There are many parts of a vehicle that are vital to its everyday function, but one of the most important parts is the battery. Car batteries initiate the starting process and provide electrical current to different functions in the car. A malfunctioning car battery will shut down a vehicle. The vehicle won’t start, and drivers are likely to encounter a serious of issues such as the inability to initiate the fuel system which sends a signal from the fuel pump to the engine.
Why use the battery from the manufacturer? Vehicle manufacturers and dealerships have thorough information on your car. They’ll know what parts your car needs including the car battery. If a car battery is faulty, the manufacturer or dealership will issue a replacement battery.
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Finding the Best Battery for your Vehicle
On average, consumers should buy car batteries every six years. Cheaper car batteries have less an operating life and could lose functionality within five years. More expensive batteries have tons of specifications that may exceed the necessary requirements for a driver’s vehicle. The best car battery results are batteries that are compatible with a particular vehicle.
For new vehicles, car batteries are already installed and likely under warranty from the manufacturer. However, there are other viable options for your vehicle to receive optimal power from a car battery.
Why switch your battery from the recommended or pre-installed car battery from the manufacturer or dealership? Although the manufacturer battery is the best option for most drivers, you may want to explore other battery types for longer battery life and better specifications.
Exploring Benefits and Disadvantages of Battery Types
Flooded Wet Cell Battery
This battery type is filled with a corrosive, liquid electrolyte, which is a combination of deionized water and sulfuric acid. This liquid carries the electrical charge throughout the battery and interacts with plates made of lead and lead oxide. It’s a rechargeable battery used in most airplanes, cellphone towers, and other electrical functions. But they do vary in that some are serviceable while others are not.
Benefits – The liquid electrolyte inside flooded wet cell batteries deplete over time. However, you can add water to the wet cell battery to stretch its functionality. Wet cell batteries function at higher voltage making them ideal for high electrical currents. In addition, wet cell car batteries are affordable and considered one of the lowest in most automotive retailers. They’re easily replaceable and come in different designs fit for most engine starting services.
Disadvantages – Due to the contents of the wet cell battery, it’s only useful in the upright position. Installing a wet cell battery in a method other than its recommended position can cause the corrosive, liquid electrolyte to spill. The liquid electrolyte is dangerous, and the gases flooded wet cell batteries emit can damage other electrical parts and equipment. It’s best to install it away from delicate equipment if possible. Wet cell car batteries are known for corrosive build it, therefore, they’ll need a lot of maintenance to get the best performance. They are not ideal for deep cycle batteries.
SLI (Starting Lighting Ignition) Battery
This is the common rechargeable, automotive battery type in most, if not all, vehicles. It’s a lead acid battery with six galvanic cells that can transmit 12 volts into your vehicle. Instead of using lead and lead oxide plates, SLI batteries use lead dioxide. It transmits an electrical current to the vehicle’s motor, lights, ignition, and various other electrical parts of the car. You’re more than likely to experience problems if the SLI battery is faulty.
Benefits – SLI batteries are extremely durable. Their life cycle can extend past the warranted life cycle. They provide a burst of power to get enough power to a vehicle’s vital components. The maintenance for these batteries only requires that you regularly fill them with water.
Disadvantages – SLI batteries can easily corrode if you don’t regularly maintenance them. They emit a hydrogen gas which is very flammable. Cheaper batteries are less efficient. SLI batteries vary in size and design and can only be installed in the upright position.
Deep Cycle Battery
These batteries use 80 percent of their capacity. In other words, a deep cycle battery doesn’t work in short bursts like an SLI battery. Inside of spongy lead plates, the deep cycle battery is equipped with harder lead plates.
Benefits – Deep cycle batteries function at higher discharges. They are ideal for industrial backups and solar power plant usage. It’s versatile in that they are used to power renewable sources of energy.
Disadvantages – These are not ideal as vehicle batteries. Deep cycle batteries have a much shorter lifetime since they use most of their capacity. They’re likely to cost less, however, the high usage of deep cycle batteries can cause you to spend more than you intended in the course of a few months.
VRLA or SLA (Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid) Battery
Sometimes called sealed lead-acid (SLA) battery limits the inner and outer flow of gas from the liquid electrolyte within the battery.
Benefits – VLRA batteries cost are cost efficient with a moderate life cycle. Like many other batteries, it’s maintenance free but with a charge efficiency that’s higher than most lead-acid batteries.
Disadvantages – These batteries are much more sensitive to high temperatures. The discharge in VLRA batteries is much lower than most batteries as well.
AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) Battery
AGM batteries are like flooded wet cell batteries in that both battery types have electrolytes that react to curved, flat, or rolled lead and lead oxide plates. Glass fibers are between the lead plates and suspend electrolytes for the duration of the battery’s life cycle.
Benefits – All AGM batteries are maintenance free. They’re durable batteries that incur little or no damage during the battery’s lifetime, therefore, they’re less likely to spill or leak the corrosive electrolyte fluid inside them. They’re excellent for deep cycle type currents and services. Also, AGM batteries have versatile installation capabilities. They can be installed upright or on its side. Emits a lower gas rate than wet cell batteries, and AGM cost less than gel cell batteries. Excellent backup battery for starting and stationary services, and ideal for highly charged (or discharged) currents.
