Batteries seem simple on the outside, yet are actually complicated little boxes of stored electricity. We would like to simplify some of the basic terminology related to 12 volt batteries (common vehicle battery voltage) that will enable you to better understand your needs.
Click to jump ahead:
Inside of that box are six separate sections known as “cells”. Each cell is comprised of lead plates that are sandwiched together of alternating layers of lead/lead dioxide and are submerged in an electrolyte solution (aka “Battery Acid”). Each cell produces 2.1 volts at full charge (a new battery will produce 12.6 volts: 6 cells x 2.1 volts each=12.6). With a chemical reaction occurring between the plates, electrons are produced and flow through conductors producing usable electricity.
“Cranking Amps” or “CA” refers to the number of amperes a new lead-acid battery at 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery). To simplify, Cranking Amps determines how much power you have to start your car in most average climates.
Cold Cranking Amps
“Cold Cranking Amps” or “CCA” refers to the number of amperes a new lead-acid battery at 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery). To simplify, Cold Cranking Amps determines how much power you have to start your car in really cold climates.
“Peak Amp/Peak Amperage” rating is simply a marketing tool used to sell products as there is no scientific method or sanctioned testing facility in place to accurately and routinely test Peak Amps. You should always rely on the cranking and cold-cranking amp ratings when purchasing a battery or jump starter.
Deep Cycle/Marine Battery
Although the title is used often, not all batteries are created equal. A true “Deep Cycle” battery is comprised of thicker and solid lead plates (as opposed to the standard lead “sponge plates” in conventional batteries) and can be discharged down to 20% of the battery’s charge, and then recharged to 100% over and over with very little or no damage to the battery.
A typical vehicle battery (not deep cycle) can be damaged from a deep discharge and will certainly have a significantly shortened lifespan is deeply discharged and then recharged. Best suited for use when your vehicle alternator is not running, but significant power is needed (auxiliary lights, winch, stereo system, etc.). For general vehicle applications, deep cycle batteries are not needed.
Batteries, no matter what kind, should always be disposed of properly and never thrown in the trash. This includes rechargeable and single use: button cell watch/hearing aid batteries, AA, AAA, 9V, C-cell, D-cell, Lantern, and Car batteries. Batteries are considered hazardous waste and contain chemicals + heavy metals that pollute the environment and kill wildlife. It's also illegal to improperly dispose of batteries. Batteries are recyclable and can be disposed of at most hardware stores, automotive stores, recycling centers, refuse collection agency, or battery stores for free. Contact your local city, county, or government agency for more information of where you can take your old batteries.