You don’t want to wait till your vehicle fails to start shopping for a new battery. Being stranded in the middle of the road due to a dead battery can be a major inconvenience, particularly if you don’t have a jumper cable and must rely on roadside assistance for help. For this reason, pay attention to the warning signs of a failing battery and make a timely replacement if necessary.
If you’re replacing your car battery for the first time, you may not be conversant with the different types and which option is right for your car. Below is a list and detailed description of the common car battery options you can purchase today.
- Flooded lead acid batteries
- Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries
- Deep cycle battery
- Lithium-ion battery
- Solid-state battery
Let’s break them down, including everything you need to know about each one.
Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
- Flooded Lead Acid battery
- Good for golf carts
- Set of two (2)
Also referred to as wet lead acid batteries, these vehicle batteries are commonly used in most older car models. They are traditional batteries and feature six cells, each with lead plates immersed in an electrolyte (sulfuric acid). The contact between the electrolyte and the lead plates triggers a chemical reaction that creates energy which helps to turn on the car engine.
With proper maintenance, lead acid batteries can last up to 3 to 5 years. However, their lifespan is greatly impacted by extreme hot or cold temperatures. An example of a flooded lead acid battery you can purchase is the Trojan T-125. There are two types of wet-cell batteries. Here’s a brief overview.
The Starting, Lighting, Ignition (SLI) Battery
These wet-cell batteries are designed for vehicles with an alternator. When you start your car, electrons flow from the positive to the negative terminal, igniting the spark plugs that power your engine. After the engine starts, the alternator transfers electrical current to different parts of your vehicle, like the stereo, lights, etc. The alternator also recharges the battery, ensuring your engine starts the next time you ignite the car.
The Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB)
This EFB lead acid battery is a higher-performance version of the traditional wet-cell battery. They work the same way as the lead acid battery, with the only difference being their construction. This battery has thick lead plates with a specialized poly fleece coating to prevent rust build-up on the lead plates, prolonging the battery’s life.
Note that if your vehicle has a start-stop functionality, this is one of the best batteries. Vehicles with this functionality will switch off automatically when idle and resume when you press the gas pedal. The frequent starting and stopping of the vehicle don’t result in faster wear and tear of this battery. It’s also a great pick if you reside in an area with harsh climatic conditions, as its performance doesn’t dip in hot or cold weather.
|Best in terms of reliability as they can last up to 5 years with proper maintenance
|It charges slowly
|Works in different climatic conditions
Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) Batteries
Like wet cell batteries, the VRLA batteries generate electricity using lead submerged in sulfuric acid. What differentiates them from lead acid batteries is that they’re completely sealed, so you won’t experience leak spills regardless of how you place them in your car. These batteries are an excellent pick due to their low maintenance as you don’t have to keep adding battery water/acid. An example of a VRLA battery is the YTZ14S Yuasa Battery. There are two major types of VRLA batteries.
Gell Cell Battery
The gel cell battery contains silica mixed with a liquid electrolyte (sulfuric acid), making the electrolyte thicker and more viscous. This prevents the electrolyte from spilling and offers better resistance to shocks and vibration. Another notable advantage of this battery is that it can discharge below the low safe voltage (over-discharging), resulting in irreversible damage to wet cell batteries.
Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) Battery
- 22.6 kilograms weight
- 8 x 12 x 12 inches
- Above ground style
- Runs various Basement Watchdog sump pump systems intermittently for days
- No need to add battery fluid or distilled water
The AGM is the upgraded version of the gel cell battery. Unlike gel cell batteries, where electrolytes flood the plates, AGM batteries store electrolytes in glass mats. These batteries are designed to last long as they can withstand constant draining and charging much better than lead acid batteries. You can also expect the AGM batteries to last up to seven years, and they offer great performance even in cold climates. An example of an AGM battery is The Basement Watchdog.
|Power output is high
|Low tolerance for overcharging
|Short time to charge
|They don’t spill off like lead acid batteries
|No need to add water or battery fluid
The Deep Cycle Battery
- 225 amp-hour
- Popular "golf cart" size
- Can be used in RVs, homes, cabins and most renewable energy systems
These are lead-acid batteries that can either be sealed or flooded, and they offer efficient charging and steady discharge. This means you’re guaranteed sustained power for a long time than other battery types. These batteries are good at discharging slowly to low states of charge and recharging.
