In the know: What’s the deal with the powder on your car’s battery terminal?

In the know: What’s the deal with the powder on your car’s battery terminal?

If you’re driving your dad’s old car, chances are you might have noticed a powdery substance on the vehicle’s battery terminal. This is a likely occurrence, especially when a car is running a worn-out battery, or if the owner is not really paying attention to battery maintenance.


  • What is the powdery substance that sometimes appears on car battery terminals?

    The powdery material in your car's battery terminal is evidence of corrosion.
  • How do you remove it?

    While there are many commercial products designed to remove battery terminal corrosion, you can remove it using a mixture of baking soda and warm water.
  • While it’s not something that can cause substantial damage, it’s definitely something that should be addressed. Today, we talk about the dust or powder in your car’s battery terminal.

    car battery

    What is it?

    The powder on your vehicle’s battery terminal is not fairy dust. It won’t make you, or your car, fly when you think of happy thoughts. In fact, they are the product of corrosion and their presence in the battery terminal can affect the flow of energy, resulting in a decrease in battery power. In addition, a corroded car battery could encounter problems receiving constant charging from the alternator.

    Effects could vary from problems starting your car to problems with your air conditioning.

    What causes it?

    Corrosion happens when the hydrogen gas from the sulfuric compound in your battery evaporates. The vented hydrogen then reacts with other gases and substances in the engine bay and develops a powdery buildup around the battery terminal.

    It can also be caused by a leak in the battery causing the electrolyte solution to bleed. As the electrolyte solution accumulates on the battery terminal, so does the corrosive buildup.

    Other typical reasons for corroded car batteries include overcharging and old age.

    How do you get rid of it?

    Fortunately, one does not need a mechanic to clean the corrosive buildup on a car’s battery terminal. Cleaning it requires only a few household items and can be done in a matter of minutes.

    Baking soda mixed with water is one of the most common cleaning solutions used for removing battery dust. After making the concoction, it’s only a matter of using a brush to scrub the affected poles with the solution and rinsing the battery.

    Others even recommend using petroleum jelly after cleaning the terminals to prevent corrosion as the salve has properties that could keep battery dust at bay.

    Photos from Toyota and ZigWheels

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