Changing car batteries is something most car owners have to do at one point or another. There’s simply no avoiding it as batteries have a limited life span. An old battery may fail to start the car or run the various electronic accessories like the radio.
Luckily, car batteries aren’t overly expensive. However, it is still a good idea to make sure you aren’t paying more than you have to and that you’re getting the right part for your car. A wrong type of battery may fail to keep the car powered up or not fit into the battery compartment at all. Not unlike finding the best fuel injector cleaner for your engine.
What is a car battery and what does it do?
The battery within a car is an essential component of keeping the car running. It helps the engine to power up and it also provides the electricity needed to power all the various accessories of the car – like the radio, or the power windows. While car batteries have a limited charge (like all batteries), they are constantly being recharged by the engine as its running.
However, car batteries eventually do need replacing. In most cases a standard car battery will last for around 5 years before it begins to show signs of failure. The most common symptom is a reduction in its charge capacity. Meaning that the battery drains a lot faster and has less power capacity to run the accessories. If you drive short distances, you may discover that the engine is no longer able to keep re-charging the battery enough to keep it filled and you may eventually fail to start the car. Time for a new one.
However, it’s not always an easy task though to know what exact battery you need and what features you need to think about before you make a purchase. This is especially difficult if your car was bought second hand or wasn’t bought from a car dealership.
How to know what kind of car battery you need
Check your manufacturer’s manual
The easiest way to identify the replacement battery you need is simply to look it up in the manufacturer’s manual that came with your vehicle. However, if you have misplaced or lost this then there are other ways that you can find out.
Visit the car dealership
You can visit the car dealership where you purchased your car to find out what kind of car battery your vehicle requires. If you want to make it really easy for yourself, you could just purchase the battery there. However, it probably will be more expensive to do this, so you can just get the information you need and buy the battery elsewhere. Just like changing the oil in your car of cleaning fuel injectors, often the DIY method is the least expensive.
Examine the battery yourself
To examine your car’s battery, you will need to lift up the hood of the car and locate the battery (in some rare car models, the battery may be in the trunk). It will be a big rectangular section with cables attached to it.
The location will vary depending on the model of the car while the battery itself comes in two major styles – with cables connecting to the top of the battery, or to the side. On the label of the battery you will find all of the specifications that you will need to purchase a replacement such as the brand, manufacturer and group size.
What to keep in mind when buying new car batteries
Choose a battery that has been on the shelf less than 6 months
If you choose a battery that has already been on the shelf for longer than 6 months then you won’t be able to get the full life span from it and will need to replace it sooner. Each battery will have a date stamp on, but reading it isn’t always straightforward. Some batteries will have the date written in the standard form but most of them use a different system. The month is represented in letters; A = January etc and the year will be represented by digits e.g. 2012 = 12. So a battery made in January 2012 would be stamped as A12.
Ask about cold cranking amps and cranking amps
The cold cranking amp (CCA) will indicate the ability of the battery to start in below freezing weather. This is especially important if you live in a colder climate. The CCA will also be able to give you information about how much current the battery delivers to the car’s starter. The cranking amp (CA) is very similar but slightly different. The CA will inform you of how much current your battery delivers to your car when temperatures are average or on the warmer side.
Ask about reserve capacity
The reserve capacity refers to how long the battery can run on its own power alone. This information is important to know in case you are ever in a situation where your alternator (component that allows the engine to recharge the battery while running) fails.
Car battery Brands
Sometimes the brand will be the same as the manufacturer however it is also common to see a brand with a different manufacturer name. It’s always safer to opt for the brand that is specified in your car’s manual. But if you need to cut back a bit on the spending you can look for a different brand, providing that the battery is made to the same specifications needed for your vehicle. Although it is also worth noting that buying the cheapest brand available is not the best choice to make. Cheaper batteries tend to be of a lower quality which may cause them to hold a weaker charge and fail quicker.
I hope this short article has helped you. Good luck finding a replacement battery for your vehicle!