What Really Matters When Replacing Your Car Battery?

Replacing the battery in your vehicle is a relatively straightforward task, but it's a critical one. Using an old battery for too long can strain your alternator and the rest of your charging system, and it may even leave you stranded. Likewise, choosing an inappropriate replacement can lead to numerous problems and may even make it impossible to install the battery in your car.

Fortunately, choosing the correct automotive battery isn't rocket science. If your battery is on its way out, there are only a few things you need to check to ensure you're getting a worthwhile replacement. Before running to the automotive parts store to make your purchase, consider these three factors.

1. Cold-Cranking Amps

There's a good chance that any 12-volt battery will keep your car running, but that doesn't mean you can pick up the first battery you find and install it in your vehicle. When your engine is on, your battery essentially acts as a large capacitor, and for the most part, any 12-volt battery can fill this role. However, your battery also needs to supply the initial jolt to get your motor turning.

To determine if a battery can fulfill this pivotal function for your vehicle, you need to know your car's required cold-cranking amps (CCA). Cold temperatures are a worst-case scenario for auto batteries, and the CCA rating tells you how well a battery performs in these conditions. You need to buy a replacement battery that meets or exceeds the CCA rating in your car's owner's manual.

2. Group Size

The other critical piece of information you'll need from your owner's manual is the battery group size. If you've ever noticed those strange numbers and letters on a battery (i.e., 24R or 27H), that is the group size identifier. These characters tell you the physical dimensions of the battery and the style of terminals on top.

Never ignore the group size when choosing a battery! Batteries that are too large might not fit in your car at all, while batteries that are too small might move or even fall over. Unless you're sure an alternative option will fit, always select a battery with the group size recommended by your car's manufacturer.

3. Venting

Modern flooded batteries are "sealed" to prevent spills, but they still need a way for gases created by their chemical reactions to escape. These gases are toxic, so some vehicles require vent kits to expel the gas outside. You typically only need a vent kit for batteries installed in the trunk, cargo area, or another passenger-accessible area.

Make sure you know if your vehicle requires a vent kit before installing your new battery. Failing to vent your car's battery correctly can result in hazardous gases entering your passenger cabin. If in doubt, ask an expert or check the configuration of your current battery before installing a new one.

Keep these tips in mind when looking for automotive batteries near you.