Cleaning and maintaining a boat battery is one of the most crucial steps you can take in preserving your boat's life and state of optimum performance. It is a process that may often be forgotten or disregarded, but neglecting to clean the battery could result in serious damage to the boat, as well as risk of serious injury to boaters. Regular inspection of the battery is required, and should be done at least twice a year (we recommend once in the Spring and once in the Fall, before and after the Summer). Failure to accomplish inspection and cleaning of the battery could be hazardous to the boat and to others, so make sure this is done. To become more familiar with how this can be done, follow the steps listed below.
Make sure you have washed your hands before starting. Furthermore, you will want to wear gloves, preferably made of rubber or thick latex material. We also urge you to wear protective goggles - acid and other hazardous liquids may spill or splash onto you, so make sure you are appropriately guarded.
Check the battery case for cracks or any type of damage. The status of the battery case will help you determine early on if there are potentially other damages to the battery. Any leaks or residue that have collected as a result of cracks in the case will mean that the battery will need to be cleaned or, depending on the severity of the damage, replaced completely. You should also observe the state of the battery cables and connections, and clean/replace them as is necessary. You may need to retighten the connections as you go.
Run tests on the battery if it appears safe to do so. Obviously, if the battery is entirely unrepairable, you will not need to run these tests. You can test the voltage and other components of the battery, which will help you to determine whether or not you will need to proceed. Also use a hydrometer to test the levels of liquids/fluids in the battery. Then check the temperature, which will tell you whether or not it needs to be cleaned/replaced, or simply reset.
Once the battery has been inspected and you have determined that it needs to be cleaned, you can begin the process. You will first want to inspect the vent cap on the boat battery and verify that it is tightly secured. Then, you will want to clean off the surface of the battery with a wet cloth (not soaking wet), preferably made with microfiber and dipped with a mixture of water and baking soda. This will be the safest approach, because it will neutralize the acid and make it safer when cleaning. Wipe and scrub the battery thoroughly until the battery is spotless, then lightly rinse with water and fresh cloth. Finally, you will clean the terminals with a special cleaning tool, then apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly on the terminals and connectors.
If you have any other questions, contact an iboats.com representative to have all your questions answered.