Whenever winter comes around, there’s always a huge spike in the amount of roadside assistance calls spikes. The biggest reason for this is almost always dead batteries. When temperatures fall, batteries have to supply twice as much current in order to get the engine going. This can put a lot of strain on weaker units, increasing the likelihood of a blowout.
This is exactly why I love car batteries that have a higher tolerance for low temperatures. They’re much less likely to die on you during your winter drives. Recently, I had a friend of mine come to me for a battery replacement, which gave me the perfect opportunity to find the best car battery for cold weather that you could buy in 2019. I tested out around 15 or so batteries and narrowed it down to my personal top five.
Batteries in Cold Weather 101
Before we get to the actual reviews, I want to talk a bit about why batteries have a hard time during cold seasons, what you can do about it and when and if you should actually replace your existing car battery. This knowledge will help you appreciate just how useful cold-weather-tolerant car batteries are.
Why Do Batteries Fail In The Winter?
There are two main reasons for this: increased demand for current and reduced battery capacity. Here’s a brief overview of each:
Low temperatures cause engine oil (especially single weight oil) to become thicker, which produces difficulties starting the engine. In particular, it becomes harder for the engine to ‘turn over’, which is a term we give for the series of mechanical steps that must occur before the engine can start. As a result, the starter motor needs a lot more current which it draws from the battery. If your battery is relatively new and healthy, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem. However, the weaker it is the more likely it’s going to fail with the added stress.
The starter motor isn’t the only thing that requires more power. During winter, we rely heavily on parts like the windshield wipers, headlights, and the heater. Unfortunately, this is pretty much unavoidable if you’re driving through heavy snowfall. In addition, if you’ve also got your phone charger plugged in and music blasting from your stereo, that’s going to increase the demand for current even more!
During cold weather, the chemical reactions that occur inside batteries that produce electrons slow down. As a result, the battery ends up producing fewer electrons in the winter, perhaps not enough for the starter motor to crank up the engine.
How Do You Keep Your Battery Healthy During The Winter?
I paid the price heavily when I neglected my car battery in the winter of 2012. I was trying to drive out of an empty parking lot when my car refused to start. Long story short: I was stranded for about an hour until a kind stranger helped me jumpstart my engine. Since then, I’ve always taken winter battery maintenance quite seriously. Here are the most important tips I’ve managed to learn over the years:
Know Your Battery’s Capacity
A battery’s holding capacity is measured in Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and you can find it online or on the manual. However, the capacity tends to reduce as a battery gets older so I always keep an eye on mine all year round using my car battery tester. If you haven’t gotten one of those, you can always get it checked at your local mechanic’s once every couple of months or so.
CCA refers to how much current (in amps) a 12-volt battery can supply at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds while also ensuring that the voltage does not drop below 7.2 volts. So the higher the CCA of a battery, the easier it’ll be to start up the car during colder temperatures.
Park Your Car In A Warm Place
Parking your car inside a garage instead of outdoors can help to reduce the impact of cold weather on the engine oil. I’ve taken it a step further and installed a heater in my garage so that my car stays nice and toasty through the night. This way, I never have to worry about my engine failing to start the next morning.
Switch Off Everything
Leaving the headlights on one night might not seem like such a big deal during warmer weather but it can often put a huge load on your battery during winter. So whenever you park your car, always make sure that you turn off all power loads, including the headlights.
Clean Your Battery
As I mentioned before, there are chemical reactions happening inside your battery. Over time, these can lead to battery parts corroding. So, each year, right before winter rears its frosty head, I make sure to clean the car battery terminals. It’s quite easy. All you need to do is dip a toothbrush into a mixture of baking soda (one tablespoon) and water (one cup) and scrub out all the corrosion from battery clamps and posts.
Should You Replace Your Battery During The Winter?
All batteries grow weaker and wear out over time. There are a few factors that affect the lifespan of car battery including temperature and humidity. If you live in a city where the summers aren’t all that warm and the humidity isn’t excessive, then that’s the ideal condition for a car battery. In that case, your battery will last you about six years.
In warmer places, batteries tend to wear off faster. This is mainly due to the increased buildup of lead sulfate crystals (sulfation) in lead-acid batteries and the loss of water.
How do you know when it’s time to replace your battery? Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until the battery is dead because these indicators will warn you in advance:
When It’s All Crank And No Bite
If all you get is an engine crank when you turn the key, then it’s a clear indication that your battery is starting to wear off. If this happens a couple of times within a short window, then there’s no stronger sign that you need to start looking for a replacement.
A Weak Crank
A sluggish engine crank is another common warning sign. In such cases, the engine will start but only after a slow lead up to it. If this happens to you, I strongly recommend that you get your battery tested right away.
Keeping track of your battery’s age is a good habit. If you live in a place that’s very warm most of the year, then you may want to think about replacing the battery after three years. If you live in a colder climate, you can give it a couple of years before you get a replacement. However, you should at least perform regular testing once you reach three years.
A Putrid Smell
If you are hit with the scent of sulfur (which smells like rotten eggs) when you’re around your car, then it’s a strong telltale for a leaking battery. Battery leaks lead to corrosion, which in turn results in very poor performance. While you can scrub out the rust, it’s only a temporary fix. If the leaks continue, you’ll definitely have to purchase a new battery.
