How to Clean Car Battery Terminals

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Get rid of corrosion on car battery terminals. Learn how to clean your car battery terminals in this free car maintenance video.

Part of the Video Series: How to Change a Car Battery
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Aaron Gregory on behalf of Expert Village. And, we're going to talk about what happens when your car battery dies, how to select a new battery, and how to see what the problem is. We're going to wire brush the terminals on the battery until they're shiny, clean lead. You can see that when it's shiny. And, the same goes for the inside of this ring terminal. Sometimes a wire brush isn't enough and you'll need to scrape the inside with a screwdriver until it's all shiny and clean. That way we know we have the best transmission of electrical currant possible which the car needs as much as it can get to crank the engine. So, I'm going to begin by cleaning these male terminals with the wire brush. Now, you can see how shiny and clean these lead terminals will be once they're really clean. Okay, now to move onto the ring terminal on the car. It's a little more complicated because it's female and it's hard to get a tool in there to clean it. I like to use a screwdriver and scrape off the old rusty material until I see shiny lead on both sides. After a little scraping, you should be able to see some clean, shiny metal in there all the way around. And, then when you tighten this and clamp it, you'll know that that's not the problem. And while you're working on these terminals, it gives you a chance to look at the wires leading into them and see if there's corrosion between the copper wire strands. Sometimes that corrosion will work it's way down into the sheathing of the wire. If that's the case, you'll notice it because a greenish or whitish powder will sometimes fall out of the cable housing. If you tap it with your screwdriver or knock it on the side of the battery, and you see any powder coming out of those wires, that means that maybe you need to work on the wires themselves and the problem is inside the wire. That can be remedied by slicing the wire housing open about a half an inch up with a razor blade, carefully. And, if you see corrosion, that's your problem. And, you need to keep cutting until you can find clean copper. Sometimes, you can go an inch or two, but you don't want to remove so much wire that it's too short to reach the terminal anymore. If the rust and corrosion is inside the wire more than a few inches, you probably need a new cable. If you have a little extra cabling, you can slice it open and cut it back to the right point and use one of these replacement terminal ends that has two bolts. And, the wire simply clamps under it. So, you cut the wire back and scrape out any corrosion or cut off any corrosion, ideally, and then seal the end of the wire up again with electrical tape.

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