When battery terminals become corroded, the flow of power is hindered. When the battery terminal is covered with corrosion, salt, or some other type of buildup, it can stop your car from starting. However, you can’t just use any type of lubricant on your battery to prevent the buildup. Although there are cleaners out there specifically for cleaning the battery terminals, prevention is always the best way to go. If your battery terminals are nice and clean and you want to avoid corrosion or buildup in the future, read on to find out what you can do to prevent it.
What is Dielectric Grease?
Automobiles have extensive wiring systems with many wires that are bound together with a plastic sleeving or insulating electrical tape. The electrical wiring is typically made of copper or aluminum and is color-coded in a system referred to as a loom. Wires connect to other components in the vehicle using terminals that are covered with plastic. The terminal pushes onto a spade terminal.
The connectors on the wires are typically crimp connectors of different colors. The electrical wiring is mounted to the body of the car to keep them from coming in contact with other components. In the past, most people opted to just use a household petroleum jelly (view on Amazon) on the posts. Yet, an approved grease is always the better option.
There are a few types of grease used in automobiles as protectors, insulators, and sealers of those wiring connections such as dielectric grease and conductive, or anti-seize grease. The difference between the two is that conductive and anti-seize greases contain fine powdered metals. The fine powdered metal suspends by the insulating grease so it does not conduct.
The suspended metal powder has the lowest voltage breakdown. Silicon grease has been around for a long time. Television manufacturers often used it to protect and improve the electrical connections in the TV sets. The grease they used was 100% pure silicone grease. Some compare silicone dielectric grease with petroleum grease, as petroleum was also used for some of the same purposes. However, petroleum grease has a low melting point which makes it unideal for connector applications.
Dielectric grease (view on Amazon), also known as tune up grease, is silicon-based with low viscosity, and is often used due to moisture repelling properties. When it was discovered that certain components become dry and corroded over time, the idea of using grease as a lubricant came about. The grease is usually a translucent gray material that comes in a tube. Dielectric grease can withstand the high temperatures under the hood; however, it can be dissolved in mineral spirits and methylethylketone (MEK). The temperature range for dielectric grease is usually between -40F and 500F.
Dielectric grease can protect the electrical connections against buildups and corrosion. The grease also is used to lubricate rubber components that come with the wiring and electrical connectors s it can disrupt the flow of the electrical currents. Other unwanteds, such as water and dirt are also repelled. Dielectric grease is actually good for any wiring environment, not just automotive. Because the grease does not dissolve in liquids, it is also used in marine applications.
Dielectric grease is commonly used during tune ups of internal combustion engines. The grease is applied to spark plug wires to prevent electricity from traveling inside the boot and leaking into the engine. Some falsely claim that insulating the spark plugs with an anti-seize grease causes problems in the spark plug or ignition fault indications. The grease is also used on connector pins, O-rings and grommets, thermal conductivity aide, low voltage switches and low power potentiometers or volume controls.
Using dielectric grease also makes it easier to slide the boot over the insulator on the plug. This ensures that the seal is water-tight and protected from corrosion. Dielectric grease is also used on gaskets located on the multipin connectors. These are commonly found in the electrical system in motor vehicles. The grease is applied prior to insertion of the gasket around the connection. Dielectric grease is also used on metal components in the electrical connection. The connections that are exposed to the elements are sealed.
Can Dielectric Grease Be Used On Battery Terminals?
In any case of single low voltage connections or terminals, to include grounds, metal-to-metal joints, and battery posts, just about any light viscosity grease will do to lubricate the interface. The low viscosity pushes beyond the contact points. It must be water resistance, a protector against fretting or galling, and able to keep its place against air and moisture over an extended period of time. You just have to make sure that conductive greases with metallic powders are compatible with the embedded grease metal. However, regularly keeping the clamps and post clean is the first step.
There are different types of dielectric grease on the market today. In any case of single high voltage connections, to include spark plug boots and HV power lines, only 100% pure silicon dielectric grease should be used. This is because the dielectric grease will increase the voltage breakdowns across the insulators. This is especially true in the case where moisture is present. Metallized grease should never be used around HV connections. When the type of dielectric grease selected is incorrect, it can also cause connection problems. Of course, petroleum jelly is much cheaper to use on the battery terminals. However, in the long run, the petroleum will not do a quality job. Dielectric grease is recommended over petroleum jelly.