Top Five Car Batteries for Cold Weather
Now that you’ve got a crash course on how cold weather impacts car batteries, let’s get down to the battery reviews:
- Cold Crank Amp (CCA)- 950
- Better warranty: Limited 3 and 4 year full replacement warranty - not...
- Longer service life: With 3-10 years of service life, ODYSSEY...
- Longer cycle life: 70 percentage longer cycle life compared to...
- Faster recharge: The highest recharge efficiency of any sealed lead...
The 65-PC1750T from Odyssey is a bit of an ‘over-achiever’ in a number of different ways. For starters, it’s got a CCA rating of 950 when you only get between 250 to 600 with most car batteries in the market. This means that it can still supply tons of current to the starter motor even in sub-zero temperatures.
A regular car battery is able to supply a large ‘burst’ of current for a really short period of time. On the other hand, deep-cycle car batteries like the Odyssey 65-PC1750T are designed in such a way that they supply a constant amount over a much longer period of time. These types of batteries use thicker plates, which allow them to give off a deep discharge consistently, which is something that would wear down a regular battery fairly quickly.
Something you’ll notice right away about the Odyssey 65-PC1750T is that it’s built like a tank. This deep-cycle battery sports a military-grade design that’s supposedly very resistant to intense vibrations and extremes of temperatures. Hence, if you drive a utility vehicle and like to go off-roading in cold weather, then this battery might be a good option.
It’s leak-proof as well, meaning that you don’t regularly scrub any dust off of the battery terminals.
It only takes the Odyssey 65-PC1750T around four to six hours to charge fully, making it one of the most efficient batteries I’ve come across. Typically, it takes the average car battery anywhere between 8 to 10 hours to reach a full charge so this was a pleasant surprise.
- Very high CCA
- One of the quickest recharging batteries in the market
- Leak-proof, sturdy design
- Comes with a 2-4 year warranty
- When installing the battery, I found that it cannot be mounted in an inverted position
- 12 Volt battery with CA: 1000, Ah: 65
- Absorbed Glass Mat (electrolyte is suspended in fiberglass)
- Spill proof, sealed, valve regulated and vibration resistant
- Ultra low internal resistance, Mount in almost any position
- Packaging and marked sku may vary slightly
Just like the Odyssey 65-PC1750T, the D3400 from XS Power is a battery that can discharge deeply on a consistent basis, allowing it to supply enough current to the starter motor without wearing out.
With a CCA rating of 1000, the XS Power D3400 is well-above the average thresholds. It’s way more CCA than what your average sedan requires. If you’ve got a larger vehicle like an SUV or a pickup truck, this car battery could serve you reliably in the cold weather.
Most car batteries feature a ‘flooded’ design which closely replicates what traditional batteries look like. They contain a liquid electrolyte that is allowed to freely move around the container, which essentially means that they’re not sealed. As a result, flooded batteries are very prone to leakages and so require continuous maintenance.
Batteries like the XS Power D3400, which feature a Sealed Absorbed Glass Mat or AGM design don’t have this problem. Special glass fiber mats create an inner compartment between two lead plates, preventing the electrolyte from sloshing around the battery container freely. The advantage here is that the battery is less likely to leak, which made me more confident about mounting it in an inverted position.
No leaks mean less maintenance. You don’t have to keep brushing the rust off of the battery terminals every few months or so. Furthermore, the AGM design makes the D3400 very resistant to vibrations, making it a good choice for off-roading vehicles.
Here are a few other benefits of AGM design car batteries:
- Very low internal resistance – this means that it can deliver a vast amount of current on a continuous basis.
- Less weight – typically, AGM batteries are lighter than flooded ones.
- Less prone to sulfation – with flooded batteries you need a topping charge (which is when you bring the charge to 100%) twice a year in order to prevent the buildup of lead sulfate crystals. AGM batteries, however, can go for much longer without needing a charge.
No External Vents
The fact that there aren’t any external vents on the XS Power D3400 means that it can be mounted almost anywhere. For instance, you could install it below a seat or even inside a glove box without worrying about it leaking.
- Deep-cycle battery
- Leak-proof AGM design
- Very-High CCA
- 3-year warranty
- Does not last as long as traditional batteries with flooded designs
- 20X more vibration protection safeguards battery performance over...
- BCI Gp 34, CCA 775, RC 120 minutes, 55 AH rating
- Spill proof design provides added protection for sophisticated...
- Optimized power full-frame positive and negative plates prevent life...
- Enhanced electrolyte suspension system absorbs more electrolyte and...
With a CCA rating of 775, the DieHard 38232 is still above average and will definitely keep your car running at temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just like the XS Power D3400, this battery sports a sealed AGM Design as well. Sealed batteries ultimately give you more peace of mind than those with flooded designs. You can mount them any way you want without worrying about leaking and the likelihood of severe corrosion is much less.
