A dead car battery does not always mean you have to replace it. Here is a look at the best ways you can refurbish a dead battery instead of buying a new one.
One of the easiest components to fix in a car is the battery. It does not require any special or technical skills for this process as we’ll see later in this article. There is no need to get a new battery that may cost you up to a hundred bucks when you can refurbish it. In fact, refurbishing or reconditioning a battery is about 75% effective. This means the battery is recharge to about three quarters of its original capacity. With this, you can use the battery for about three more years. However, there are a few special circumstances where a dead battery cannot be reconditioned and instead you will need a new replacement.
Why a car battery may fail reconditioning
There are special situations where the refurbishment process will fail. These situations include:
- the battery is too old and cannot be recharged anymore
- the metallic plates are too corroded and damaged to transfer electrons
- the battery fluid level is extremely low, way below the minimum mark
- a short circuit in the battery
If your battery passes these tests, you can begin the process of refurbishing it. But to understand the procedure better, you need to understand how a car battery works
How does a car battery work?
The battery contains a fluid inside known as an electrolyte. For car batteries, the acid is usually sulfuric acid. When you start the car, the ignition sends an electric signal in the battery that starts a chemical reaction inside the battery. The electrolyte transmits electrons to the metallic plates and an electric energy is produced that starts the engine. With a dead battery, the engine lights on the dash flicker but the engine does not crank up. In extreme situations, the engine lights may not even come on. A new battery is supposed to last about six years but this may vary from car to car. In addition, a new car battery goes for about three years before needing its first reconditioning procedure.
Refurbishing a dead car battery
Your car battery is dead and now you want to recondition it. You will need the following items for this procedure.
- Protective gear: gloves, googles and apron
- Battery charger
- Distilled water
- A pound of Epsom salt
- A pound of baking soda
- An old toothbrush
- A screwdriver
- Steel wool
Once you have these items, begin the following process
Step 1: Prepare the battery
For this method to be effective, clean the battery terminals to remove the corrosion that has accumulated on the metal plates. Ensure that you have your protective gear on before beginning this process. To clean the plates, you need a cleaning solution. Mix the baking soda with distilled water into a paste. Apply the paste on the plates and scrub using the steel wool. If the corrosion is too much, use a toothbrush to scrub. Rinse the foam, wipe off and allow the area to dry off completely
Step 2: Check battery voltage
Use the voltmeter to test the voltage of the battery. Voltmeters are cheap and easy to find at your local electric shop. Connect the battery terminals and voltmeter and if it reads anything less than 12.6 Volts, reconditioning the battery is possible. Otherwise, if the reading is zero, this indicates a short circuiting problem and you will need to replace the battery
Step 3: Empty the battery
This is perhaps the most important step. Here, make sure you have all your protective gear on. Open the cell caps using the screwdriver and empty the sulfuric acid in the battery on to a plastic bucket. Do it carefully to avoid spills onto yourself. Sulfuric acid is corrosive and contact with it should always be avoided. Once the battery is completely empty, place it back up to normal and pour in half of the baking powder into the emptiness. The soda acts to neutralize the acid.
Step 4: Clean all the cells
Once again, mix the distilled water with some baking soda to create the paste that will be used to clean the cell caps. Pour the runny paste into the cells, close them and shake viciously to clean every bit of it. Open the caps and pour into the bucket. Now, the battery is rid of all contaminants and the reconditioning process can begin.
Step 5: Begin refurbishment process
Now that the battery is clean, refill the battery cells with water and the Epsom salt. To create a mixture that will act as an electrolyte, heat the distilled water until boiled and add in the Epsom salt. The best way to do this would be in a separate clean bucket. Once the water is boiled, add the salt and stir. Stir until the water is clear. Once this is done, pour the solution in using a clean funnel and fill each cell completely. Any excess solution can be saved for next time. Close the caps once gain and shake the battery for about three minutes. The battery is now ready to be charged
Step 6: Charge the battery
For this step, remove the caps so that the electrolyte does not heat up and expand and overflow. Furthermore, there should be no pressure build up in the battery as this can be dangerous. Connect the positive end of the clamp to the positive terminal and repeat this for the negative side. Ensure the charger is disconnected when doing this. Put the charger on and let the battery charge for one and a half days. After this time has passed, test the battery using a voltmeter for a reading of 12.8 V. if not there yet, leave it to continue charging till it does.
What to do if the battery fails to recondition?
If there is no change in the battery’s reading after 36 hours, this means the refurbishment procedure has failed. Consider replacing with a new battery or visiting the mechanic for better diagnosis.