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How to Read a Car Battery Label

October 11th, 2011 by

When most people make a purchase decision, there is a certain amount of research done before buying. At the very least, we read the label. With everything from clothing to a computer to a car, we read the label to know how it should be cleaned, how many pictures it can hold or how much gas mileage it receives. Rarely do we blindly purchase a product based on an advertisement or expert recommendation; however, when buying a car battery, many of us make quick decisions with little to no basic knowledge of the product or understanding of the car battery label.  By learning the basics, you will be better prepared for your next battery purchase.

An Interstate Battery label for an MT-35

Your car battery label can tell you a lot.

When first looking at a car battery, the label may seem like a jumble of nonsensical letters and numbers. Each acronym matches a requirement of your vehicle. Understanding the meanings will help ensure you receive the proper battery for your vehicle. Here is a quick overview of what you should see on your battery:

CCA (Cold Cranking Amps): CCA explains how much power your battery needs to stay above 7.2V for 30 seconds when tested at 0°F.

CA (Cranking Amps): CA is similar to CCA except instead of testing your battery at 0°F, your battery is tested at 32°F. Again, this number signifies how much power your battery needs to stay above 7.2v for 30 seconds. The CA will be higher than the CCA because your battery uses more power when cold.

RC (Reserve Capacity): RC, measured in minutes, shows how long your battery could power the vital electronic components of your car if the charging mechanisms, such as the alternator, were to fail.

Ah (Ampere Hours): signifies how many amps can be discharged in a 20-hour period before the battery fully discharges. All battery manufacturers follow certain testing guidelines supplied by the BCI (Battery Council International) and the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). Ah specifications work to create standardization in testing and battery performance.

Most likely, right now you are thinking the best battery for your car has the highest CA, CCA, RC and Ah. Wrong. Each car requires certain specifications. Attempting to go above or below those conventions could harm your car’s electrical systems by shorting the system or putting a strain on the electrical equipment. Automotive batteries also come in a variety of sizes. Choosing a different battery may mean an ill fit. To ensure the proper fit and voltage, check your vehicle’s manual.

Always check with a dealer, distributor or qualified mechanic when replacing your car battery. Knowing the basics allows you to make a more educated decision during a car battery purchase, but consulting experts and application guides will confirm you are using the best battery for your vehicle.

Posted in Automotive, Tips


Quite agree with JohnDope - this article is horribly inaccurate. I suspect whoever wrote it knows nothing about cars (or electricals) at all and has cobbled it together from what they found written elsewhere.

Also worth noting that the comments about an incorrect batttery "shorting the system" along with many other comments throughout the article make the author's general ignorance quite clear to an informed reader. To those looking to learn - please keep googling, you will find reliable information elsewhere, but not here.


It's quite concerning that this post is full of mistakes. CCA and CA are not 'how much power your battery needs'. but rather 'how many amps your battery can sustain'. Same goes for Ampere-Hours. 'How many amps can be discharged in a 20hr period' means nothing. Well agree that the C-rate is the 20hr C-rate, but that has nothing to do with discharge capacity. Ah is the energy content in the battery, and it not at all time dependant on the 20hr you mention. I can consume all the energy in 1hr or over 1000hrs. Get you stuff together Interstate !


  1. […] design called Pure Matrix power, can deliver long stretches of electricity and thousands of cold cranking amps — perfect for the team’s […]

  2. […] Automotive, commercial and marine batteries have a four- or five-digit code on the cover that tells when a battery was shipped from the manufacturer. The first digit, on the left side, is the month of the year. (“A” stands for January, “B” for February and so on.) The second digit is the year. (“9″equals 2009, “10″ equals 2010.) If a battery has been recharged, a separate 2-digit code, following the same pattern, will be on the cover to indicate the last recharge. Interstate Batteries has a national policy of ensuring that batteries are recharged every three months while on the shelf to ensure their freshness. Learn more about how to read a car battery label. […]

About The Outrageously Dependable Blog

Interstate Batteries® sells more than 16,000 kinds of batteries—from AA alkalines and automotive batteries to critical power solutions, and everything in between. Combine professional battery services, recycling programs and the largest battery distribution network in North America, and you’ll find Interstate has EVERY BATTERY FOR EVERY NEED®. Learn more about Interstate Batteries or shop online!

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