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Time Needed: 1-2 Hours, Difficulty: Beginner, Cost: $20-100

One of the most rewarding parts of any DIY work, auto-related or not, is the feeling of saving money. By taking matters into your own hands and getting the job done yourself, rather than paying somebody to do it, you’re more familiar with your possessions, and that means you can extend the lives of those possessions. Car batteries are a perfect example.

Those familiar with batteries know that they are not simply good or bad. There are reasons the battery holds or doesn’t hold its charge, and there are various ways to treat such malfunctioning parts. Sometimes it just needs a charge, sometimes it needs to be replaced, or sometimes you can do something known as reconditioning the battery.

Reconditioning the battery does not necessarily “fix” the battery or make it new again, that’s just not possible. It can possibly extend the life of the battery, which puts off spending money for just a bit longer. The penny-pinching editors at Car Bibles’ want to explain what that means and show you how to do it yourself. Get the protective gear ready!

What To Consider When Reconditioning a Car Battery

  • This article is in reference to lead-acid batteries only. Other types of batteries function differently and require different handling and maintenance.
  • Not all batteries are meant to be opened and serviced. Some batteries are closed and do not have caps to access the cells, so check your battery to make sure this is possible.
  • Lead-acid batteries can be extremely heavy due to the lead! Be careful when you’re picking up and moving your batteries.
  • Acid is dangerous and should be treated as such. Always wear protective equipment and keep extra baking soda around. The baking soda acts as a base to the acid and will neutralize it. If you get any acid on your skin, rinse and wash immediately with copious amounts of water.
  • It’s not always going to work. Sometimes a battery is deader than my fifth-grade guinea pig.

The Safety Brief

Serviceable lead-acid batteries contain chemicals and materials that could burn you worse than an eleventh-grade dance rejection. Keep your face and fingers intact by wearing the right equipment. You’ll need everything you see below:

  • Safety glasses
  • Acid-proof gloves
  • Chemical-proof long-sleeved shirts and pants, coveralls, and/or an apron
  • Disposable towels or rags

The Tools & Parts You Need

Do care, please prepare.

Tools

Materials

  • New sulfuric acid
  • At least a gallon of distilled water (no tap water!)
  • Two containers of baking soda
  • Plain fragrance-free Epsom salts

The Job: How To Recondition a Car Battery

Create Epsom Salt Mixture

  1. On the stove, mix about a cup of Epsom salts with about three cups of water.
  2. Dissolve the salts in the water until it is clear of any physical salt.
  3. Set aside for use later.

Recondition the Battery

  1. Remove the battery from the engine bay.
  2. Clean the battery and battery terminals of dirt and corrosion.
  3. Remove the battery service caps with a flathead.
  4. Dump the battery acid into a bucket.
  5. Rinse the cells with distilled water and dump it out.
  6. Using a funnel, carefully fill the battery with your Epsom salt mixture.
  7. Use a trickle charger to charge the battery for at least two overnights, or about 36 hours. Keep the service caps loose or off, as the electrolyte Epsom salt solution might overflow a bit.
  8. Clean up any overflow.
  9. Dump out the electrolyte solution.
  10. Carefully refill the cells with replacement sulfuric battery acid.
  11. Close up the battery and once again trickle charge the battery until it is as full as possible.
  12. Load test the battery to make sure it’s good to go.
  13. Reinstall the battery into your car.

The Car Bibles Car Battery Glossary

Sulfation

Sulfation is when sulfate crystals build up inside a battery. These crystals reduce the surface area of the lead and minimize the effectiveness of the battery. During the process of reconditioning, the Epsom salt electrolyte solution helps “clean” and break up the sulfation.

Electrolyte

An electrolyte is a mineral that holds a charge. Sulfuric acid acts as an electrolyte, as does the epsom salt solution.

Cycle

With batteries, a cycle includes one discharge and one recharge.

The Car Bibles Questionnaire

Car Bibles’ answers all your burning questions!.

Q: Does Battery Reconditioning Really Work?

A: Battery reconditioning is essentially the act of trying to squeeze as much life out of your battery as possible. It’s extending its life, not returning it to like-new condition. In some cases it works, in other cases, it doesn’t, it depends on a lot of factors, including the health of the battery.

Q: How Long Will a Reconditioned Battery Last?

A: That depends on a ton of different factors, most importantly the condition of the battery when you recondition it. It could

Q: How Often Should I Recondition My Battery?

A: We only recommend doing this one time. After that, just get a new battery.

Q: What Causes a Battery Not To Hold a Charge?

A: Numerous factors could cause a battery not to hold charge, but the primary factor is sulfation inside the battery.

Q: Can a Battery Die While Driving?

A: While you are driving, the alternator is charging the battery, so if the alternator goes out, your battery will eventually die.

The Car Battery Maintenance Video

The Equipment You’ll Need for Car Battery Maintenance

You didn’t think you could do auto maintenance without buying something, did you? You’re going to need a multimeter, a battery load tester, and a trickle charger. Get the plastic ready.

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