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Battery Maintenance

2002 Toyota Corolla CE

(Also applies to any Toyota Corolla from 1993 through 2002)

So, when I got my "Honey-Do" item regarding the oil in SWMBO's Corolla I lifted the hood and was horrified at the state of the battery. Normally I avoid messing around with the Corolla because, well, Corolla's aren't as much fun as Healeys or Studebakers. However, when I saw this (see below) I couldn't avoid having to do what was necessary.

Corolla Battery Before Maintenance

More often than not, when looking under the hoods of friends and family's cars I see the exact same thing. A big corrosiony nasty mess. So why is maintaining this important? Well, for starters the corrosion builds up on the terminals over time reducing the ability for the battery to supply electricity to the car as well as the ability to charge the battery while running. Also, the corrosion will eat through the vehicle's paint and accelerate the process of body rot due to rusting. I can't count the number of possible restoration projects I've looked at over the years that are completely rusted out around the battery area.

Because the surface corrosion was so bad that I couldn't readily access the bolts. A good trick I've learned over the years is to hit the nuts, bolts and exposed threads with a small wire wheel on my Dremel tool. This allows you to rapidly clean off the bits you need to access. Additionally, it's significantly easier to remove the bolts when the threads have been cleaned. You dont get stuck nuts or sheared bolts this way.

Cleaned Positive Terminal

So, with a rough cleaning of the terminal with the Dremel we can now remove the battery connectors and remove the battery from the car. Note, never set your battery on a concrete surface. Putting a battery on concrete will accelerate the demise of the battery. So, once the battery was removed and set aside, and the plastic battery tray pulled out for cleaning we had a bit of a nasty suprise.

Base of the battery support in the engine bay

It's not always so easy to show the full extent of damage in a photo. The entire left side of this section had a layer of caked corrosion ~1/2 inch thick. The entire right section had all of it's paint gone or flaking off and a generous coating of surface rust. Now, keep in mind that this car was built in 2002. It's only 7.5 years old and in Arizona one of the driest states in the U.S. All that rust was the result of excessive battery corrosion getting down there and performing all that damage. Now, SWMBO wouldn't have ever noticed this, and most likely wouldn't have been too concerned with it, but I don't want to be stuck welding in new metal to a Corolla in a year and a half, so we needed to get it cleaned up.

First we needed to get the battery retaining braket cleaned. To get the worst of it off I went ahead and used my Dremel again. As an alternative you could use a wire brush or just about any other tool that will scrape off the corrosion. Below you can see the cleaned up bracket (left) and the pile of corrosion debris that came off the piece (right).

Battery Bracket for Corolla Battery Corrosion Debris

Now one of the best things for removing and nullifying battery corrosion is most likely sitting in the back of your fridge absorbing odors. I'm speaking of Baking Soda. In the picture below you'll see my Junior Greasemonkey (Tanith) mixing up a super saturated, heated solution of baking soda and water.

Tanith mixing up the Baking Soda Solution

Here you can see the bracket after having been cleaned in the solution.

Cleaned battery bracket.

Using a mixture of a putty knife, the Dremel and multiple applications of the baking soda mix we managed to get the area cleaned up.

Battery Area Clean

In the back of the garage I found a rattle can of green spray paint. It wasn't a perfect colour match, but we're talking about an area that people don't normally see. Additionally, I have my suspicions that I'll be back in this engine in the future so I'll be picking up a rattle can of the correct paint between now and then. I also shot the upper bracket with some black rustoleum paint to protect it.

Battery Area Painted

Now that the spray paint has dried and we've corrected all of the underlying issues we can get back to the basics of battery maintenance. Once you've gone over the electrical connections and cleaned them off finishing with the baking soda, and cleaned off the terminals as well, it's time to start putting it all back together and protecting it from future corrosion.

Assembling and protecting the battery terminals

So now here's the secret.You don't need super fancy batter terminal protector. All you really need to protect your battery terminals from corrosion is some Petroleum Jelly (a.k.a Vaseline).

So, now that the connections are all put back together and properly cleaned and protected you're done. The best part, is short of the Rattle can of paint that I already had on hand, the total cost of this was $3.50 and that was for a fresh box of Baking Powder and a jar of Petroleum Jelly.

The Engine are after all the work.

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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