Barring neglect, car batteries typically live out their designated lifespans the way they are supposed to. For cars bought fresh out of the lot, there should be no mystery when it comes time to decide the type of battery the car needs as a replacement. However, this can be tricky when drivers buy used or old cars off sites like eBay or Craigslist, as there’s no telling where the battery originated and whether it is even the right kind. No matter your vehicle’s age, it’s best to have the right replacement handy before the battery currently under your hood is completely dead. The biggest indication this will happen soon would be the starter struggling to turn the engine over.
Check Battery Life
One common mistake people make is assuming their battery has suddenly died and then replacing it before discovering their new battery dead the next morning. If a vehicle struggles in turning the starter, check the car’s charging system, which most auto parts stores can help with quickly. If it’s not the charging system, an attendant can perform a battery load test and see if it needs replacing or simple maintenance.
As well, electrical shorts can deplete battery power, often caused by frayed wires grounding out beside the car body or frame. Dead starters or solenoids might also simulate a depleted battery. Should replacing the battery prove to be your best option, choosing the right battery depends on a few things.
Finding the Right Size
Car manufacturers have divided car batteries into standardized group sizes, with fitment being a vital concern, as perfect fits keep batteries tight in battery trays and working with hold-down systems. The perfect fit keeps vibrations down, preventing damage and shortened battery life.
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA)
Before buying the cheapest thing on the shelf, remember batteries must have the cranking power necessary for turning the engine over. This is measured with cold cranking amps – the cranking power a battery has at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. For those living where temperatures can drop below zero in winter, CCA is especially important, considering transmission and engine oil thickens in these climates. Turning an engine over may occasionally call for more CCA than measured at 0 degrees, so choose a higher CCA rated battery than your vehicle requires if it will be operated in below-zero climates. Never choose a battery with less cranking power than your car’s engine requires.
Reserve Capacity (RC)
A car battery’s reserve capacity is the measure for a battery’s strength when driving gets tough – a very important measurement. RC is how long the battery has maximum amperage before it discharges altogether. Car batteries with high RC ratings, for instance, have the reserve power necessary to power up an engine after someone left their lights on for a brief period. Again, as with a car’s CCA rating, try choosing a higher RC rated battery than your engine calls for if the car will operate in colder temperatures—the extra reserve power will help when it’s most needed.
Replacing a Battery
Unless a car was purchased new, it’s not guaranteed it had the correct battery to begin with, so bringing an old battery to an auto parts store and asking for an exact match may not be the most dependable method. There’s also the chance of identifying labels fading due to battery acid and time. Ideally, you should speak to someone at your auto parts store and ask about the right battery for your car’s make and model. Then, choose a high-quality battery with at least the required CCA/RC ratings for your engine and install it or have a professional do it for you.
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