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Battery White Powder-Terminals and Safety
Have you observed a white, ash-like powdery substance on top of your battery depots when you open top of your car? Did you create time to discover what the white powdery substance could be, its cause, the dangers it poses, and what safety measures could be taken to avoid the dangers that this white powdery substance might cause? If you didn’t, it is time to know what causes the corrosion (White powder) on your car battery depots. This article explains all you need to know about the white powder on the terminals, cell tops, terminal posts of your car battery.
What is this white powder (sometimes blue or green) substance in your battery? White powdery substance, especially on the battery's terminals and areas surrounding it, is known as corrosion. It usually occurs in lead batteries that are mostly used in cars.
Occasionally, and particularly with vehicles that are not frequently used, the battery's terminals might experience corrosion. This means the battery depots of your vehicle are not properly connected. This might make it difficult for you to start your vehicle and make the battery not charge when you are driving. This could make you have a flat battery.
Corrosion occurs on and around the terminals of batteries which most times appears as white powder on top of or around the battery depots, causes resistance to electrical current (minimizing the number of electrical charges) that flows to the car's starter motor. The white powder is commonly found on lead batteries used by cars.
What Is The Cause of Corrosion?
Lead batteries used by cars comprise lead dioxide and lead plates immersed in electrolyte solution consisting of 65% water and 35% sulphuric acid. During discharge (when the car is started with the battery or the battery is used to turn on the headlights and rear lights, the sulphuric acid content of the electrolyte solution is used up. The percentage of water in the electrolyte solution becomes higher as a result of this. The plates become coated with sulfate produced by the acid. This reduces the area of the surface where a chemical change or reaction can occur. This is what is known as corrosion of the battery's terminals. Corrosion is due to the chemical reaction which causes the softening and shedding of the battery's lead plates. Can this be avoided? No! But it could be minimized. This chemical process is unavoidable because the lead plates are always reactive. A battery that has corrosion building upon its terminal is gradually losing its lifespan. Charging the battery reverses the chemical process, and the sulfate changes to sulphuric acid.
The car's battery is recharged by the alternator (the car charging mechanism) when the car engine starts. The alternator is driven by the engine's rotational energy through a drive belt, providing the right amount of electrical current required to charge the battery. The car battery stores energy, which is released to start a car's engine.
The white powder on a battery depot is usually, Zinc Sulfate or lead sulfate crystals. Lead Sulfate crystals are formed on negative terminal of the lead battery when it is not sufficiently or correctly charged. This is known as ‘sulfation’, which is a much serious problem compared to corrosion. It causes premature failure of the battery.
A bluish-white powder occurs when copper connectors are corroded. For aluminum connectors, corrosion produces Aluminum Sulfate. The white powder coating caused by the corrosive effect can occur around the battery depots or on top of battery depots.
Battery White Powder Around Terminals
When the corrosive effect or white powder coating occurs around the battery's positive terminal, it is due to the electrolysis process triggered by the difference between the metal alloys used to produce the cable lugs or connectors and the battery depots.
Battery White Powder on Top
When the white powder (the corrosive effect of the chemical reaction discussed earlier) coats the battery's terminal posts (the battery terminal on a battery to which the battery lead is connected or attached), or when the white powder is on the top of a cell of the battery, the corrosion is due to chemical reactions that occur between the cable lugs, connectors, and battery depots. This is caused by a faulty seal. It can also be due to overcharging, or the battery is old.
Battery White Powder Dangerous
The white powder coating on battery depots could be harmful or dangerous to the human body. If the white powder comes in contact with human skin, red spots appear on your skin. The batteries also contain metal elements, Manganese and Zinc. Breathing in Zinc Oxide powder could cause fever and chills as well as Zinc poisoning, which reduces the ability to breathe. The accumulation of white powder on your battery depots, which occurs over time, can affect the electrical power delivered to the battery's engine. This causes a flat battery, which makes it difficult for your car to start and affects the functionality of your car accessories like radio as well as cabin light. This mostly gives rise to the urgent need to replace the battery or seek a mechanic's assistance.
What safety precautions should I take to avoid the dangerous effect of a battery White powder?
Disconnect the vehicle battery
Observe and examine connecting cables, plugs, connectors, and clamps for any signs of damage like broken clamps or splits in cables and excessive corrosion
Check the battery casing for signs of cracking, damage, and warping
Check the connections made by the cables, connectors, lugs, and clamps to know if there is a clean and smooth connection.
Neutralize the acid (sulphuric acid) by pouring a small amount of baking soda on the dry terminals of the battery. Avoid the use of water and baking soda mixture.
Gently apply water and a soft brush to clean the baking soda
Clean the terminal posts with soda and water mixture using a hard brush
Rinse after the mixture is stopped fizzing completely, using a small amount of water
Apply petroleum jelly to prevent further corrosion
Reconnect the battery