How to Clean Car Battery Terminals With Vinegar? Easy Steps

If you’ve ever tried to clean a car battery terminal with a rag or paper towel, then you know what an incredibly frustrating task it can be.

The acid from the batteries will quickly dissolve these materials and cause them to break apart into little pieces that are not only difficult to remove, but also result in even more corrosion on your terminals as they fall off.

In this blog post, I’ll show you how easy it is to clean your car battery terminals with vinegar.

What Are Car Battery Terminals?

Car batteries have two posts sticking up. If you were to look at these posts from the side, they would appear round in shape. One of these posts is called the positive (+) post, and the other is called the negative (-) post. 

The cables on your battery are connected to each of these terminals with a metal bolt that has one end that screws into the post and the other end that is clamped onto the cable.

The purpose of the battery terminals is to provide a way for electricity to flow from the battery to the rest of the car. The positive post is always connected to the red wire, and the negative post is always connected to the black wire. 

When you start your car, the starter motor uses electricity from the battery to turn the engine over. This starts the combustion process and allows your car to run.

How To Clean Car Battery Terminals With Vinegar?

Car batteries contain sulfuric acid, which is the same type of acid you’ll find in a bottle of regular vinegar. The difference is that regular vinegar only contains about 5% sulfuric acid, while car batteries are made up primarily of this corrosive substance. 

This allows for the quick dissolving of materials such as paper towels or cotton rags if you try to clean your battery terminals with them. The best way to clean your battery terminals is by using a mixture of vinegar and water. 

The ratio you use doesn’t really matter, but I like to use about 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Simply pour this mixture over the terminals and let it soak in for a few minutes. Then you can take a clean rag or paper towel and wipe the terminals down. 

If they are especially corroded there might still be some gunk stuck on them, but this method is much better than any alternative I’ve found so far.

Why You Should Use Vinegar To Clean The Terminal?

Using vinegar to clean your battery terminals is a much better alternative than using water because it won’t cause any unwanted splashback. 

The one downside you might experience when cleaning with vinegar is that, depending on the acidity level in the mixture you use, it may generate some small bubbles or foam as it dissolves the corrosion from your battery posts.

Steps For Cleaning The Terminal:  

The first step is to remove the cables from the battery terminals. This will allow you to soak down each of them separately, which can sometimes make a big difference in how well they clean up. 

Once the cables are removed it’s time for the fun part, Take your car battery cleaner and pour it over each terminal. Let this soak for a couple of minutes, then grab a clean rag or paper towel and wipe the terminals down.

The following items will be needed to complete this task.

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Rag or paper towel  
  • Car battery cleaner (optional)    

If you try to use regular water it might cause more corrosion because it will be introducing new minerals to the battery posts. 

Vinegar, on the other hand, is a mild acid and will help dissolve any corrosion that is already present. It’s also a much cheaper alternative than most car battery cleaners that are available on the market.

Tips And Tricks Of Maintaining The Battery Terminals:

– If you live in a cold climate, it’s a good idea to clean your battery terminals at the beginning of each winter. This will help keep them from corroding as quickly and will make starting your car easier in the morning.

– It’s also a good idea to check your battery terminals every now and then for any signs of corrosion. If the metal has started to erode away it’s probably time for you to replace your battery cables.

– At this point in time, I don’t recommend using baking soda or water to clean the terminals because I’ve seen too many cases where people just end up with a big mess that doesn’t really get their terminals very clean.

– A good way to test if your terminals are clean is by taking a small metal object such as a flathead screwdriver and touching the terminal with it. If it sticks, then there’s still some corrosion present that needs to be cleaned off.  

Ways To Tell if Your Battery Needs Replacement:

– If you have to jump-start your vehicle more often than every couple of months then it might be time for a replacement.

– Another surefire way to tell if your battery is going bad is by simply checking the electrolyte levels. It’s recommended that you check these once a month or so to make sure they are within range, but it’s a good idea to check them before you have to jump-start your car.

– Other symptoms of a bad battery include corrosion on the cables and posts, a high acid level in the cell, or an inability to hold a charge for very long.

Conclusion: 

A clean battery is a happy battery, This simple task should take you no more than 10 minutes, and it will help keep your car running smoothly all year long. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the section below I’ll be happy to answer them as soon as I can. Thanks for reading.


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Yusuke Kohara
By Yusuke Kohara

Hi, my name is Yusuke Kohara. I'm a research scientist with 20+ years of experience in the battery industry. My knowledge and expertise has been applied to power electric vehicles, mobile electronics, and more! I am also a true car enthusiast. It’s not just about cars for me - it's about all things automotive! I enjoy helping others find their perfect vehicle by providing detailed buying guides as well as reviews on different types of batteries from various manufacturers across the world.


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