They provide low energy levels over a longer period, usually several hours. Additionally, you can place the sealed battery in different positions because they don’t spill. If you want to purchase the deep cycle battery, you should know that it performs best in marine cars and other recreational vehicles. An example of a deep-cycle battery is the Trojan T 105.
|Has good resistance to vibration, shocks, and fluctuating temperature
|Used lead batteries are sometime prone to leaks
|Has a slow discharge rate
|Can withstand deep discharges
- 3000+ cycle
- Fast charging battery with BMS
- For RVs, camping, marine, backup power, solar home, off-grid systems
If you’re driving an electric vehicle, then most probably, it’s using a lithium-ion battery. These batteries feature a cathode, anode, and a separator between them submerged in an electrolyte. When an electrical charge is added to the battery, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode. When energy is released from the battery, they move in the opposite direction, which creates the power to run your vehicle.
Unlike other types of batteries, lithium-ion stores a lot of energy, charges quickly, and can last up to 20 years before you can replace them. While approaching the end of its useful life, you may notice that the battery takes too long or doesn’t meet the expected range on a single charge. An example of a lithium-ion battery is the Eco-Worthy battery.
|You can use up to 80% of its capacity
|The battery ages the high charging cycle
|Has a lightweight design
|Risk of overheating, exploding, or catching fire
|Doesn’t require any maintenance
|Has a higher density level than traditional lead acid
|Longer battery life span
Solid State Battery
This is another common battery found in electric cars. Like the lithium-ion battery, the solid-state battery has a cathode and anode, with the difference being that the separator is solid (ceramic material), meaning the battery will be half the size so twice as many batteries can be installed in a battery space that is reserved in an electric vehicle. This will lead to 600 miles or more on a single charge.
The advantage of the solid-state battery over its counterparts, especially the lithium-ion battery, is that it charges quickly. In a solid-state battery, you can expect to achieve an 80% charge in under 15 minutes, and the battery isn’t strained with frequent charging cycles.
|Offers great battery life even in extreme weather conditions
|More costly than other battery types
|Takes up less space
How to Pick a Common Car Battery Type: Step-by-Step
Choosing the best car battery can be overwhelming, and if you don’t know what makes a good battery, the search can even be more overwhelming.
Here are some of the key things you should be watching out for to help you make an informed decision.
- Size of the battery and terminal position
- Battery power requirements
- Battery freshness
Let’s look at each of these criteria in detail.
Size of the Battery and Terminal Position
There’s no doubt that many car batteries have a standard dimension. However, before purchasing a new battery, measure the dimensions of the old one. This is the only guarantee that you’ll choose the right fit in the tray of your vehicle. If you fail to take the battery measurements and end up with a small-sized battery, it may end up damaging the tray or causing fluid spills.
It’s also important to check on the battery Battery Council International (BCI) number as it indicates the fit of your battery. Ensure that the battery you purchase has the exact number that’s indicated on the old battery. For instance, BCI 35 shows that the battery top terminus can fit many Japanese car brands like Toyota and Nissan, while Size 49 (H8) is the best match for European vehicles like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz.
Battery Power Requirements
The performance of your car battery in different climate conditions is among the top things not to overlook when buying a car battery. That being the case, pay attention to the cranking amps (CA) and cold cranking amps (CCA) of the battery. CA refers to how well your battery can start a vehicle in a moderate climate (above 32°F), while CCA is the measure of the battery’s ability to start your vehicle at 0°F.
Before purchasing your battery, check on the owner’s manual for the least amount of cranking amps your vehicle requires and ensure your new battery meets the requirement. If you reside in a cold area, you should go for a battery with a higher CCA than recommended, as you’re assured of better performance.
Pay Attention to the Warranty
The warranty you receive while purchasing a car battery is a sign of the quality of the battery. A good warranty should have a free replacement period and limited performance (prorated) warrant, which provides you partial payment if there’s a significant drop in your battery performance. So, while comparing different batteries, ensure that you read the fine print to ensure that you’re getting both warranties.
You should also know that poor battery performance resulting from neglect, like improper installation or low water levels, can ultimately void your warranty. The same goes for heavy-duty use like high-end car audio, particularly if the battery isn’t designed for such use.
Battery freshness is when the battery has been on the shelf from the date of manufacture. When buying a new battery, ensure it’s as fresh as possible. Usually, new batteries will have a code on the top or side with letters and numbers for the month and year of manufacture. The battery you consider shouldn’t have been on the shelf for over six months from the date of manufacture.
A car battery is an important component of your vehicle as it helps to power all the electronic components. That’s why paying attention to the type of battery that will offer you the best performance is crucial.
This guide has shared the different car battery types to consider today, including a buying guide. The information provided should help you make an informed choice when you think of replacing your battery.
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