For non-car enthusiasts who may only think about their car batteries whenever they find themselves stranded in a parking lot, the idea of doing research and finding the right car battery may seem odd. But whether you realize it or not, not every type of battery you find on the shelves are created equal. Some may last for several years (if you leave them in), while others may fail on the way out the door. If you get a smaller battery, you can even take some extra weight off your car by up to 20-30 pounds, which will improve performance.
If you haven’t bought a battery before, or it’s been a while, here are a few tips that should help you choose the right one.
1. Ask the Experts
There are a ton of forums and review sites online that do nothing besides check car batteries for efficiency. Many times, they even have several different tools that allow them to test it under different conditions, such as cold-cranking amps and reserve-capacity. Both of these tests determine how well a battery will help a car start from a cold start, which is important, considering that’s the main use of a battery in the first place.
2. Check the Date
You may assume that just because a bunch of batteries are all sitting on the shelf together that they’ve been sitting there the exact same amount of time, but you’d be wrong. Car batteries have a shelf life just like other things, and the longer they sit there the more power they lose. For best practices, don’t buy a battery that has been sitting on the shelf for longer than six months. To figure out the shipping date, just look at the letters and numbers on the case. Some use letters, such as the letter “A” to indicate January, while other’s have a numeric date. Most all of them use a number for the actual year as well.
3. Look for Replacement Warranty
No matter the checks that you will perform on a potential battery, eventually you’re going to get a dud, so before you make your purchase, check the warranty period on the side of the battery case. These are not retailer-specific but manufacturer-originated, so if a battery doesn’t last, it’s on them and not the store you bought it from. There are two warranties you need to be aware of: full replacement and partial replacement. The numbers are split with a hyphen, such as 24/84, for example. The first number indicates full replacement while the second number indicates partial replacement. Both are important, but the amount of reimbursement for the second number is substantially lower.
4. Find Your Fit
Not every battery is right for every different type of car. In fact, if you get the wrong type of battery, your car may not even start at all. Two main types of batteries that you can buy are the regular, lead-acid kind, and then the Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) kind. Both will do the job, but AGM’s are able to better stand repeated draining and recharging cycles, which make them perfect for modern cars. If you can afford one, they’re definitely the way to go. Beyond that, check your manual or the in-store tester to find the right one for you.
5. Check the Weather
The area of the world you live in plays a huge factor in how well your battery performs. If you live in an area that is predominantly extremely cold (under 0 degrees Fahrenheit, for instance), you’ll need a battery that emphasizes higher cold cranking amps and reserve power ratings. If you live in a part of the world that is extremely warm, such as over 80 degrees Fahrenheit continually, look for a battery that has higher electrolyte-to-lead ratios for better resistance to the heat. This shouldn’t be too much of a struggle since car makers spend a lot of time trumpeting their individual car battery power; focus on those two essentials and you should be fine.