Without a car battery, your car won’t start. That’s how important a car battery is. After several years of providing electricity to your vehicle, though, it will eventually wear out and require replacing. When that time comes, will you know which one to buy?
Choosing the Right Car Battery to Buy
Depending on the type of battery you use and factors like the weather, you will have to replace your car battery every 2-5 years. So how do you know the correct battery to buy for your car? Car owners only think about shopping for a car battery when their vehicle fails to start. That's not the best time to search for a car battery, I tell you. There's always a first time, anyway, so make the most of this reading. Take note of important points and use them not only for buying a car battery now but every time your car will need a new one in the future.
You need to be familiar with the following battery features and characteristics.
The size has to fit in the battery tray and hold-down bracket. Refer to your owner manual for the right size of the battery to use for your vehicle. If you can't find your car's manual, you may check the internet for an online copy or read the marks on the dead battery in your car. Auto manufacturers favour certain car battery sizes for their models, as you will see in the general guide below. This list is handy for cross-referencing only and not meant to be your sole reference.
- 24/24F – most Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Nissan, and Toyota models
- 34 – most Chrysler models
- 34/78 – most large Chrysler models and GM 1996-2000 models
- 35 – more recent Honda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota models
- 47/H5 – most Buick, Chevrolet, Fiat, and VW models
- 48/H6 – many American makes from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Jeep and European makes like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, VW, and Volvo
- 49/H8 – many Audi, BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz models
- 51R – many Honda, Mazda, and Nissan models
- 65 – most large Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models
- 75 – some GM and a few Chrysler vehicles
The placement of the terminals should match; otherwise, the cables might be too short to reach the points of contact. The car battery terminals are placed in three ways:
- Top-post – the typical terminal placement for sizes 24, 24F, 34, 35, 41, 42, 47, 48, 51R, 65, and H series
- Side-post – sizes 75, 78
- Dual (with top and side terminals) – 34, 78
Reserve capacity (RC) is a battery rating expressed in minutes. It refers to how long a fully-charged battery can run your car after the charging system fails. It may also be interpreted as the maximum time you can leave your headlights on (not intentionally, of course) and still be able to start your car without jumpstarting. In other words, your battery has a standing power for that long. So, you should buy a car battery with the highest RC, right? Wrong! You should refer to your car owner’s manual for the recommended RC, and make sure to choose one within the range.
Buy a car battery that is not more than 6 months old from its production date. A two-character code typically represents the age of car batteries. The first character is a letter representing the month, that is, A for January, B for February, and so on. It skips the letter I to avoid mixing up with the number 1. So M is for December. The second character represents the year, that is, 0 for 2020, 1 for 2021, and so on, resetting every decade. A car battery with the code that says C0 means it was manufactured in March 2020. If you get one today with an age code of C1, beware! That’s a way, way old battery (produced March 2011).
The problem, however, is that build date coding can be quite cryptic and is not universal across the industry. The number could come before the letter. Also, some battery brands may follow a numeric code system for the month, in which case, the age code may have three characters, with or without a hyphen. The best thing for you to do is to search for the brand you're interested in and find out how they code their products.
CCA and CA ratings
A car battery’s CCA (or cold-cranking amps) rating measures its ability to start your car in freezing conditions (-18-degrees C). The CA rating, on the other hand, measures the battery's ability to start the vehicle at 0-degree C. Both ratings are expressed in amperes.
CCA is a popular industry benchmark but is more applicable in countries with frigid weather. In Australia and other warmer countries, it is ill-advised to follow the popular notion that ‘the higher CCA, the better’. The CA, which is based on 0-degree C temperature, would be a more relevant rating to consider.
So, when shopping for a car battery to buy, be guided by the automaker’s recommendations in the car owner’s manual and take note of the specified ratings. There’s no need to go overboard.
There are various car battery brands in the market, but many of these are built by the same manufacturers. For instance, DieHard, Duralast, and around 20 others are produced by Johnson Controls for various brand owners. Exide and Delphi are the other major manufacturers who produce their own brands and also build for other brand owners. NAPA and Bosch car batteries are made by Exide, while AC Delco car batteries are produced by Delphi.
Ideally, you should stick with the brand specified in your car manual, although that may not always be possible. If you ever need to choose a cheaper car battery brand, make sure that it meets the recommended specs per your owner’s manual.
Keeping a car battery clean and corrosion-free helps lengthen its lifespan, but its end-of-life will come eventually. You will undoubtedly want to buy the best car battery replacement, one that will last long.
However, sometimes a limited budget gets in the way and requires you to think more creatively. Choosing supercheap car battery options could be one solution but not always the best decision.
Hopefully, with the short guide outlined above, you will know what to look for. Of course, ‘where to buy’ would be another matter. Fortunately, that’s an easy one. You can use a car part finder, fill out a request form, and wait for quotes from various sellers. You will then have access to multiple sellers without even picking up the phone. This works not only for car batteries but for other auto parts that you may need as well. Request for an auto part now and start receiving quotes!