This evening after work I gathered some supplies and headed downstairs to the parking garage where my car is parked to clean the battery terminals and the wire connectors. Earlier in the day, I had watched a few YouTube videos so I knew what to do and what to expect. It seemed pretty straightforward.
Now, the terminals on my car battery weren’t nearly as bad as some of the corrosion that I saw in those videos. In the videos, it was caked on like frosting. On my battery, it was clean and you could see a bright and shiny silver surface. I had nothing to lose though and I didn’t think it would hurt to give it a once over.
As the tutorials showed me, I disconnected the ground or negative post first. When I did, I got to see the inside of the wire connector for the first time. It had a bit of gunk on the surface but it seemed very clean to me. The metal on the post itself was also very clean and shiny. It made me wonder if this was going to do anything at all. I then disconnected the positive post. Again, looking at inside of the connector, it was fairly clean as was the battery post.
I had brought down near-boiling water, baking soda, rags, eye protection, gloves, and a toothbrush, so I figured I might as well use them anyways, even if I was really skeptical of what it would do. I grabbed a disposable cup and poured some hot water into it. Then I scooped some baking soda into the cup. With the toothbrush, I mixed it all up. With the toothbrush dipped in this mixture, I began cleaning the battery terminals and the inside of the wire connectors. I wasn’t especially thorough but I put in a bit of effort into it. After I was done, I used a rag to dry off the posts and the connectors. I then connected the battery up to the wires again.
I didn’t expect much but I figured I had to give it a try, so I hopped into the car, put the key in the ignition, and turned it to the accessory position. I noticed a lot more of the dashboard lights were on compared to the Tuesday night. They seemed brighter too. I turned the key again and without any hesitation, the starter motor kicked in and the engine started right away. Wow, I almost didn’t believe it.
I left the car idling for a few minutes while I got out the multimeter to do a voltage reading. It measured about 13.6V while running, which depending on what site you’re reading, is either on the low end of ok or too low.
After leaving it to idle, I turned off the engine and waited for a minute. I then tried to start the car again. It started immediately just like last time.
While I’m happy that my car starts, I’m disappointed I didn’t do a control test. I didn’t try to start my car before I cleaned the battery. I cannot definitely say that cleaning the terminals was the thing that fixed everything. It’s quite possible that waiting 48 hours was the key to making the battery work. My car might have started even if I didn’t clean the battery. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that the battery hasn’t been replaced in many years and the resting voltage is a bit low. I believe the prudent thing to do is to buy a new battery. I will do so this weekend, before the weather gets even colder and puts even more stress on the battery.