How to Clean Car Battery Terminals With Vinegar (Get Rid of the Corrosion Fast)

After using car batteries for a while, battery terminal corrosion may occur resulting to an inefficiency in the working of the car battery. This can lead to your car failing to start and thus it is important to know how to clean car battery terminals the same we learn how to clean car seats.

The corrosion of battery terminals comes from hydrogen gas which is emitted from the sulphuric acid contained in most batteries. When the gas reacts with lead or copper and ambient air, corrosion occurs due to the formation of either lead sulfate or anhydrous copper sulfate as waste.

Corrosion of battery terminals is one of the reasons why car battery keeps draining overnight because corrosion hinders charging.  It is thus very important to clean the terminals.

Importance of Cleaning Car Battery Terminals

The corrosion on car battery terminals and cables is a poor conductor of electricity because it results to an increase in resistance within the electric circuit. This resistance can result to a problem in current flow resulting to a failure of the car’s starting mechanism.

How to clean car battery terminals with vinegar

Battery terminal corrosion usually occurs on the negative terminal of the batter which is actually a sign the batter is not charging properly (undercharging). Corrosion on the positive battery terminal is an indicator the battery is overcharging. Either way, the corrosion on both terminals need to be cleaned.

Corrosion and rust can block the terminals from getting electricity rendering them unusable.

Cleaning the car battery terminals can be the one thing between a smooth ride and halting your ride midway.

Even with “maintenance free” kind of batteries, it’s important to take preventative maintenance measures. Environmental conditions will always lead to corrosion of the car battery terminals.

Your car’s performance is directly proportional to the performance of your battery.

It will help you save your dollars if you get to understand how to clean your car battery terminals instead of having a mechanic do it for you.

Car battery terminals are electric contacts that are used to connect a charger to a single cell or a multiple cell battery. Thus transport electric currents to the other parts of a car.

Grime, dirt, corrosion and other impurities will limit the amount of electric power being distributed in your car.

You may also read our other guide: Best rated car battery brands

Source of Corrosion in Car Battery Terminals

Corrosion occurs when the terminals are not regularly maintained. You will start seeing a powder like substance on the terminals. This is the sure sign of corrosion.

If your car’s battery is overcharged, or if your car is not in regular use, you may encounter corrosion.

Corrosion is also common where the battery is poorly maintained or the battery has too much water.

So if you use your car in places where there is a lot of dust or high humidity, make sure you constantly clean your terminals with vinegar.

The average cost of a new battery is $100. Recurrent replacements due to poor maintenance will dip a hole in your pocket by several hundred dollars.

Tip 1: With routine maintenance of battery terminals and depending on capacity and brand, the battery of your car has an average life of 2.5 to 5 years.

When should you clean your car battery terminals?

We repeat again with the advice that you should regularly check your car battery terminals. The most appropriate interval is once per month.

Signs of trouble include having start up trouble; dirt, grime, odd smell and corrosion around the terminals. Corrosion as we noted above manifests as a white powdery substance on your battery terminals.

You should also read: Best car trash cans

If left for long without being sorted, corrosion can eat away at wires, cables and other battery components. This leads to irreparable damage that necessitates battery replacement.

Tip 2: Battery terminal cleaning should be part and parcel of your car maintenance routine.

Corroded car battery terminals can be cleansed by paying a visit to your mechanic. In this article we will focus on cleaning your car battery terminals with vinegar at the comfort of your garage or home.

Basic Instructions before Cleaning Car Battery Terminals

  • All jewelry like rings and bracelets should be removed before starting work. They can get caught on the engine parts or become grounded.
  • Your car should be turned off before you start cleaning. This is to avoid grounding the cables by accident.
  • If upon examining the battery you find cracks that are leaking acid, don’t go ahead with cleaning. Rather it’s time to replace the battery.
  • Disconnect the positive and the negative clamps on the battery. This can be done using a wrench. Loosen the nuts that are on the clamps and remove the negative (marked “-“) first. Then remove the clamp marked “+” (positive clamp).

Step by Step Procedure of Cleaning Car Battery Terminals with Vinegar Only

White vinegar is a common and mild household acid that contains 4-7% acetic acid. It is equally effective for getting rid of corrosion, rust, grease and dirt on car battery terminals.

Materials Needed

How to Clean Car Clean Car Battery Terminals with Vinegar (Procedure)

After assembling all your supplies listed above and wearing your protective gear, open your car hood and follow the steps below:

  1. Pour 7 Fl Oz of white vinegar in your empty mug or spray bottle.
  2. Remove the insulating tape from the positive terminal clamp. Pour or spray the vinegar solution onto the terminal clamps and terminals.
  3. Dip your toothbrush in the solution as many times as necessary while you scrub the areas that are corroded or filled with dirt. This applies to both the terminals and cable clamps.
  4. To rinse off after scrubbing pour a little of the vinegar solution on the terminals and clamps.
  5. Dry the terminals as well as the battery with a clean rag.
  6. To avoid further corrosion and help with electricity conduction, rub petroleum jelly on the metal parts of your terminals.
  7. Reattach the cable clamps back to their position starting with the positive and finishing with the negative.

Tip 3: If your car battery terminals are seriously corroded, you will need a mixture of vinegar and baking soda for better results.

How to Clean Corroded Car Battery Terminals with Vinegar and Baking Soda

To improve the cleaning properties of vinegar, sometimes it is advisable to use it with baking soda.

Materials Needed

  • Basic mechanic tool kit
  • Safety gear
  • Clean rags
  • Spray bottle
  • Baking soda (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Distilled white vinegar (1 cup)
  • Bristle brush or terminal brush
  • Petroleum jelly

How to Clean with Vinegar and Baking Soda (Procedure)

The white powdery substance on the cable clamps and terminals is caused by corrosion. It’s what you need to remove.

  • Sprinkle the baking soda over those areas of the terminals and cable clamps that are corroded.
  • Using the vinegar poured in your spray bottle, wet the areas that you have covered with the baking soda i.e. terminals and cable clamps. Alternatively you can use your mug to carefully pour the vinegar onto the spread baking soda.
  • The baking soda will start to fizzle. Allow this to continue for the next thirty to sixty seconds. Use your toothbrush or bristle brush to gently but firmly scrub away the corrosion.
  • Foaming will be visible as the buildup continues to dissolve.
  • Once you are satisfied with the scrubbing, rinse with your spray bottle.
  • Dry the wet areas with a clean dry rag then lubricate the terminals with petroleum jelly.
  • Finally reconnect your car battery clamp cables. Start with the positive terminal followed by the negative terminal.

Tip 4: You can also use the Coca Cola soda to clean your car battery terminals in case the battery suddenly comes to a stop


Water should not be used when cleaning your car battery terminals. Consult a professional mechanic in case you are unable to clean by yourself.

Avoid open flames like smoking a cigarette. Car batteries emit hydrogen gas when charging them and when discharging which can catch fire.


That is basically how to clean car battery terminals with vinegar or a combination of vinegar and baking soda. It is a very simple procedure that keeps ones vehicle going.

In most instances, a routine cleaning of your car battery terminals is all the basic maintenance you will need to extend the life of your battery. This should not cost you a lot.

However, in cases where the casing of your battery is damaged or the battery is leaking fluids, the best option is to replace your battery.

Lewis James

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