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How to Refill a Car Battery

by Contributor

In many cases, you can refill a car battery to avoid the expense of getting a new one. When a battery seems to be malfunctioning, often all that is needed is to add a little to the electrolyte fluid in the battery. This project is easy to do, but make sure to heed all the warnings.

Unhook the battery at the negative terminal. Place the negative terminal away from the battery.

Look at the battery. If there are white, fluffy deposits on the battery, rinse them off with 8 oz. of water mixed with 3 tsp. of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Keep rinsing until the mixture dissolves the deposits and stops bubbling. Allow the battery to air-dry. Be careful not to touch the battery when it is wet.

Pry open the top of the battery with a screwdriver. The (raised or flat) patch that you will pry off is known as the cap, and generally goes across the center of the battery.

Start at one end and then pry at the other to gradually loosen the cap. Lay the cap aside upside down. Do not touch the underside of the cap. There may be more than one cap on your battery that you will need to pry off.

Look inside the battery where the cap was attached using a flashlight. Look for a rim, about an inch down inside the battery, or exposed plates (flat pieces of metal). If the liquid (called electrolyte) is not covering the plates or up to the rim, carefully, and very slowly, pour in enough distilled water to cover the plates or touch the rim.

Replace the cap on the battery. Press firmly around the edges of the cap and gently tap it in place with a hammer, if necessary. Hook up the battery again. Wash your clothing and exposed skin immediately with generous amounts of water, even if you think there has been no contact between you and the battery.

Tip

  • Recharge your battery after this procedure by running your car for half an hour. You may have to remove a strap holding in the battery to access to the cap.

Warning

  • Wear goggles, gloves and old clothes/shoes during this entire procedure. Acid can be a liquid or a powder, and can be present in amounts that you can't see but that can still do damage. Do not touch your eyes or face while working on this project. Do not heat up a battery, since it can create an acid cloud. Do not touch the liquid in the battery. Do not smoke around the battery, since the battery contains flammable fumes. Do not inhale any of gas from the battery. Do not leave the battery open or unattended.

Items you will need

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