Whitesburg KY

What makes a battery die?

Car Talk

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live near the ocean, and my less- than-a-yearold battery died this week. My neighbor, who jumped the battery with his cables, said that my connections should be disconnected and cleaned with a wire brush due to corrosion. My other neighbor said that she poured a can of Coke on her battery and it cleaned off all of the corrosion. Before I start pouring Coke on my car battery, may I have your opinion on her fantastic remedy? — Martha

RAY: We prefer Dr. Pepper, Martha.

TOM: If you do have a lot of corrosion between the posts and the terminal ends of the battery, it can prevent the battery from being charged completely, or discharged when you need the power.

RAY: But you shouldn’t have that kind of corrosion on a year-old battery — even if your next-door neighbors are Mr. and Mrs. Sea Cucumber.

TOM: Corrosion like that usually is caused by “outgassing,” which means the acid in your battery is escaping from its container in gaseous form.

RAY: That can be caused by either a faulty battery — in which case yours should be covered by warranty — or a charging system that’s “overcharging” the battery and causing it to emit gas.

TOM: So you’ll want to take your car to a good mechanic, and ask him to test your battery and charging system.

RAY: If all’s well, the corrosion may be a red herring. Especially since we know herring live near you in the ocean. Your battery may have died due to human error: You may have left a dome light on, or simply left the car sitting for a few weeks without driving it.

TOM: If there IS a problem with the charging system, then you need to fix that before you blow through any more good batteries.

RAY: And Coke — with its carbonic and phosphoric acids — will help remove corrosion from battery terminals, as will any carbonated beverage (they all contain carbonic acid). Although a nice sparkling water, without the sugary syrup, would be an even better choice. Add lime or a twist if you want your terminals to feel particularly refreshed.

TOM: Or even better, and cheaper, mix a little baking soda with water to make a runny paste. Remove the battery’s terminal ends, smear your mixture on the battery posts and terminals, give them each a little scrub with a wire brush, and rinse it all off with a garden hose.

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In their pamphlet “Should I Buy, Lease, or Steal My Next Car?” Tom and Ray break down the strategies for buying a car, so you can make the most of your money. Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Next Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2013 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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