- by David Neubert - updated on 1/16/2015
The Dead of Winter is upon us, and in many areas throughout the country, temperatures are consistently dipping below Freezing and even lower. This reminds us how important it is that our car batteries possess the starting power needed to rev up our engines under any condition, cold or hot. Understanding the terminology that describes these vital battery properties could mean the difference between being stranded in the cold, or wasting money on a battery you don't need.
A common term that is considered when purchasing a new battery is Cold Cranking Amps (CCA). This refers to the load discharged (in amps) that a battery can deliver in 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of 1.2 volts, or a total of 7.2 volts for a typical 12-volt car battery, at a temperature of 0°F. Having a higher CCA rating means that the battery has more lead plates and is a stronger battery, able to start a car in cold temperatures.
Of course, in parts of the country that never experience freezing temperatures, a high CCA battery may not be necessary to combat the cold. What is necessary is getting a replacement battery that meets or exceeds the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications for your vehicle.
Typically CCA numbers will be around 600 CCA for a 4-cylinder engine, 700 CCA for a 6-cylinder engine, over 750 CCA for an 8-cylinder engine and well over 800 CCA for an 8-cylinder diesel engine. If your vehicle requires additional power for accessories, consider an AGM Battery that is able to better manage the drain while providing consistent starting power. Battery specifications are determined by both the vehicle and battery manufacturers, which is why finding the right battery is vital for optimal performance.
Still, cranking measurements are important to consider in all vehicles in all types of conditions. Here are a few other terms to pay attention to when buying a new battery for your car or truck:
CA (Cranking Amps) or MCA (Marine Cranking Amps) – This uses the same measurement process as CCA, except it is tested right at Freezing (32°F).
RC (Reserve Capacity) or RCM (Reserve Capacity Minutes) – Tests the battery's ability to sustain a minimum load at 80°F while continuously delivering 25 amps before its voltage drops below 10.5V.
According to the Battery Council International, diesel engines require 220% to 300% more current than their gasoline counterparts; winter starting requires 140% to 170% more current than the summer.
If you have any questions about whether your car or truck battery has enough cranking power to start your engine in extreme conditions, find your nearest Batteries Plus Bulbs and stop in for a free battery test and systems check, no appointment necessary. We will also perform installation on most vehicle models. Get the peace of mind you need to make sure you have the right battery for any type of weather this coming year.