How to Find What Battery Your Car Needs

Written by chyrene pendleton
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How to Find What Battery Your Car Needs
In cold climates, choose a battery with slightly higher cold-cranking amps. (dead battery image by Katrina Miller from Fotolia.com)

A new car battery can be costly, even when purchased at a discount battery outlet. Place most of your time and attention on the most important qualities of a new battery so you'll be sure to get one that works best for your specific car. Choosing a quality car battery will help to prevent your becoming stranded one cold night this winter, and it will help to keep your car and your car's electrical components performing at their peak. Knowing how to find the right battery for your car can also end up saving you money in the long run.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Select the correct "group size" battery your car's manufacturer recommends, usually found in your car's user manual. Group size is determined by outside dimensions of a battery plus its terminal placement. Smaller cars, such as the newer Toyotas and Hondas, for instance, use a group size battery of 35. Most large Ford and Mercury cars take a size 65 battery. Retail stores that sell batteries have reference guides listing the battery group size for your specific car if you don't have access to your owner's manual or if you can't find the group number in the manual. If you purchase a battery of the wrong size, it may not fit securely in your car.

  2. 2

    Choose a battery within the proper group size according to cold-cranking amps, also called "CCA." CCA measures how much juice the battery can muster to start your car in cold weather. CCAs reveal how much current your battery can deliver to the starter at -17.8 degrees Celsius. When choosing a new battery, choose one with a CCA rating a little above the CCA requirements for your car, especially if you live in a cold climate. You do not need a particularly high CCA if you live in a hot climate. Avoid batteries that provide information only for the cranking amps or "CA" ratings and hot cranking amps or "HCA" ratings. The testing for HCA and CA readings require higher temperatures, so the resulting numbers seem higher, which can deceive you into buying these less powerful batteries.

  3. 3

    Find the reserve capacity or "RC" for your battery before buying one. The RC shows you how long your car can run on just the battery alone in case your alternator stops working. You want the longest capacity for your battery to avoid getting stranded somewhere. Locate information about RC in the battery's brochure or other literature, since this information will not be on the battery label. You may need to ask the store sales representative for assistance in finding the RC information.

  4. 4

    Purchase only fresh batteries for your car. You want to purchase a car battery manufactured less than six months earlier. Batteries sitting on the shelf for a long time lose some of their charge. Locate the date code for your battery on the label or on the battery case. The first two characters of the date code reveal the most relevant information. For example, letters of the alphabet represent the month and the digit represents the year. So "A" represents January and "9" represents the year 2009. Manufacturer's leave out the letter "I" to avoid consumers mistaking it for the number one. The letter "K" represents October, so "K0" represents October 2010 for the battery date.

  5. 5

    Locate the free replacement code for the battery before you purchase one. You will find a number for the total warranty, and another number for the free replacement period, which can be anywhere from three months to three years. Find out if your battery has a nationwide warranty, and see if you get a credit toward a new battery if your free replacement period runs out.

Tips and warnings

  • Have your new battery tested before taking a long road trip and whenever you have your car serviced. Doing so can save you time and money.
  • When replacing your car battery, return your old battery to any car dealer that sells batteries, even if you didn't purchase your battery at that location. Some car dealers will pay you a few pennies per pound for your old battery. Bringing your battery to the same place you bought the replacement may save you a "core charge" or no-swap fee of £3 or more or get you a refund.

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