See Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4
Periodically, clean the top of the battery with a solution of baking soda and water using a stiff bristle brush.
Make certain that none of this solution gets into the battery. If any acid has spilled onto the battery tray, clean this area in the same way. If paint has been removed from the tray, wire brush the area and paint it with a rust-resisting paint.
Remove the cable ends, clean the cable end clamps and battery posts, reconnect and tighten the clamps and apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to the terminals. This will help to retard corrosion. The terminals can be cleaned with a staff wire brush or with an inexpensive terminal cleaner designed for this purpose.
Some batteries were equipped with a felt terminal washer. This should be saturated with engine oil approximately every 6,000 miles. This will also help to retard corrosion.
If the top of the battery is constantly wet, it a good sign that the voltage regulator is malfunctioning.
MAINTENANCE FREE BATTERIES
The factory-installed battery is a maintenance free type on all the cars covered by this guide. That means that you'll never have to remove caps (there aren't any) to add water. But a yearly inspection and cleaning of the battery, connections, and battery mountings is recommended to guarantee maximum reliability.Testing the Maintenance Free Battery
Maintenance-free batteries do not require normal attention as far as fluid level checks are concerned. However, the terminals require periodic cleaning, which should be performed at least once a year.
The sealed top battery cannot be checked for charge in the normal manner, since there is no provision for access to the electrolyte. To check the condition of the battery:
- If the battery is equipped with an indicator eye on top of the battery check the color of the eye. If the eye is bright, the battery has enough fluid. If the eye is dark, the electrolyte fluid is too low and the battery must be replaced.
- If a green dot appears in the middle of the eye, the battery is sufficiently charged. Proceed to Step 4. If no green dot is visible, charge the battery as in Step 3.
- Charge the battery at this rate:
It may be necessary to tip the battery from side to side to get the green dot to appear after charging.
- Connect a battery load tester and a voltmeter across the battery terminals (the battery cables should be disconnected from the battery). Apply a 300 amp load to the battery for 15 seconds to remove the surface charge. Remove the load.
- Wait 15 seconds to allow the battery to recover. Apply the appropriate test load, as specified in the accompanying chart. Apply the load for 15 seconds while reading the voltage. Disconnect the load.
- Check the results against the accompanying chart. If the battery voltage is at or above the specified voltage for the temperature listed, the battery is good. If the voltage falls below what's listed, the battery should be replaced.
Many replacement batteries are of the maintenance free type. For these batteries, follow the procedures above. If the replacement battery you have purchased is not a maintenance free type, follow these easy maintenance procedures:
Check the battery fluid level at least once a month, more often in hot weather or during extended periods of travel. The electrolyte level should be up to the bottom of the split ring in each cell. If the level is low, add water. Distilled water is good for this purpose, but ordinary tap water can be used.
At least once a year, check the specific gravity of the battery with a hydrometer. It should be between 1.20-1.26 on the hydrometer's scale. Most importantly, all the cells should read approximately the same. If one or more cells read significantly lower than the others, it's an indication that these low cells are shorting out. Replace the battery.
If water is added during freezing weather, the vehicle should be driven several miles to allow the electrolyte and water to mix. Otherwise the battery could freeze.Filling the Battery
Batteries should be checked for proper electrolyte level at least once a month or more frequently. Keep a close eye on any cell or cells that are unusually low or seem to constantly need water-this may indicate a battery on its last legs, a leak, or a problem with the charging system.
Top up each cell to the bottom of the split ring, or, if the battery has no split ring, about 3 / 8 in. (9.5mm) above the tops of the plates. Use distilled water where available, or ordinary tap water, if the water in your area isn't too hard. Hard water contains minerals that may slowly damage the plates of your battery.
CABLES AND CLAMPS
Twice a year, the battery terminal posts and the cable clamps should be cleaned. Loosen the clamp bolts (you may have to brush off any corrosion with a baking soda and water solution if they are really messy) and remove the cables, negative cable first. On batteries with posts on top, the use of a battery clamp puller is recommended. It is easy to break off a battery terminal if a clamp gets stuck without the puller. These pullers are inexpensive and available in most auto parts stores or auto departments. Side terminal battery cables are secured with a bolt.
The best tool for battery clamp and terminal maintenance is a battery terminal brush. This inexpensive tool has a female ended wire brush for cleaning terminals, and a male ended wire brush inside for cleaning the insides of battery clamps. When using this tool, make sure you get both the terminal posts and the insides of the clamps nice and shiny. Any oxidation, corrosion or foreign material will prevent a sound electrical connection and inhibit either starting or charging. If your battery has side terminals, there is also a cleaning tool available for these.
Before installing the cables, remove the battery hold-down clamp or strap and remove the battery. Inspect the battery casing for leaks or cracks (which unfortunately can only be fixed by buying a new battery). Check the battery tray, wash it off with warm soapy water, rinse and dry. Any rust on the tray should be sanded away, and the tray given at least two coats of a quality anti-rust paint. Replace the battery, and install the hold-down clamp or strap, but do not overtighten.
Reinstall your clean battery cables, negative cable last. Tighten the cables on the terminal posts snugly; do not overtighten. Wipe a thin coat of petroleum jelly or grease all over the outside of the clamps. This will help to inhibit corrosion.
Finally, check the battery cables themselves. If the insulation of the cables is cracked or broken, or if the ends are frayed, replace the cable with a new cable of the same length or gauge.
BATTERY CHARGING AND REPLACEMENT
Charging a battery is best done by the slow charging method (often called trickle charging), with a low amperage charger. Quick charging a battery can actually "cook" the battery, damaging the plates inside and decreasing the life of the battery drastically. Any charging should be done in a well ventilated area away from the possibility of sparks or flame. The cell caps (not found on maintenance-free batteries) should be unscrewed from their cells, but not removed.
If the battery must be quick-charged, check the cell voltages and the color of the electrolyte a few minutes after the charge is started. If cell voltages are not uniform or if the electrolyte is discolored with brown sediment, stop the quick charging in favor of a trickle charge. A common indicator of an overcharged battery is the frequent need to add water to the battery.