Winter Is Coming… Do You Know Your Battery’s CCA Rating?

Sub-zero temps are just around the corner for much of the United States, which means it’s time to think about the health of your vehicle battery. Today’s modern vehicles and engines place great demands on automotive twelve-volt battery systems, with new vacuum controls, computerized engine diagnostic and control systems, and larger and more elaborate passenger entertainment systems. So how can you be sure your battery has what it takes to start your vehicle each day with no trouble? There’s a rating for that.

Cold Cranking Amps, or CCA, is a rating used in the battery industry to define a battery’s ability to start an engine in cold temperatures. The CCA rating is a more important consideration if you live in a cold climate than if you live in a warm one.

“The rating refers to the number of amps a 12-volt battery can deliver at 0°F for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts,” explains Jim Mitchell, VP or Retail Sales at Bauer Built. “The higher the CCA rating, the greater the starting power of the battery. The Battery Council International (BCI) defines it as ‘the number of amps a lead-acid battery at 0ºF can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell.’’’

A battery’s starting power deteriorates with its age, so it makes sense to purchase a battery with higher starting power, in most situations. Buying a battery with an extra 300 CCAs isn’t necessary, however, if your local temperature rarely dips below zero. Still, it’s good to be aware of your CCA rating, as replacement batteries should equal or exceed the original battery in ratings to avoid poor performance. Typical CCA readings for a car range from 350 to 600A, and higher for trucks. SAE J537 specifies that a battery with a CCA reading of 500A can deliver 500A at –18°C (0°F) for 30 seconds without dropping below 7.2 volts.

Many batteries also come with a cranking amps (CA) rating, sometimes referred to as Marine Cranking Amps, or MCA. This test is the same as the CCA rating test, but it is performed at 32°F (0°C). The cranking amps number will be higher than the CCA number, because of the warmer temperature. Battery advertisements may praise the virtues of a battery with more cranking amps, but wise consumers will also consider battery cost, their local climate, and their vehicle type when selecting a battery.

Like all power systems in your vehicle, batteries should be periodically tested for performance level and output. If you notice your battery isn’t functioning as well as it should be, an equipment test can identify problems before they worsen. A battery that sits unused for a long period will self-discharge, even in moderate climates, but the real damage occurs when a depleted battery’s electrolytes meet freezing temps, cracking the internals and the case.

Measuring cold cranking amps provides valuable information about your battery as we enter the coldest months. To prevent poor battery performance, stop by one of our locations to have your battery tested with our diagnostic and test equipment. For more insights and tips on general tire maintenance and vehicle repair services, visit us online.

Categories: Bauer Built Blog, Car Care Tips