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Beginner’s Guide to Cold Cranking Power in Classic Car Batteries

Batteries, including car batteries used in classic cars and trucks, wear out with time, and will eventually have to be replaced. As a collector car owner, instead of getting the same kind of battery, you might want to consider one with more cold cranking power. People often say, “the more, the better.” However, that is not always the case. In this article, you will learn more about cold cranking power, the factors that affect it, and other related topics that can help you choose the right battery for your car.

What is cold cranking power?

Cold cranking power is more technically known as cold cranking amperes (CCA). This refers to the amount of current a battery can release to start up an engine. More specifically, CCA tells you how much electrical power the chemicals in the battery can supply for 30 seconds, at base temperature (0° F), without dropping below 7.2 volts.

CCA also helps car owners distinguish a battery’s “starting power.” The Battery Council International released a series of standardized tests that can help gauge how much CCA a battery has. Based on these results, manufacturers can then label their batteries. CCA ratings vary from one country to another, but in the U.S., it usually ranges from 350 to 600 amperes.

It is important to note that CCA is only one of many standard ratings used in the battery industry. Other ratings include MCA (Marine cranking amperes), HCA (Hot cranking amperes), and PHCA (Pulse hot cranking amperes). What makes CCA more relevant in North American and European markets is that it considers extremely cold temperatures, as opposed to southern or tropical countries where MCA might be more applicable.

What are the factors that affect CCA?

When looking for a battery, it is crucial that you consider the following before deciding which one to buy:

Temperature – The rule of thumb is that it is easier for the battery to supply power when it is warm. Thus, it is more difficult to start an engine in cold temperatures. This is due to (1) colder and sluggish oil; and (2) car battery chemicals needed to make electrical energy less efficient. So, if you live in a state that experiences extremely cold weather, like Alaska or Minnesota, it is better to get a battery with higher CCA.

Design factors – Over the years, there is an assumption among consumers that a higher CCA translates to better energy output and longer battery life. Because of this assumption, it caused manufacturers to design batteries with higher CCA by sacrificing other design factors, such as the size of plates. Thinner plates increase surface area, which means higher CCA. This might work in colder temperatures where high CCA is needed. In warmer countries or states, however, this design may lead to corrosion and other problems that decrease the battery’s lifespan.

How much CCA do you need?

When it comes to choosing a battery, it is best to consult your car’s manual. The people who designed your car will know how much CCA is needed for the car to start up properly. There are of course other factors to consider when buying a battery for your classic car or truck other than CCA. Last year we wrote an guide to help you choose which battery is right for your classic car or truck.

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