As a car battery nears the end of its lifespan, it starts to lose the ability to hold a charge. It becomes unreliable as it delivers subpar performance and fails to meet the power demands of your car.
Battery failure can be a real snag if it happens when you least expect it. In case you're caught up in such a fix, find out first the lifespan of your car battery before doing anything. You may need to have it checked or buy a new one to replace it.
Getting the right replacement for your car battery can be challenging. Know which battery type works best for your vehicle.
Types of car batteries
There are various kinds of car batteries available in the market. Below we discuss the common types.
Valve Regulated Lead-Acid (VRLA) Car Batteries
VRLA batteries are available in gel cell and absorbed glass mat (AGM) versions. They are dry and sealed to ensure no leaks or spills happen. VRLA batteries last longer than the flood cell type, and they recharge quickly.
The electrolyte in gel cell batteries contains a silica additive that gelifies the electrolyte and lowers the amount of discharge. This model is ideal for hot weather or high thermal conditions, such as for use in high-performance or heavy-duty vehicles that generate a lot of heat.
Absorbed Glass Mat
Unlike gel cell models, AGM batteries are built to withstand high drainage and repeated recharging cycles. Today, they are standard in most cars since advanced features built into new vehicles require a lot of battery juice.
Flooded (Wet Cell) Lead-Acid Car Batteries
Flooded lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time and are considered as one of the reliable battery models available in the market. Just like with VLRA batteries, they're available in two variations:
The serviceable type requires you to periodically refill them with distilled water when the level of the electrolyte falls, while the maintenance-free type operates with the electrolyte fluid they come with for their entire life.
Getting the Right Fit
Knowing the type of battery your car runs on isn't all. Since they come in different sizes, you need to find out the battery size that fits and meets the power requirement of your automobile.
If the terminals of your new car battery are in the wrong place, you'll have a problem fitting the battery cables securely in the right place.
Here is a general car battery size guide:
VEHICLE WHERE IT FITS
Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Nissan, and Toyota
Large Chrysler, 1996 to 2000 GM pickups, SUVs
Midsized and large sedans
Recent Honda vehicles
Nissan cars, Subaru, and Toyota vehicles.
Chevrolet vehicles, Fiat, some Buick and Volkswagen models.
American models and some European models of Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Jeep and Volkswagen vehicles
Audi, BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz (Asian and some European models)
Honda, Mazda, and Nissan (mostly Japanese)
Large cars, Trucks, and SUVs from Ford or Mercury
Some General Motors midsized and compact cars
Few Chrysler vehicles
Other factors to consider
- Battery Freshness
You will know this by an alphanumeric code - the letter signifies the month and the number refers to the year of manufacture. For instance, A/6 means January 2016. When buying a new battery, buy one that is less than six months old.
- Reserve Capacity
Reserve capacity (RC) tells you how long your fully-charged battery can operate without the engine before discharge. A good battery should have a high RC to enable it to withstand situations such as alternator failure.
You don’t want to find your battery low when you come back to your car after accidentally leaving the lights on.
- Power Requirement
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and Cranking Amps (CA) are ratings that define the power requirement of car batteries. Cold-cranking amps refer to how reliably the battery will start an engine in cold conditions without repeated cranking.
There are two types - the low-maintenance and the maintenance-free type. Maintenance-free batteries pack an electrolyte that runs through the battery's life. Low-maintenance types, on the other hand, remain unsealed and require you to top up with distilled water when the electrolyte level falls.
Go for a battery with a long period of replacement. The warranty period is calculated by a figure combining the free replacement period and the prorated period. The prorated period allows for a partial refund of the purchase price for a specified time.
- Battery capacity
It is measured in Ah – Ampere hour. A higher Ah implies that the battery can handle a load for a longer time, which translates to a low chance of your battery running out.
Qualities of a good car battery
There is no perfect car battery available in the market, hence the need to settle with the best. A good car battery should have:
- an extended warranty period and a prorated refund if the battery fails after the warranty expires
- high reserve capacity to make sure it doesn't conk out quickly
- ample cold-cranking amps
- long lifespan that will save you from worrying about battery failure or frequent replacement
- a handle, though not a top priority, for fitting it back to its compartment
Before visiting an auto repair shop or battery specialist, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- What car battery size do you need?
Size may sometimes apply to several makes and models. If you are not sure, check on the internet or look it up in the car's manual. Alternatively, you can find it marked on the current battery.
- What is the weather and climate condition in the place where you live or drive mostly?
Batteries are designed to endure different heat conditions. For instance, those designed for cold conditions have higher cold-cranking amps.
- What type of performance do you require?
If you need a high-performance battery, your best bet is the advanced glass mat battery. It is suited for cars with features such as power outlets for mobile devices and high-tech systems that use up a lot of car power.
- What is the terrain like where you typically drive?
Some battery types have fragile plates that may weaken or even crack when subjected to heavy vibrations.
Although most people replace the battery when the car cannot start, this is not always the ideal time. The average lifespan of car batteries is between 3 and 5 years and so should be replaced within this period.