Has your car been taking longer than normal to start for the past few mornings? Has your car been jump started quite a bit lately? If you answered yes to either of these questions, it might be time to replace your car battery.
There is no worse feeling than being afraid that your car won’t start the next time you put the key in the ignition. You rely on your vehicle to get you to work, to take the kids to school and to pick up groceries; now is the time to get this issue taken care of, before you need to call for a tow truck.
First things first
Before you rush out and buy a new battery, you need to make sure that a dead battery really is the cause of your problem. First, examine the battery and make sure there are no loose connections or frayed wires that could cause your battery to fail.
You’ll also want to check your car’s charging system to make sure this isn’t the issue. Your mechanic can help you with this. Many auto parts stores also have diagnostic equipment that can tell you if your charging system needs attention.
If everything checks out with the battery wires and charging system, you’ll want to do your homework before buying a car battery. There are many things to consider to ensure that you get the right battery for your car and driving habits.
Know before you go
Before heading to the store, check your owner’s manual or look at the old battery to ensure that you get the right type and size of battery.
Types of batteries
Most of today’s gas-powered vehicles use either a traditional lead-acid battery or an absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery. Please note that if you have an electric or hybrid vehicle, it could use a nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery or a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
Most modern lead-acid car batteries are maintenance-free with no need to add water as in years past. Lead-acid batteries are typically cheaper than AGM batteries but they don’t hold a charge for as long and they aren’t as likely to recover if accidentally drained.
AGM batteries are designed to handle repeated draining and recharging cycles than traditional lead-acid batteries. With the rise of phones and other electronics being used in today’s vehicles, AGM batteries can keep up with the increased power demand. An AGM battery will cost more – you could pay up to 40% more as compared to a traditional lead-acid battery.
Cranking amps and cold cranking amps
Two important measurements of a battery’s power are the cranking amps and cold cranking amps. Cranking amps measures your battery’s starting power for moderate climates (32°F and above). Check your owner’s manual for the minimum amount of cranking amps recommended for your vehicle.
If you live in a cold climate, pay close attention to the cold cranking amps number. This measures a battery’s starting power in cold temperatures (0°F). Never purchase a battery that has fewer cold cranking amps than what is recommended by your owner’s manual. You might find yourself stranded in the cold with a dead battery.
For both the cranking amps and cold cranking amps, the higher the number typically results in a better performing battery.
A battery’s reserve capacity is the amount of time the battery delivers the maximum amperage before discharging completely. The higher the minute rating, the more likely it is that the battery can power through a situation like the lights being left on while you are in a store.
The warranty on a car battery can vary between manufacturers. Some warranties feature a free replacement for the life of the warranty; others offer a prorated warranty that allows for only partial reimbursement. There are also warranties that may offer a combination of these two different types of warranties. When comparing batteries, be sure to read the fine print of the warranty and understand if it is a full replacement warranty or a prorated warranty – it could greatly affect how you rate a particular battery.