Turning the key and hearing, well, nothing – or at best a weak attempt at cranking – can be very stressful. Oftentimes this is the result of a dying or already dead car battery, the unit under your car’s hood that powers everything from the ignition to your automatic windows and door locks. The electronics in your vehicle depend on this heavy, rectangular contraption in order to continue functioning. Luckily, the battery is one of the easiest parts to replace.
You may be stymied when you go into the auto parts store and see the dizzying array of choices and price ranges for this automotive component. Typical tags range from under $100 to $500, depending upon the brand and type of vehicle the battery is for. But the price isn’t the only thing that varies. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when you go battery shopping:
Decide on materials: Lead-acid is the old stand-by, and for good reason. Their affordability and overall trustworthiness has led to a solid reputation. Spiral grid on the other hand may be lesser known, but through the use of electrolyte and AGM (absorbent glass mats) these batteries last longer with lower discharge and superior vibration resistance. Spiral grid are, of course, pricier.
Check the CCA: Cold cranking amps matter because the rating is an indicator of the amount of current, in amperes, that a battery can sustain for 30 seconds at approximately 64 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the rating, the better the battery is at starting your car in cold weather.
Consider RC: Reserve capacity is seldom mentioned but it can be an important factor in your battery’s function. This rating indicates how many minutes the battery can maintain 25 amperes of power at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You might not think this matters much due to the car’s normal ability to keep the battery charged, but if the main charging systems go down, the battery’s RC will allow you to start the vehicle anyway, within a certain time frame.
Get a good warranty: Name brands like DieHard are famous for their quality and superior warranties. Add in the 885 CCA and RC of 145 minutes and it might be worth the higher price to you. Surprisingly, however, some off-brands, like Costco’s Kirkland batteries, also offer a full three year replacement warranty as well as high quality ratings and good CCA. Compare price against guarantee to make the best choice for your budget.
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This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Buy a Good Quality Car Battery and was authored by Valerie Johnston.