Guide to Buying a New Car Battery

Educational

Nov 11th, 2021

Guide to Buying a New Car Battery

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 and make sure you know when your car battery needs replacing.

Getting the right car battery replacement can be challenging if you don’t know which battery type works best for your vehicle.

To give you an idea about where to start first, here’s a crash course to the different types of car batteries. 

Car Battery Types and Sizes

There are various kinds of car batteries available in the market, and below we discuss the most common types.

Most Common Car Battery 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.

  • Gel Cell - 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 one of the more reliable battery models available in the market. Just like VLRA batteries, they're available in two variations. 

  • Serviceable - The serviceable type requires you to periodically refill it with distilled water when the level of the electrolyte goes down.
  • Maintenance-Free type - The maintenance-free type operates with the electrolyte fluid they come with for their entire life. 

Different Car Battery Sizes & Car Battery Terminal Placement

Knowing the type of battery your car runs on isn't all. Since they come in different sizes, you need to find out the car 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:

SIZE

CAR BATTERY TERMINAL POSITION

VEHICLE WHERE IT FITS

24/24F

Top 

Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Nissan, and Toyota 

34/78

Dual

Large Chrysler, 1996 to 2000 GM pickups, SUVs

Midsized and large sedans

35

Top 

Recent Honda vehicles

Nissan cars, Subaru, and Toyota vehicles.

47 (H5)

Top 

Chevrolet vehicles, Fiat, some Buick and Volkswagen models.

48 (H6)

Top 

American models and some European models of Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Jeep and Volkswagen vehicles

49 (H8)

Top 

Audi, BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz (Asian and some European models)

51R

Top 

Honda, Mazda, and Nissan (mostly Japanese)

65

Top

Large cars, Trucks, and SUVs from Ford or Mercury

75

Side

Some General Motors midsized and compact cars

Few Chrysler vehicles


Other Factors to Consider When Buying a New Car Battery 

Car 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 after the alternator or charging system fails. A good battery should have a high RC to enable it to withstand situations such as alternator failure.

Here’s another supplemental reading about choosing the best car battery replacement for your car. 

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.

Maintenance

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. 

Warranty

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, but you can always choose the best one for your car. Aside from the type and fit as discussed above in the section on Car Battery Types and Sizes, it must 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

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a New Car Battery

The answers to the following questions will come handy later, so it’s best to answer them before visiting an auto repair shop or battery specialist.

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 most of the time?

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.

What’s the car battery brand that came with your car?

The new battery doesn’t have to be the same car battery brand that your car came with. Just take note of the brand and other specs as a handy reference in case the salesperson asks you about those details.

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.

For all your car part replacement needs, feel free to use our free car part finding tool. It'll save you time, and it's your gateway to handsome deals in car spare parts.


By Sam O.