Disadvantages – The lifetime of AGM last half the life of a gel cell battery or flooded wet cell battery. AGM batteries have a lower volt rating with at least 14 volts which max out under 70o F. You can’t add water to AGM batteries to stretch the liquid to charge the current.
Gel (Gel Cell) Battery
These batteries are known for the lead and lead oxide plates just like the AGM and flooded wet cell battery, however, the battery’s electrolyte combination is a gel rather than a liquid. The silica inside the electrolyte hardens the fluid to a gel-like texture.
Benefits – Gel cell batteries are much safer than liquid electrolyte (or lead-acid). There’s no necessary maintenance needed for this type of battery. The lifetime of gel cell batteries is much better than AGM batteries and better shelf life than wet cell batteries. Because of the gel inside the battery, the gel cell battery is spill and leak proof. The gasses and corrosion from gel cell batteries are minimal. With such a long shelf and life cycle, you can expect to spend less per month. It’s just as durable as AGM batteries and just as versatile in installation placement.
Disadvantages – Because of their durability and maintenance free factors, you’ll pay more money when you initially purchase a gel cell battery. It’s advised not to add any water to gel cell batteries if they are overcharged. To maximize the life of gel cell batteries, keep voltage up to 13.8 volts.
Comparing Battery Statistics
Which battery is better? What battery is compatible with my needs?
Each battery type serves the same or a different purpose than others. It’s recommended that you refer to the user manual of the device, vehicle, etc. to find the best battery. If your battery options are not limited to just one type, you’ll be able to explore each type to see which one better suits your needs. Let’s look at how battery types and different brands compare to one another.
As you compare each brand and model, be sure to pay close attention to three elements of each battery. Those elements are voltage, cold cranking amps (CCA), and price.
Mighty Max Battery ML35-12 U1 Deep Cycle AGM Solar Battery
Overview: Mighty Max battery is a 12V, SLA / AGM battery that is usually used for lawn equipment, golf carts, portable tools, and even motorcycles. It’s an ideal choice for smaller equipment and electrically powered vehicles. This battery has a valve system and is spill and leak proof. It’s maintenance free. The Might Max battery is equipped with a built-in calcium alloy extended its life cycle. It’s rechargeable and functions in both hot and cold temperatures.
- CCA – N/A
- Voltage – 12 Volts, 35AH
PROS: Extended battery life cycle reassures that you’ll save money. Rechargeable and maintenance free. Installation is versatile which allows you to mount it in various positions to fit the needs of the equipment.
CONS: Overcharging shortens the life of the battery. You won’t be able to maintain the battery. It’s limited to electrical equipment and small combustion/ignition engines.
VMAX857 AGM Battery Marine Deep Cycle HI Performance Battery
Overview: Custom designed AGM battery with specialized with a tin alloy and glass fibers, giving the VMAX 857 more strength and electrical capability.
- CCA – N/A
- Voltage – 12 Volts, 35AH
PROS: Maintenance free battery that’s spill proof and leak proof. Environmentally friendly. Cost efficient. Deep discharge ideal for 18 lb. to 40 lb. trolling motors.
CONS: Limited to smaller troll motors. Lifespan depletes quickly with larger troll motors or constant use over time. Four to nine hours of consistent use.
Odyssey PC680 Battery
Overview: The Odyssey PC680 battery has a longer life cycle than deep cycle batteries. Its fast charge efficiency makes it a contender for other sealed lead batteries in the automotive retail market.
- CCA – 170 CCA
- Voltage – 12 Volts
PROS: Shock and vibration resistant battery with mounting versatility and spillage proof. Longer lifetime than most deep cycle batteries. Efficient CCA for the average small vehicles such as motorcycles and ATVs.
CONS: May not be compatible with cars. More expensive than its competitors. Also, it’s a hazmat battery and cannot be exchanged with automotive retailers. Not compatible with most vehicles.
ACDelco 94RAGM Professional AGM Automotive BCI Group 94R Battery
Overview: Most compatible battery for a vehicle especially SUVs. High density puncture resistant battery with prolonged service and shelf life due to silver calcium stamped on a calcium lead grid.
- CCA – 850 CCA
- Voltage -12 Volts
PROS: Improved acid circulation to maximize conductivity, cooling the battery, and extended life cycle of the battery. Spill and leak proof.
CONS: More expensive than most batteries. Susceptible performance in extremely cold temperatures. Questionable charge efficiency.
Optima Batteries 8004-003 34/78 RedTop Starting Battery
Overview: This high-powered battery is suitable for most off-road vehicles and highly powered vehicles Optima refers to as “hot rods”. The high CCA is effective for any temperature. It’s maintenance free with twice the service lifecycle and shelf life.
- CCA – 800 CCA
- Voltage – 12 Volts
PROS: High CCA for any climate conditions. Versatile mounting capability. Battery failure resistant. Maintenance free. Extended life cycle.
CONS: Recommended for high powered vehicles only. Not compatible with smaller electrical vehicles such as golf carts, lawn mowers, and some boats. Environmental and/or bodily hazard could occur if the battery is damaged.
