Cleaning Battery Corrosion

courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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Hi Bob,
I was just reading a question you answered for someone else and I thought I would send you my questions to see if you could help. I drive a Dodge Neon that had the battery replaced several years ago due to a faulty cell. Yesterday, the battery stopped working, and the tow-truck driver that jumped my car said that my battery had corrosion on it. He said to add distilled water to the 6 "holes" (please excuse my extreme ignorance!) and to go somewhere where they can clean up the corrosion. After driving it for a half of a hour (after it was jumped), it still did not work this morning. After having it jumped this morning and then running/driving it for 40 minutes, I tried to turn it on again after turning it off and nothing happened. Someone else told me to get a new battery. So, my questions are:

  1. Can you clean up corrosion and then the battery will work (he said the corrosion was disrupting the contacts)?
  2. If so, where would I get this done? I stopped by a place yesterday, but they said they do not do it. Do you know roughly how much this regularly costs?
  3. If this is a corrosion issue, what can I do in the future to prevent this from happening again?

Thanks in advance for your help.

You can do it yourself actually. You will need to remove the cables from the battery terminal. Remove first the negative and then the positive. Then, by using a stiff brush, like a wire brush, scrub the powdery substance away. Then, you can make a solution of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid that is on top of the battery. Make sure none of this gets down into the six holes on top of the battery, as it will also neutralize the acid in the battery. Also, clean the connectors on the cables you removed. Once everything is clean, reconnect the cables and charge the battery. You do not want to use the alternator to charge the battery. It is only designed to replace the power that the car is using, not charge a dead battery. After charging the battery overnight with an automatic charger, everything should be okay.

If you still have the same trouble, then I suspect that your battery might be a goner. Some places like Autozone will test the battery for you for free (you will have to remove it from the car first and bring it to their store). I would do this after you charge it and the car does not start, because if the battery is dead, their machine won't be able to tell you much other than the battery is dead (which we already knew).

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However, you may want to think about going back to the place that you purchased the battery. Most batteries come with a warranty that should pro-rate from the day you purchased it. Say it's a five-year battery, and now, two years later, it is dead. There should be three years worth of credit left to apply towards a new battery. It helps to have your original receipt for this. If not, they go by the manufacture date of the battery.
Good Luck!
Drive Safely!
Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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