Cold Cranking Amps

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Las Vegas, NV

The hardest time of the year to start a car engine is when the weather gets really cold, we're talking below freezing. Back before every new car came with electronic fuel-injection, starting a car in the winter months often involved some type of combination of pumping the gas pedal, then turning the key and holding it in the start position for as long as it took for the engine to fire up, possibly while pumping the gas pedal a few more times. 

That process is a far cry from what we see today, where cars now have buttons to push that start the engine and often fire up virtually instantly. Many of the engines have gotten smaller and easier to start at the same time, but back in the old days, cranking an engine was definitely an involved process.

To help consumers understand how capable car batteries were of starting an engine in extremely cold temperatures, the Battery Council International (BCI) created an industry standard, called Cold Cranking Amps, often referred to as CCA. In this test, a battery is placed in a cold environment (0°F/-18°C) and they measure the discharge load in amperes that a new, fully-charged battery can deliver for 30 seconds, while still maintaining terminal voltage of 7.2 volts.

Suddenly, battery brands and manufacturers had numbers they could promote and they certainly did that, to the point that many consumers began shopping for a battery, based on finding the one with the most cold cranking amps, but does that make sense to do for today's cars and trucks? It might, if you own a diesel truck, live in an area where winter temperatures drop below zero and have had issues getting your truck to start.

Beyond examples like that, cold cranking amps have begun to lose their relevance. A 1969 Camaro could have seven different battery options to choose from, but a 2019 Camaro battery only uses one battery size. In that one battery size that is now often common for modern vehicles, every available option a consumer will have will likely meet or exceed the OE requirement for cranking amps, by virtue of all batteries of that specific size having at least a certain amount of cold cranking amps.

Some batteries may offer...or at least advertise more cold cranking amps than others, but those numbers don't always paint an accurate picture. Some battery brands and manufacturers will be more aggressive with how they rate their batteries and those batteries probably do meet those ratings at least for a while. It could be a few weeks or a few months, but over time, the actual cold cranking amps found in those batteries could drop off significantly, while another brand, whose initial specification for cold cranking amps was more conservative, could actually end up providing better cranking power over the long haul. 

So what can you do as a consumer to weed through the confusion? Know that AGM batteries and those that use 99.99% pure virgin lead (as OPTIMA Batteries does) are likely to provide more power and last longer than a typical flooded lead-acid battery, which uses recycled lead. That difference may be obvious in the initial specifications on those batteries for cold cranking amps, but it will also manifest itself over the life of the battery.

Whether you choose an OPTIMA battery, another AGM battery or a flooded lead-acid battery, know that proper voltage maintenance will maximize battery performance and lifespan. We recommend topping off the charge on every battery you own at least once a month, with a quality battery charger or maintainer. If when you go to charge the battery, you find that it still measures at least 12.6 volts before charging, then you can stretch out that interval, until you find the voltage is below 12.6 volts. 

If when you go to charge your battery once a month, you find the voltage is consistently below 12.6 volts, then you might need to charge the battery more often. OPTIMA battery chargers not only offer a pre-charge voltage status option that allows you to measure battery voltage before charging, but they are ideal for charging all types of flooded and AGM lead-acid batteries.