We had a very good customer drop by the service department the other day with a typical problem, but some rather unusual questions – and we’d like to share them with you. This customer had a battery in her vehicle that wasn’t even two years old; and it was already dead. The first thing we thought of is that the battery shouldn’t have given up the ghost after this short a time, so we were wondering what was amiss. The customer stated that a co-worker helped her jump start her vehicle at work the other day & that person noticed a great deal of corrosion on the battery terminals. This customer also lives quite close to the ocean & was wondering if the salt air could have caused an early demise to the battery. Finally, she stated that the co-worker poured some soda on the terminals in order to “eat away” at some of that corrosion – would this hurt the battery?
Wow – where to start? First off, we informed the customer that her co-worker was correct. Corrosion on the battery terminals will prevent the battery from being charged completely or have difficulty starting when she needed the power. Corrosion is caused by acid that escapes from the battery casing in a gas form. This is most likely caused by either a defective battery (which would be under warranty in this case) or if the alternator (or related charging system) is over-charging the battery. The battery could have also been weakened by human error – for example, accidentally leaving her lights on & if the car was not started for say, a month. As far as any relation to where she lives, we informed her that the ocean air was definitely not a problem.
Next, we tested the battery as well as the vehicles charging system to get to the bottom of things, or she would be going through more and more batteries… not a good thing. As far as the soda treatment, we told her there are better things that can be used in a pinch (if available – sometimes you just gotta use what you have at hand) to clean corrosion off the terminals… and one of them is not ketchup from fast food restaurants! Sparkling water works great (and it doesn’t contain the sugary syrup that soda does) or even better (but probably less likely you would have this in your car) is mixing baking soda & water. Once the pasty substance has a chance to work its magic, just rinse it off with water. By the way, water will never hurt the external parts of a battery.