How to Read a Car Battery Label
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.
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.