Car Batteries 101
When you think about the safety and reliability of your car, one thing comes to mind—the battery. There are few things more frustrating than getting stuck on a highway or busy city street because of a dead car battery. But how do you know what type of battery is right for your vehicle? How do you make sure your battery is charged and ready to roll? Here are some facts and tips to keep your car battery juiced for as long as possible.
Car Battery Basics
The automobile battery hasn’t outwardly changed much over the past 50 years. It’s still a lead-acid 12 Volt DC battery in a casing with one positive (+) and one negative (-) terminal. Lead-acid batteries stored with electrolyte slowly deteriorate over time. Depending on the climate where you live, battery life can average roughly three to six years. Heavy usage may also cut battery life short, as today’s batteries now have to generate power to new types of vehicle needs.
What type of battery is right for your vehicle?
- Starting or Cranking Batteries: Starting or cranking batteries are typically found in your car, as they are designed to deliver a large amount of charge for a short period of time – the charge needed to start your car. Once the engine is running, the alternator provides all the power the car needs, so your car battery may never be drained below 20% of its total capacity. Starting batteries are not designed to be fully discharged.
- Deep Cycle Batteries: Deep cycle batteries are designed to provide a steady amount of current over a long period of time, though they can provide a surge when needed. They are also designed to be deeply discharged over and over again, whereas repetitive deep discharge would rapidly kill a starting battery. Deep cycle batteries are commonly found in marine vehicles and small four-wheel vehicles such as golf carts.
- Dual Purpose Batteries: Dual purpose batteries are designed for vehicles that require both cranking and light deep cycling and offer a good compromise between the two. You can learn more about the different types of car batteries here.
Car Battery Terminology
- Battery Terminal: All batteries have a negative and positive terminal to which cables connect, allowing an electrical current to flow from the battery to the car’s engine and accessories. Battery terminals should be checked regularly for dirt or corrosion, which can be harmful to the battery.
- Battery Size: Size or group size refers to the height, width and length of the battery, designed to different sizes to fit most cars’ battery trays. Batteries are grouped by BCI (Battery Council International) Group Number. It’s important to note that while the same battery will fit many vehicles, other factors play a role in choosing a battery for your car.
- Battery Age: Battery age is determined by the manufacturing date. A battery is considered “fresh” if it is less than 6 months old. Most date codes are stamped on the battery case or label and begin with two characters, a letter and a number. The letter corresponds with the month the battery was manufactured (A for January, B for February, etc.) and the number indicates the year (2 for 2012, 3 for 2013, etc.).
- Dead Battery: A battery is considered dead when it no longer has enough charge to operate anything electrical. A number of factors wear on your battery, including climate, driving patterns, amount of use, faulty or broken parts such as an alternator or alternator belt, and age of the battery. Experts recommend having your battery checked every few months to avoid getting stranded by a dead battery.
- Battery Rankings: Battery rankings offer information about the amount of power your battery can produce. Starting or cranking batteries typically have twice the CCAs of deep cycle batteries, while deep cycle batteries have two to three times the RC.
It’s important to be able to depend on your car battery. Life is busy, and getting stranded simply isn’t an option! Learn more about batteries and schedule a FREE battery check at Sears Auto Center. You can also learn about the Sears Battery Recycling program here.