Battery 101: Spot These Battery Differences

When it comes to batteries, you have more options than a pizza topping list (keep it classic: pepperoni). It can be daunting, confusing, and overwhelming to say the least. Cars, boats, lawnmowers, golf carts, motorcycles — not all equipment is equal.

The next time you need a battery, use this break down to make sure you get the battery you need, without the headache. (Pro tip: pizza makes everything feel better.)

Car Batteries

Most car batteries are made to work with a 12-volt electrical system – they require a surge of energy to start the engine quickly.

When a car is running, it really doesn’t have a “function” other than to be recharged, so that it has the power necessary the next time you need to start the car.

Because of its primary purpose to produce a quick charge, manufacturers tend to go with a standard flooded lead acid battery. Car batteries also have a CCA rating. This rating tells you the Cold Cranking Amps the battery can deliver.

Pro tip: When getting a new car battery you will need to make sure that not only does the battery voltage meet the requirements of the car, but that the CCA rating meets the requirements as well.

Lawn and Farm Equipment Batteries

While the standard voltage of a lawnmower battery is 12 volts (like a car), it is usually smaller in size. The required CCA of a lawnmower battery is much less as well.

Despite the size difference between a lawnmower battery and car battery, their construction is much the same. Farm equipment batteries, however, are more like car batteries in the respect that they require similar CCA, but differ dramatically with regard to their ability to be recharged as the equipment is running and they need to be able to take a bit of a beating.

Most farm equipment is exposed to tough dirt, rocks, and rough terrain, which can take a toll on the battery. When looking for a new battery for your riding lawn mower or farm machinery, check the manufacturer’s recommendations on battery size and cold cranking amps.

Pro tip: It’s also a good idea to make sure whatever battery you choose is a deep cycle battery. This will help ensure you have enough power to start the machine despite the lack of recharge you get while running your equipment.

Boat and Watercraft Batteries

Marine or boat batteries may look like car batteries, but looks can be decieving. When on the water, a boat battery can get tossed up pretty good. Between the pounding of the waves and the vibration of the motor, a marine battery has to be constructed pretty solidly.

Thicker plates inside the battery do a good job of holding everything together. The CCA in a boat battery is a bit different as well. Instead of the traditional cold cranking amps like we see in car and lawnmower batteries, marine batteries use a rating called Marine Cranking Amps, or MCA.

The idea is the same with the exception that marine cranking amps are rated based off a temperature of 32 degrees. Another significant difference in marine versus car batteries: the need for a battery to provide an initial burst of power to start the motor and a deep cycle battery for running the onboard equipment such as the radio or depth-finder.

ATV and Golf Cart Batteries

In a golf cart, the battery is typically the only source of power, so reliability here is key. Golf cart batteries can differ greatly between manufacturers, so it’s really important to follow the battery requirements outlined in the manual.

ATV batteries, or power sport batteries, on the other hand, are much different from any of the other batteries discussed here. While they are usually 12-volt batteries, just like your car’s battery, ATV batteries have a lower CCA than a car battery because the engine is smaller and doesn’t need as much power to get it going.

The types of batteries used by ATV’s can vary dramatically as well. Each ATV manufacturer will specify a specific power sport battery for that make and model of ATV; so it’s best to stick within their guidelines to make sure you’re choosing the best ATV battery for your equipment.

It’s always a good idea to understand the different types of battery technologies, and how they could help or hinder your car, boat, ATV, lawnmower or other machines. The best bet is to stick within the guidelines set out by the manufacturer. Always make sure the battery you choose is the right size, has the right CCA, and is designed to withstand the environment you plan to use it in.

If you have questions, that’s what the experts are for.