We use batteries for things all over our homes. If you have a watch on, you’ve probably added a small round battery inside from time to time. Those smoke detectors outside of your bedrooms have 9-volts that should be replaced regularly to help keep you safe. And all of those remote controls you have near your entertainment center – you might invest in batteries by the truckload to keep them all fresh and operating day after day.
The cars sitting out in your garage or driveway work in a similar fashion. If you pop the hood, you’ll find a car battery tucked neatly inside. And while they might look the same from one vehicle to the next, they aren’t.
Do all cars use the same battery?
In the most practical sense, it stands to reason that a battery for a small sports car would be different than one for a large pickup truck with a V8 engine. One car is used for performance while the other is a workhorse – of course, they have different needs.
That alone would be reason enough to have a different battery in different makes and models, but there’s more. Batteries are designed to work differently depending on needs.
In most cases, a car battery is installed for starting, lighting, and ignition needs. That’s why you’ll often find car batteries called SLI batteries. These batteries are used mainly for these three functions. They provide energy for starting your car when you turn the key, as well as the energy necessary for the accessories you use to make your ride safer and more enjoyable. Things like the radio, lights, and other electrical components are all charged by your car’s battery.
The standard car battery offers a standard 12v voltage. They provide power in short bursts, with only a shallow cycle coverage.
Maybe you’ve invested in newer technology. If you have a hybrid or electric car, you may have a lithium-ion battery. Because these do more to power a vehicle, they offer more energy than a standard SLI battery. They are also much lighter. But because they offer more energy to a vehicle’s operation, they also won’t last as long as an SLI battery. Most SLI batteries will give you three to five years of life, whereas a lithium-ion battery is estimated closer to three.
No matter what battery your vehicle needs, it’s not as easy as driving down to your local big box store and picking up a pack of batteries. Even though you’ll often find them sitting on the shelves, it’s still important to understand what your car truly needs before buying and installing a battery.
What happens if you put the wrong size battery in your car?
While a lot of car batteries may look the same sitting on the shelf – all SLI batteries are 12v voltage after all – they are unique to your vehicle’s design. If you buy the wrong one, it won’t fit into the designated spot, the battery tray. And if it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t do your car much good.
Today’s modern vehicles are filled with all sorts of electronic gadgets and devices. That’s why even your mechanic relies on a computer to analyze the mechanics of your vehicle to determine where a problem really lies. All of those electronic parts take power. They depend on your battery to provide them with the right amount of power to work properly, to provide you with an enjoyable experience, and to keep you safe while driving.
Have you ever had a power surge in your home? Those sudden blasts of energy can wreak havoc on sensitive electronic devices like your television or game systems. It works the same inside your car. If you use a battery that wasn’t designed for your specific vehicle, you risk creating power surges underneath the hood. And that can do more damage than good.
How do you know what battery to buy for your car?
While you have to know what type of battery goes into your car, you also need to know the right size. You’ll find all car batteries are classified by battery group size. This is an industry standard that defines all batteries in terms of height, width, and length. It also defines where the positive and negative battery posts are, also known as polarity. Because there are only a certain amount of battery group sizes, it’s easier for manufacturers to design engine compartments within certain specifications.
Instead of having to climb underneath the hood to look for the battery and measure the size, all you have to do is determine what battery group size your vehicle uses. It will be printed on the label of the battery, or you can find it in your owner’s manual. You can also find a battery group size chart in many different locations, including online.
You’ll also find manufacturers tend to favor specific battery sizes for ease. That way all of their designs can be similar, they can purchase larger allotments of parts, and repair is easier because it’s similar depending on model and year. General Motors, for example, tends to install size 75 in its vehicles.
Brand and warranty can matter too
Like every part on your vehicle, there’s always the good/better/best way of buying replacement parts. Can you find someone willing to give you an incredible deal on a battery for your car? Of course. But you’ll pay for it in the end. It might not work well with your vehicle’s requirements, giving a much shorter lifespan than if you’d upgraded.
Going with a recognized brand name will give you better customer service if you have trouble down the road.
You can also select different grades. If you’re planning on keeping your car for a while, it might be wiser to invest in a higher grade battery. This is designed to provide you with a longer life. They will also come with different warranties. In case something goes wrong, it’s always nice to know you’re covered.
If you aren’t comfortable selecting the right battery for your vehicle, or changing it out and disposing of the old one, one of our mechanics would be happy to do it for you. That way you’ll ensure you have a high quality replacement car battery, one that will have you back on the road in no time.