What is a Car Battery Terminal?

To explain car battery terminal corrosion, we’ll start with the fundamentals – your car’s battery. The car battery stores electricity that powers vital elements of your vehicle including the ability for your car to start. The battery cables transmit electricity from the battery to power the electrical components of your vehicle.

Car battery terminals are the intermediary between the car battery and the battery cables. All three components- batteries, battery cables, and battery terminals- must each function properly for the vehicle to get electrical power. The car’s battery terminal ends are located on the end of the battery cables. Bolted directly to the battery post, terminals are simply understood as the place where you attach jumper cables. As a battery terminal ages, it becomes susceptible to corrosion.

Car battery terminal corrosion: Blue green substance where battery cables meet car battery terminal.

Spotting Car Battery Corrosion

It’s fairly easy to check for corroded battery terminals because they are usually visible without any specialized tools or training. However, corrosion of the battery might hide under the battery cover. For this reason, it’s best to bring your car to Perfection Automotive when you suspect corrosion. Nonetheless, quick spot checks for corrosion are a best practice for any car owner.

To spot check for corrosion, first pop open your car’s hood. Car battery corrosion appears on terminals as a greenish-blue, sometimes white-tinged, substance. Corrosion takes a hairy appearance but always avoid touching it with your bare hands as it can cause skin damage. Corrosion may also present itself as fluid leaking from the battery terminals or onto the case. Don’t touch this either.

When checking your car battery terminal corrosion, beware of battery acid as it is dangerous.

The Science of a Corroded Battery Terminal

For starters, car battery terminal corrosion commonly occurs in older model cars or in cars with a battery that’s aging. However, new cars and certified preowned cars are also susceptible to battery corrosion as well. The causes of corrosion are numerous but they all start with how metal interacts with other chemicals.

Chemicals like copper sulfate, sulfuric acid (or battery acid), and hydrogen gas are all normal byproducts of good battery function. However, they should not come in contact with anything outside of the battery. Simply put, when corrosion occurs these various chemicals interact in one way or another with the metal on the terminals. This causes the metal to undergo chemical changes that produce the corrosion you see.

How to Prevent Corrosion

To prevent battery corrosion, get regular inspections of the battery unit. At Perfection Automotive, we include complimentary battery terminal inspections during every service appointment. Not only do we check your battery for corrosion, but we also apply a protectant called an anti-corrosion. This works to inhibit the ability for corrosion to form. Additionally, we test your battery to be sure it is in peak performance. If we spot corrosion during this service, we clean and fix it.

When checking for car battery terminal corrosion, Perfection Automotive always checks your battery’s performance.

What Happens if You Don’t Fix It?

When you see corrosion, you should immediately try to fix it. If you don’t, your car will likely have problems in the immediate future. Corrosion causes your car battery to significantly decline in terms of performance. Your car may develop trouble starting and you might need to ask a stranger from the grocery store parking lot to jump your car. Eventually, your car battery will need to be replaced. However, you can fix corrosion issues before you need a battery replacement as long as you know it’s there.

How to Fix Corrosion

The most effective fix for corrosion is to not have it in the first place. This is why Perfection Automotive checks your battery terminals, cables, and the terminal ends at every service. Corrosion can develop in places you can’t see without removing your battery cover. Additionally, it can be difficult and dangerous to remove stubborn corrosion because of the caustic chemicals involved. Don’t try this at home unless you’re an expert.

When we spot corrosion, we leap into action beginning with cleaning the corrosion off. Here is how we clean battery corrosion.

  1. Disconnect Battery: This task can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. There is a risk for electrical shocks and chemical burns. Unless you’re a professional, we don’t suggest trying this at home.
  2. Check All Battery Elements: Under some circumstances, corrosion results in irreparable damage to your battery. We double-check all of the elements making sure they work perfectly.
  3. Prepare Baking Soda Solution: We use a baking soda and water solution but sometimes stronger chemicals are needed to destroy stubborn corrosion.
  4. Remove the Corrosion: We use a specially-made, skinny wire brush created specifically for this job which removes corrosion until it is completely gone.
  5. Reconnect Battery: Reconnecting the battery is just as difficult as disconnecting. Let us take care of this for you with our complimentary battery terminal end service.

When you have a corroded battery terminal, you might need a replacement of one of these new green batteries.

Avoid the hassle that comes with replacing your car battery by staying vigilant about checking for car battery terminal corrosion. Whether you found corrosion or you need a helping hand to check for it, Perfection Automotive is here to help. Each service appointment includes complimentary testing and preventative maintenance of your battery.

Have more questions? Give us a call. Need other work done? Get a free estimate now.