Getting The Right Car Battery When It's Time To Replace It

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Your engine turns over slowly when you try to start it, and the clock and radio have lost their settings. These are the signs that your battery is wearing out and that it's time for a replacement. Removing the old battery and installing a new one is a simple task. The first step is having the right replacement battery available. Here is how to make sure you have the best battery for your car and your money.

Choosing the Right Battery

When you go to the auto parts store, you'll be faced with a number of battery choices. The first consideration is finding the battery that will fit in the battery compartment. Manufacturers allow just enough room for the battery under the hood, so the shape and size matters. You can use the charts available at the battery display to find the ones that will fit. Or ask a clerk to help you narrow down your choices.

You'll then be faced with a number of batteries at different prices from which to choose. There are three factors which affect the price of a car battery:

  • Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) - This is a rating of how effective the battery is at turning over the engine in your car when it's cold. If you live in an area where it frequently gets below freezing, you'll appreciate a battery that starts the engine quickly at those temperatures. The higher the CCA rating, the more power the battery has to turn the engine over. The higher rated batteries are also more expensive.
  • Reserve Capacity - Once the battery has started the car, the alternator takes over to provide electricity for the car and charge up the battery. If the alternator fails, then the car must run on battery power alone. The reserve capacity is how many minutes you can expect your car to operate just on the battery. The higher the reserve capacity, the more expensive the battery will be. You'll also have more time to get your car to the auto shop before the battery dies.
  • Warranty - This is how many months or years you can expect the battery to last under normal use. Some manufacturers replace the battery if it fails while still under warranty. Other manufacturers will give you credit toward the purchase of a new battery based on the amount of time left on the warranty. The longer the warranty, the higher the price of the battery.

The least expensive battery will still turn over the engine and start your car. If you're on a tight budget, you can forego a high CCA and reserve capacity and get a battery with a limited warranty. If you can spend a little extra on the battery, then you'll likely not have to change it as often.