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How to Choose a Car Battery: 3 Critical Factors

This car from 1955 has a 6-volt battery under the hood. Knowing your battery size is critical to learning how to choose a car battery.

Every car owner has at least one thing in common with every other car owner: every few years, it may be time for a new car battery. Not all car batteries are created equal and different cars have different battery requirements, so its important to have your battery’s health checked frequently. If you would need a new battery, here are three key things you need to know about how to choose a car battery and make sure it’s installed right.

1. Know Your AlphabetNAPA Legend Battery

Do you know what CCAs are? The acronym stands for cold cranking amps, which represent the speed at which the battery can put out power in cold temperatures. That matters because engines are harder to start in the cold. It takes more work for the starter to get the engine cranking and the thicker, cold oil to flow through. A battery with an insufficient CCA rating can contribute to more wear and tear on the starter, longer start times, and even failure to start in cold weather. Picking a battery with sufficient CCAs is critical.

2. Connections Count

Making sure your vehicle’s battery cables have a tight, clean connection with the battery’s terminals is extremely important. Loose cable connections will not conduct maximum power and cause problems over time. Cable terminals and battery posts that are covered with corrosion will also inhibit power and will affect power, eventually leading up to a no-start situation. Make sure to clean terminals periodically. Terminal cleaner and protection sprays can help. Your connections are key to ensuring the battery is installed properly and can deliver the intended power it was meant to give.

3. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Another key thing to know is that batteries come in many different sizes, though that may not be obvious at first glance. It’s because of the battery tray or battery box that secures your battery in your car — you don’t want that 30- to 50-pound battery coming loose on a sharp curve and doing damage. Different makes, models and years need different battery sizes, and the difference can be just a fraction of an inch. Even the same make, model and year can have more than one battery size if your vehicle is equipped with an optional engine. Make sure to follow the application guide closely so that you have the right battery for the right application, which will lead to long life and confident starting power.  

Knowing how to choose a car battery is easy if you follow these steps. Remember, knowledge is power — in this case, battery power.

Check out all of the batteries available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to choose a car battery, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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