A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Car Battery
Valve Regulated Lead-Acid (VRLA) Car Batteries
VRLA batteries typically last longer than flooded models. These are offered in gel cell and absorbed glass mat (AGM) versions. Both types are low-maintenance, dry and sealed to prevent spillage and leaks and recharge relatively quickly.
Gel Cell Batteries
- Function - Gel cell models use a gelatin substance in the electrolyte that helps lower the amount of discharge.
- Suitable in warm weather - These styles work well in hot weather or high-heat applications. This feature makes them ideal in high-performance or heavy-duty vehicles that might generate lots of heat under the hood.
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- Function - AGM options use very thin matts to keep resistance low and create a high burst of amps. This process makes startup quick and easy, making these batteries ideal for a starter battery.
- Perfect in cold weather - The materials in these types of car batteries stands up well to low and freezing temperatures.
- Good for vehicles in storage - If you have cars that aren't driven daily, these models are suited to hold a charge better than other batteries when idle.
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Flooded (Wet Cell) Lead-Acid Car Batteries
Flooded compositions are one of the oldest and most reliable models on the market, and they're offered in Serviceable and Maintenance-Free styles. The Serviceable type can be refilled with water when electrolyte levels get low, while the Maintenance-Free style retains its fluids for the life of the battery.
- Function - Both options are filled with electrolyte that causes the chemical reaction needed to provide a flow of an electrical charge.
- Limited maintenance - These batteries use freely suspended plates that are insulated from each other, sealing the fluid so you don't have to top it off.
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Essential Car Battery Terminology
When choosing the best battery for your vehicle, there are many terms that will be thrown your way. Here is the essential information you should know before buying a car battery.
- Group size - All batteries are placed into a group based on physical and electrical characteristics. Group size determines which battery will fit in a particular vehicle. These specifications are standard throughout the automotive industry.
- Cold cranking amps (CCA) - This is a measure of how much energy a battery can supply to start an engine. If you live in a cold climate, this feature is very important. The colder an engine gets, the more battery power it takes to get it started.
Learn more about cold cranking amps
- Maintenance-free battery - A maintenance-free option is filled with enough acid and chemicals to run for its entire service life. Once the acid and chemicals have been depleted, the battery needs to be replaced.
- Reserve capacity - This measures how long, in minutes, a battery can continuously deliver a certain amount of power (25 amps) until the battery drops below 10.5 volts. In less technical terms, this measurement determines how long your car lights and other electronic components can stay on without the engine running before the battery drains. This feature is important in warmer climates, since air conditioning and other accessories put a heavier strain on the battery.
Learn more about reserve capacity