XS Power D6500 XS Series AGM High Output Battery (with M6 Terminal Bolt)
Overview: The XS Power D6500 is not your regular car battery, it’s a battery meant for high-speed vehicles. It’s essential for salt flat cars and customized drag racing cars. XS Power batteries can handle batteries with 300 mph speeds and high-performance capabilities.
- CCA – 1070 CCA
- Voltage – 12 Volts, 3,900 Amps
PROS: Extremely high CCA fit for any climate condition. SLA battery with low resistance and versatile mounting installation. SSpill-proof
CONS: Questionable life cycle and shelf life. Charge efficiency lower than less expensive brands. Not limited to racing vehicles, however, it’s an overpriced item for the average driver.
Choosing Your Battery and Managing Maintenance
Based on the data from price, cold cranking amps, and voltage, batteries with vehicular purposes are more efficient. Batteries, on average, are 12 volts but can be charged up to 14 volts. As mentioned above, consistent overcharging of any battery shortens its life cycle.
Batteries that cost more aren’t necessarily better. Although expensive batteries have more features than the cheaper ones, it may not be compatible or simply may not fit the requirements of your needs.
The best way to understand what kind of battery you need is to refer to the owner or manufacturer’s manual. If you cannot locate the manufacturer manual, research your vehicle or electrical device to see which battery is compatible.
To get the best results from a battery regardless of type, purchase a new battery each time you need one. Buying used batteries could put you back in the same position that you were in before replacing an old battery. Sometimes, you get lucky with a “refurbished” battery. Don’t fall for it. Buying a battery online is convenient, but it shouldn’t be your first option. Your best option is to buy a battery at an automotive retailer like Auto Zone or Advanced Auto Parts.
Online orders for batteries can be expensive considering the cost of shipping. Walk-in retailers will be able to handle warranties better than e-mail or telephone troubleshooting.
Maintenance and Safety
Battery acid is very dangerous. The liquid electrolyte is a combination of liquids: deionized water and lead acid (or sulfuric acid). These chemicals in the battery emit a gas in some batteries that can be flammable.
Maintenance for your battery should be approached with proper care. Be sure to wear protective gear and refer to the user manual for instructions on how to maintain it. A battery that is beyond repair should be confiscated properly at an auto parts retailer or junkyard. DO NOT dispose of car batteries in the everyday trash. Most car batteries are not environment-friendly, so take caution when disposing of them.
Charging the Battery
There are several methods you can take to charge a battery. The two most effective methods are jumper cables and a portable charger.
Jumper cables are thick wired devices with two copper clamps on each end. Each clamp fits on a car’s battery (black for negative, red for positive). Place the clamps on the proper terminal (red on red, black on black). The wires then conduct electrical power from one functioning battery to a dead battery. Start the vehicle with the working battery. Give it a few minutes for electrical current to charge the battery. Gently press the driver pedal to influence the charge a little more. Turn the key to the vehicle with the dead battery, but don’t turn it to start. You want to see if electricity is getting to applications in the car. If you hear the chimes of your car, turn the key to start.
A portable charger is relatively the same, however, the portable charger needs to be plugged up and fully charged before its capable of emitting the same capability as a car battery. The process is the same nonetheless. Charge the portable charger overnight for optimal charge results. When it’s fully charged, use the red and black wired clamps on the correct terminal. Turn on the charger and follow the instructions from the user manual. Do the same as you would with the vehicle. Leave the portable battery charger on the battery for a few minutes. Turn the key to see if any power is getting to your car. Try starting the vehicle.
What if Jumper Cables or a Portable Charger Won’t Work?
If jumper cables or a portable battery charger isn’t working, consider purchasing a battery. If your battery is under warranty, alert the retailer you bought it from. When purchasing a battery, hold on your receipt where you buy it online or walk-in auto parts store.
Car battery life can deplete rather quickly if the car has a faulty alternator. Alternators regulate the electrical current in the car sending power to other vital parts of the car. If the alternator is no good, the car will run all electrical components which will use most of the battery’s power if you don’t fix it.
Also, car batteries are known to fail in extremely cold temperatures. Be sure to start your vehicle every day during the colder seasons. Leaving a car unattended without driving or starting it will slowly kill the battery.
Thoughts on Car Batteries
The most effective battery you could purchase is a battery that meets your budget while providing the necessary performance. If you drive a four-door Sedan, you don’t need a battery that’s ideal for drag racing cars or off-road trucks. Shop around and research the best options. Never buy a used battery. You have no idea how long it’ll last. It’s better not to gamble, your car could stop functioning while on the road.
If you have a working car battery but bought an extra one, store it in a room with moderate temperature levels. Cold temperatures can slowly drain the battery’s power. In addition, storing any battery on concrete will kill the battery, also. Store batteries on plastic or wooden shelves.
Batteries for small engines and electric vehicles can last a few years. It all depends on how much you use them. Read manuals and web articles on compatible options for devices, you don’t want to overload a car, ATV, or golf cart with a battery that’s meant for larger vehicles.
Each battery has its own function and should be used according to the manufacturer’s standard.