Despite promises of atomic power and limitless propulsion, the lead-acid battery under the hoods of most automobiles is not very futuristic. Cleverly named maintenance-free batteries are updated versions of the same basic lead-acid automotive battery design that first kicked over a production Cadillac in 1912. Even maintenance-free batteries require occasional wrenching. Regular battery inspection and maintenance can make the difference between a five-year battery lasting five years, and one that gives up before its time. Inspecting the battery terminals and posts for corrosion is easy. Fluffy white crud means it’s time for a battery clean up.
Plates and Shells
Suspended inside the plastic shell of the lead-acid battery are lead plates coated with particular metals. The plates react with the battery acid, or electrolyte, to produce and store electricity. As the battery charges while motoring about, some electrolyte vapors vent from the plastic shell along with a bit of hydrogen. This sulfuric acid vapor can cause corrosion to form around the battery terminals and posts. Descending vapors can cause really ugly things to happen under and around the battery tray. Cleaning up the terminals and posts and giving everything a water bath can help keep corrosion from becoming a problem. Excessive corrosion on the terminals and posts can interrupt the flow of electricity to and from the battery.
E-Z Step-by-Step Instructions
Safety First! Install safety glasses, gloves, and disposable clothing on yourself before battery work. Electrolyte is corrosive, and will put holes in your clothes. Hydrogen will ignite in the presence of spark. Keep tools off the top of the battery. Remove watches and jewelry. Metal making contact across battery posts will produce a shower of sparks.
- Safety glasses, gloves, and disposable clothing.
- Wrench, Screwdriver, and Basic Hand Tools.
- Battery Post and Terminal Cleaner Tool
- Battery Grease, Dielectric Grease, or Petroleum Jelly
- Baking Soda and Bucket for Water
- Scrub Brush