How to Recondition a Car Battery That Won’t Hold Charge?

If your car won’t hold a charge, the general instinct would be to get rid of it and replace the battery with a new one. A more environment-friendly alternative, however, is to recondition the battery and bring it back to use. But, how to recondition a car battery?

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With distilled water, Epsom salt and all the appropriate equipment, you can recondition your dead car battery by yourself! The idea is to clean the sulfate buildup from the battery plate and replace the cell solution so it can charge again. The whole process can take up to three days.

You probably have more questions about this topic like: how to recondition car batteries, how to recondition a car battery that won’t hold charge, how to recondition used car batteries, how do you recondition a dead car battery, and many more. The following sections contain some useful information.

How To Recondition Car Battery?

To recondition car battery, the first question you may ask yourself when your electric battery goes bust is if it can even be reconditioned. In some cases, the battery may be a lost cause and there is no point in spending more time and energy on it. But if that is not the case, can it be reconditioned?

Can Electric Car Batteries Be Reconditioned

In most cases, an electric battery can and should be reconditioned. The alternative to reconditioning the battery is to dispose of it or send it to a recycling mill. But what if you could simply recharge even a dead battery to its fullest strength and use it again? Reconditioning a battery allows you to do that. This will save you money and is also the more environment-friendly option out there.

Battery reconditioning refers to the process of cleaning the battery of sulfates so that it can hold a charge. When a battery supplies energy to any vehicle, it automatically also loses charge through a process of sulfation.

This is a chemical reaction that takes place especially in Li-ion or lithium-ion batteries which causes a build-up of sulfate crystals on the battery plates. If there is a greater quantity of crystals on the plate, the efficiency of the battery is proportionately reduced and it takes longer to charge. Reconditioning allows you to remove this buildup and clean the plate such that it can function as a brand new battery.

To recondition a dead battery, you do not need to have any proficiency in chemistry. However, it does require some attention to detail and a lot of patience. You will need the following equipment for this process:

  • Protective gear
  • Toothbrush
  • Screwdriver
  • Funnel
  • Two large buckets
  • Voltmeter
  • Battery charger

For ingredients, you need:

  • Distilled water (1 gallon)
  • Baking soda (1 pound)
  • Epsom salt (1 pound)

For the actual reconditioning, you will first need to make a 2:1 paste of the baking soda and water, using it to clean the corroded battery terminals with a toothbrush. If the terminal is heavily corroded, you can use steel wool to scrub off the deposits. Be sure to clean and dry the terminals completely before proceeding.

The next step is to verify the voltage by connecting the voltmeter. If the battery reads anywhere outside 10 V and 12.6 V, then it is likely too far gone to be reconditioned. If it is within the range, you can proceed.

Empty out the contents of the cell into one of the buckets (add baking soda to the battery acid to neutralize it, making it safe to handle). Once the cells are empty, use the funnel to add cleaning solution, close the lid and then give the cell a shake so the solution gets all nooks and crannies. Then, empty the solution into the old bucket.

The next step is to add the new cell solution. This is a mixture of four cups of water and four ounces of Epsom salt. Stir it well in the other bucket until the solution is completely clear.

Using the funnel, refill the batteries and then put the lid back on, giving the batteries a good shake so that the salt is distributed evenly. Now, attach the charger at 12 V/2 amps and let the battery charge for at least 36 hours. Take all the precautions at this stage, including clearing the area around the battery and also keeping the battery away from the charger.

After charging it, check the voltage using the voltmeter. The reading should be around 12.42 V. If it is lower than that, charge the battery again for half a day. At the end of the charging cycle, reinstall the battery and turn the vehicle on, keeping the high beams on. Test the battery again while the car is in this position. If you get a reading of 9.6 V, you are good to go!

Are Reconditioned Car Batteries Good?

A car battery that has been reconditioned correctly and is showing the appropriate voltage readings will certainly give you a few years extra. Sure, nothing is like replacing the battery with new ones. But you can extend the car’s battery life by another three years if you carry out a few of the reconditioning processes.

Technically, your car should not encounter any troubles if you use a reconditioned battery. There is often a hesitation among enthusiastic car owners, who want only the best for their car.

One might feel that a reconditioned battery is not good enough for the car and may cause long-term damage. However, this is not the case. Instead, reconditioning your dead battery will allow it another lease on life and several extra years. You get to save money, your car gets to keep its old battery and even the environment has one less battery to dispose of.

Of course, this is a fair amount of time investment and not everybody has that kind of bandwidth. But reconditioning your battery is certainly an option one should consider.

Frequently Asked Questions

While the method of recondition or refurbish a car battery has been detailed, there are often more questions about how to recondition a battery. The following are some of the frequently asked questions:

How Long Will a Reconditioned Car Battery Last?

How often a reconditioned battery will last depends on how old the battery is and at what stage of use it is. The first time you recondition a battery, it can certainly last you a few years more.

But, by the time you recondition it for the third time, there will certainly be some wear and tear and it is unlikely to last too long after that. Typically, a battery lasts somewhere between 3-5 years before it stops retaining a charge.

If you recondition the battery, you can certainly extend the life of the battery by a few years more. It is, however, a product that has a shelf life so there is only so much you can push the expiry date of your car battery.

How Often Should You Recondition a Car Battery?

While reconditioning a battery will certainly bring back life into it, there is certainly a limit to how many times you can recondition it and expect it to work the same.

Typically, an old car battery can take three cycles of reconditioning before you may want to replace it with a new battery. Again, the number of reconditioning processes the battery can undergo will depend on how much wear and tear the battery has already endured.

If at the beginning stage you find that the voltage reading of the battery is not sufficient, you may want to cut your losses and simply get a new battery for your car.

Why Is My Car Battery Not Holding Charge?

As described above, a car battery fails to hold a charge when there is a build-up of sulfates on the plate. The more the battery is used, the more its life will only depreciate.

So even a brand new battery will have sulfates depositing on the plate. The greater the build-up is, the longer the battery takes to charge. Eventually, the battery will stop holding charge until the sulfate buildup is cleared out.

Through the process of reconditioning, you should be able to use the battery to its optimal capacity and extend its life by a few years.

About the author, Phil Borges

Phil Borges is a battery aficionado. He's written extensively about batteries, and he loves nothing more than discussing the latest innovations in the industry. He has a deep understanding of how batteries work, and he's always on the lookout for new ways to improve their performance.