As much as we’d like to be able to run on the car battery that comes with our vehicle, forever, it is just not going to happen. Inevitably, whether you purchase a new or used car, you will have to buy a new battery for it at least once over the course of your ownership. Buying the right battery is key to keeping your car running smoothly; so here is what you should look for next time you’re on the market.
How old is the battery?
It is not a good idea to buy a battery that was manufactured more than six months ago. You can find the manufacture date on the battery itself, but it is written in code.
- The letter will indicate the month. A = January, B = February, etc.
- The number will indicate the year. 12 = 2012, 13 = 2013, etc.
What is the group size of the battery?
The group size describes the battery’s terminal orientation and dimensions. The group size information should match the one on your old battery. If it does not, it is not likely to fit in or work with your vehicle. It’s a good idea to note what is currently being used in your car before you shop for a new one. If possible, bring the old battery in with you.
What are the cold cranking amps (CCA) of the battery?
CCA measures the amperage your battery will produce at freezing (32°F/0°C) within 30 seconds. A higher CCA indicates the better the battery will be able to start in cold weather. This number should not be confused with the cranking amp (CA) number, because it is a less accurate number. If you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t experience a lot of cold weather, this number may not matter much, but if you live in an area where winter is a definite cold season.
What is the reserve capacity?
The reserve capacity is the most important aspect of your battery selection. This number will tell you how long the battery will be able to run should the vehicle’s alternator dies. It is measured by checking the amount of time (in minutes) a car battery is able to hit 25 amps while maintaining a steady voltage of at least 10.5 volts.
The majority of batteries made with lead and acid are recycled, since most states require the batteries to be recycled rather than dumped. This is why it is recommended to have your old battery with you when you buy a new one; so the retailer can recycle it for you. The old batteries go to reclaimers who can remove the plastic parts and then purify the lead. The lead is sent back to battery manufacturers and other industries that use lead. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the batteries people buy today contain anywhere from 60% to 80% recycled plastic and lead.
If you are replacing a battery in an electric or hybrid car, a different approach is necessary, since the battery acts as the power source and the fuel tank. These batteries are more complex and often much more expensive as a result.