20X Increased Vibration Resistance
You will really only appreciate a feature like this if you’re taking a road trip through turbulent roads or setting out on a 4×4 adventure. If you’re the off-roading type, then vibration resistance is a very handy feature. You can brave through desert dunes and rocky paths without worrying about leakages or damage to the inner components.
If you’re wondering what the ‘20x’ is in relation to, it’s actually one of the DieHard 38232’s predecessors: the Gold Model No. 50634.
- Fairly high CCA
- Leak-proof AGM design
- 20x vibration resistance
- I honestly can’t think of any
The ACDelco ACDB24R features the lowest CCA rating on the list at 380 amps. Regardless, it’s still within the average range of what you might expect with most car batteries. Plus I can’t say I’ve had any trouble starting my car while it was hooked up to this battery, even during particularly freezing mornings.
The ability to deal out lots of current consistently, less maintenance and the ability to mount in any position without leaks – that’s what you can expect to get from the ACDelco ACDB24R thanks to its AGM design.
Valve Regulated Gas Recombinant Technology
‘Valve Regulated’ is simply a way of saying that the battery’s electrolyte solution is kept inside a sealed inner compartment. ‘Gas Recombinant’ refers to the fact that most of the oxygen produced at the positive lead plate will react with hydrogen present at the negative plates, creating water. As a result, water loss is minimized meaning that you don’t need to regularly top the battery with distilled water.
ACDelco claims that this gives the battery a lifespan that’s three times as long as what you get with regular batteries. However, this sounds more like an exaggerated marketing slogan than a fact to me. Still, I have no doubts that the ACDB24R will last quite a long time.
- 18-month warranty
- Leak-proof AGM design
- Valve Regulated Gas Recombinant Technology
- Relatively light at 31.4 pounds
- Lowest CCA rating on the list
- 12-Volt, 750 Cold Cranking Amps, Size: 10" x 6 7/8" x 7 13/16" tall,...
- Reserve capacity of 120 minutes for constant performance
- Optimal starting power even in bad weather. Case Material:...
- Fifteen times more resistant to vibration for durability. Post type is...
- This item is not for sale in Catalina Island
Optima’s proprietary SpiralCell technology refers to its unique method for winding the battery cells. It makes for a more precise coating of lead oxide on the plates, resulting in several benefits including a fairly good CCA Rating of 620. In addition to this, SpiralCell makes sure that the internal components of the battery do not move at all. This means that you can drive through the roughest off-road terrains without experiencing any leakages whatsoever.
With glass fiber mats absorbing the acid electrolyte and keeping it secured, there’s no chance of leaks, even if you mount the battery in an inverted position. The battery will also be able to keep up with the increased demand for current during cold weather thanks to the low inner resistance.
The Optima YellowTop features polypropylene casing, which is one of the most heat-tolerant plastics. Polypropylene is a ‘thermoplastic’ which means that instead of burning at high temperatures, the material actually melts. This means that it’s one of the safest materials to make battery cases out of. Polypropylene has a melting point of around 270 Fahrenheit so you don’t have to worry about the enclosure getting damaged.
- High CCA rating
- Resistance to vibrations
- Leak-proof AGM design
- Heat resistance
- There really aren’t any that I can think of
What Is The Best Overall Car Batteries For Cold Weather
Deciding which battery I liked the most was tough. There were a ton of similarities between my picks, with all of them featuring leak-proof designs and being quite durable in general. However, after much deliberation, I decided on the Xs Power D3400. Here are my reasons:
First of all, it’s a deep-cycle battery so I have no doubts about its lifespan not being affected heavily by long winter spells when the current demand is consistently high. Plus with a CCA of 1000 amps, I feel quite confident that it’ll most likely never fail to keep up with this demand. In addition, the AGM design means that I could mount it in whatever position I like and not pay for it with regular leaks and corrosion.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Cold Cranking Amps Do I Need For Cold Weather?
The colder it gets, the higher the battery’s CCA rating needs to be. For instance, if you live in a state like Minnesota where temperatures often drop below zero, then a CCA of 700 amps or more is recommended.
Are Optima Batteries Good In Cold Weather?
Yes. The YellowTop in particularly is able to supply a large amount of current to meet the increased demand during cold weather. You’ll be able not only start your engines but also engage your headlights and windshield wipers and have your stereo on at the same time.
What Do You Do When Your Car Won’t Start In Cold Weather?
The first thing you should do is check your battery using a battery tester. If you don’t have one, you can always call for assistance from your local mechanic.
How Do You Warm Up A Frozen Car Battery?
Before you actually warm up the battery, you need to visually inspect it for any cracks. If any are present you need to get it replaced instead of warming it up. If the battery isn’t damaged, carefully remove it and place it in a warm place.
When temperatures fall below zero, the distilled water inside can freeze into ice cubes. Hence, you must keep the battery warm until the cubes thaw. The best way to go about this is to aim a portable heater at the battery for about 30 minutes. Allow it to warm up to at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit before you try to jumpstart it.
How Cold Is Too Cold For A Car Battery?
According to AAA’s Automotive Research Center, a car battery can lose 60% of its strength. Hence sub-zero temperatures can effectively render your battery pretty weak.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-01-23 at 14:29 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.