, which include the battery and related components. After graduation, you’ll be prepared with the skills you need for a career in the automotive industry.1

Request more information today to find out more about the program and how you can graduate in less than a year. 7

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By submitting this form, I agree that Universal Technical Institute, Inc., Custom Training Group, Inc., and their representatives may email, call, and / or text me with marketing messages about educational programs and services, as well as for school - related communications, at any phone number I provide, including a wireless number, using prerecorded calls or automated technology. I understand that my consent is not required to apply, enroll or make any purchase.

By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI’s Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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