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Why You Should Clean Your Car Battery in the Winter

Posted by Scott Crawford
car battery

The winter time is usually when people think about car battery maintenance. As the cold saps the power of your fleet's startup batteries, it becomes increasingly important to keep your battery clean and fully charged.

While the charge is easily handled simply by driving regularly and not leaving any internal lights on, keeping your fleet worth of vehicle batteries clean is another matter entirely.

The dirtier a vehicle battery becomes, the more crud can interfere with the terminal connections and your ability to start the vehicle or keep it started. If you thought start-up problems were bad with just a cold engine, try starting a vehicle that has a cold engine and a filthy battery.

Batteries Corrode in the Summer Heat

The summer heat is hard on its internal mechanism of the battery. The heat can cause some of your battery fluid to evaporate, damaging the internal structure of a vehicle battery as the corrosive fluid makes contact with other components.

This evaporated battery fluid then escapes through the terminal connections to cause corrosion and is why corrosion is more likely to happen in the summer.

Even slightly corroded battery connections hinder current flow and lower the effectiveness of your battery, eventually causing starting problems which will only get worse as the seasons change.

Vehicle Battery Care in the Winter

If you want the best possible performance from your fleet vehicles in the winter, it's important to prepare your batteries to provide that performance even though they hate the cold.

While testing the batteries regularly and keeping a set of jumper cables handy both in the garage and in the vehicles themselves, the most important step is to clean your car battery and protect it from further damage. You can also try keeping 

vehicle battery care

your vehicles in a slightly warmed parking area to prevent the usual freeze and dead battery hassle.

At the beginning of winter if you haven't been staying on top of the corrosion problem during the summer months, open up your hood and check your battery for signs of corrosion. This is most distinctly recognized as white, crusty residue on the top of the battery and coating the terminals along with anything connected to them.

The corrosion then gets in the way of electrical connection and strong current flow. The more there is of it, the harder it is for your car to connect to its battery. Even just a millimeter of that cruncy white stuff can stop a vehicle from starting.

How to Clean a Vehicle Battery

While battery fluid is a bit hazardous, it's fairly easy to clean your corroded battery terminals quickly and inexpensively, just remember to wear gloves and eye protection.

  • Remove the battery terminals.
  • Start with the negative (black or not-red) one first.
  • Move the battery cables away from the post
  • Sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the battery posts
  • Pour a few tablespoons of water over each post, watch it fizz
  • Scrub posts and entire terminal area with a wire brush, old toothbrush or nail brush
  • Carefully treat the cable ends with baking soda and water as well
  • Do not soak the cable ends or dip them in water
  • You may want to put a small tub under the cable ends to avoid dripping into the engine
  • Scrub cable ends with brush
  • Rinse everything carefully but do not soak
  • Reattach cables to posts.
  • Apply dielectric grease or petroleum jelly to discourage further corrosion
Sometimes corrosion is a lot worse than can be handled with a little baking soda. If you have not checked your battery connections in a long time, it's possible the corrosion will have stuck your cables in place or even fully compromised the structure of your connections.

When this happens, replacement of the cable ends, battery posts or the battery itself may be necessary. Battery cleaning can fall off a maintenance checklist all too easily because it's not technically a major malfunction, but it can become one if not taken care of. Especially in the winter.

For more tips and tricks on optimizing your fleet management and efficiency, contact us today!

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Topics: Fleet Maintenance


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