How to Clean Electrical Contacts

Electrical connections that are exposed to different outdoor temperatures consistently will eventually become corroded. This can be avoided by using a cleaner when needed and/or during regular maintenance checks as this improves electrical connections as well as how they perform. Continue below for the steps to learn how to clean the electrical contacts.

First, it is vital to know that corrosion build-up in contacts, lead to the following

  • Disrupts the flow of electricity
  • Contact Failure
  • Engine Malfunction
  • Contacts sticking or welding together
  • Contacts overheating and shorting out
  • Overall renders poor performance

Items You Will Need: 

  • Wrench
  • Clean rag and abrasive rag/emery cloth
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Toothbrush
  • Electrical contact cleaner
  • Vinegar
  • Electrical contact lubricant
  • 1/16-inch (or smaller) diameter steel brush

OPTION 1 Using a Cleaner or Vinegar

  1. Turn the engine OFF and remove the key.
  2. Set your Brake (Optional but Safe). 
  3. Use a wrench to disconnect the negative battery cable.
  4. Remove ALL dirt and debris by using the abrasive rag/ emery rag or metal brush to wipe the connector clean.
  5. Pull the connector apart to get to the female socket and the male probes or the pins.
    • Check the male pins carefully (A green or whitish powder on the pins indicates a corrosion issue). You can clear corrosion by dipping the pins in vinegar or spraying it with a cleaner, then brushing the surface with the toothbrush.
    • If there is rust or broken metal the entire plug assembly may possibly need replacing (If this is the case, check the wires for migrating corrosion within the copper strands, as corrosion will make a soldered connection super difficult to hold). 
    • Also, if corrosion migrates the entire length of the wire, the entire wire may need to be replaced versus cleaning.
  6. Use a small piece of the fine sandpaper (one inch wide by two inches long) to rub the pin to remove all of the discolorations. If done properly, the pin will end up shiny and clean.
  7. Next, brush each metal pin with the toothbrush to remove the sand. 
  8. Spray the electrical contact cleaner to remove any leftover dry dust or corrosion (If you do not have contact cleaner, you can use vinegar). 
  9. Use the toothbrush once more to remove any leftover debris.
  10. Spray a coating of the Electrical Grease/Contact Lubricant. (This will help to keep the corrosion away whilst increasing the conductivity of the connector.

Female Connectors

  1. Spray the Electrical Cleaner into the female socket (Use vinegar if you do not have a cleaner).
  2. Insert a small steel brush into the socket and rotate it in a clockwise direction several times.
  3. After rotating the brush, quickly pull it out of the socket (This removes any debris left in the orifice).
  4. For cleaning each individual pin socket follow the steps above (Be sure to keep the sockets wet with the cleaner or vinegar as you clean them; Just dip the brush in vinegar or spray the cleaner every time you clean a socket hole).
  5. Spray a generous amount, one to two seconds of pressing the spray button, of the contact electrical grease/ lubricant into the socket. 
  6. Then reassemble the connector.

You are ALL SET!

OPTION 2 Using a Cleaner Only No Vinegar

  1. Turn the engine OFF and remove the key.
  2. Set your Brake (Optional but Safe). 
  3. Turn Off the power supply (By disconnecting the battery cable).
  4. Remove corrosion or oxide formations with a metal brush or abrasive cloth/emery cloth.
  5. Spray a small amount of cleaner on/ in all areas that need cleaning (Plastic and metal parts). Such as: 
    • Spark plugs
    • Tool battery connections
    • Circuit breakers
    • Relay switches
    • Thermostats
    • Light Sockets
    • Power receptacles
  6. Allow the spray to dry thoroughly (this can happen quickly depending on the cleaner; Check the directions on the can for drying time).
  7. Lastly, to seal and protect all of the contacts from corrosion, whilst also preventing contacts from contaminating and bonding together, use an ELECTRIC GREASE of your choice as there are many brands to choose from.

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