Downside of Dielectric Grease
We have already learned that greasing your battery terminals can be really smart. We’ve also learned that using silicon dielectric grease on the battery terminals can really be a great thing. However, the scenario is not perfect. Some users endorse other types of grease as superior. Others describe dielectric grease as abrasive or conductive whiles others say that dielectric grease insulates the connections which make the connections less conductive.
This means that the electricity that runs through to sensors and the engine control unit (ECU) can be blocked or shorted when any of the wires are not at full capacity. Some components cannot receive sufficient voltage or may not receive any electricity at all. When this occurs in the vital components, such as the ignition switch, it can prevent your car from working at all. For this reason, dielectric grease got its name and is also often referred to as insulating grease. Some also argue that the silica in the grease accelerates its wear. Experts claim that dielectric greases isolate the connection while conductive greases, or greases with powdered metal, maintain and improve the quality of the connection over time.
Some suggest using white lithium grease instead of dielectric grease to lubricate the battery posts. The white lithium grease does not affect the quality of the connection, yet it prevents corrosion by air displacement in the surrounding space. Some even believe the grease should be applied after the cable has been replaced on the post.
You Need to Know This About Your Car Battery
One of the most common reasons why your battery has corroded terminals is that you didn’t maintain the battery. Failure to look after your battery along with other components in the vehicle will cause the battery to decay quicker. A corroding battery can also cause other components to become damaged and this can cost a lot to fix at the dealership – you shouldn’t be wasting money at the dealership.
If you want to avoid battery problems and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
Who Cares About Greasing a Battery Terminal?
Aside from the automotive mechanic, who really cares about whether the battery terminal needs greasing in an automobile? Who wants to deal with greasing a part? Well, over the years, electricity has increased significantly in presence and function in modern cars. Many mechanical features have been replaced by sensors which are electrically wired. Many of the components in modern cars come with an electrical design, such as push button start features, the fuel pump, and the brake switch.
Power windows and locks have been around long enough for us to know that we can’t go back to the manual. A series of wires connect the components of the window system. This includes a wire circuit that runs between the switch and the motor along with a ground. When wires do not send the require voltage, the motors and switches do not work. Then there is the ignition coil, which has a very important role in the processes of the internal combustion engine. . The coil is a part of the ignition system that converts the voltage into enough to jump the spark plug and ignite the air-fuel mixture When the ignition coil fails, it affects other components to the engine.
Let’s not forget the electric powered warning lights and the speedometer. Electric speedometers emerged in the second half of the 20th century. These speedometers use a vehicle speed sensor (VSS), also known as the transmission speed sensor, to compute the vehicle speed. The VSS emits low voltage signals which are sent to the car’s computer control module. Now how could we drive without that?
In fact, the newest cars are being designed as totally electric, completely eliminating the internal combustion engine. No more nasty smoke being emitted into the atmosphere. Overall, all of the warning lights on your dash require an electrical signal from a sensor. Therefore, it certainly would be a great investment to learn a bit about how to care for your battery and which products to use.
Applying Dielectric Grease
Dielectric grease must be applied properly to realize the full benefit. Applying too much can reduce the quality of your connections. Too much grease can also kill the battery cells. To properly apply the grease, follow these steps:
- Unplug the connector. Be careful not to break it.
- Clean any corrosion away that has already built up on the terminal post and clamps. You may have to scrape it off with a tool.
- Open the grease tube and apply only a small amount to the surfaces.
- Replace the connector cable.
- Wipe away any excess grease with a clean towel.
Using dielectric grease can protect your battery and prolong the use of it by preventing corrosion. Other greases may not prevent the flow of electric current like dielectric grease does. However, make sure you have the best grease for your battery terminals, that it is properly applied, and drive safe. Remember, when buying a vehicle brand new, there won’t be any type of lubricant on the battery terminals.
However, many automotive services and repairs require things like battery testing, using jumper cables on a dead battery, the reconnection of terminals after installing a battery or the disconnection of the battery terminals in order to work on the car without electricity. Using dielectric grease during these the services is ok. The manufacturer may actually recommend the best lubricant for your car.