Car Batteries

What Are Cold Cranking Amps?

Mike Cross
Updated Oct 18, 2020

When looking at batteries for vehicles there are a few important numbers. The main ones are cold cranking amps and reserve power. All car batteries are 12-volt, and most are actually slightly more than this when new. It is important to know all the features of a battery when picking it out.

Things such as the type of battery design are as well as the reserve capacity and cold cranking amps. Knowing these specific things about the battery won’t really help you though if you don’t know what these things are. That is why in this article we are going to talk about what is actually meant by cold cranking amps. After reading this article you will have all your questions answered about cold cranking amps.

What Are Cold Cranking Amps?

What are they

So, before getting into specific questions about cold cranking amps we are first going to look at what cold cranking amps are. This term is used a lot and many people don’t know the actual meaning of what it is.

Well, cold cranking amps by definition is how many amps a battery can put out at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds while still maintaining 7.2 volts of power. The reason that 7.2 volts are the number for the measure is that that is 1.2 volts per cell of the battery.

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Why Cold Cranking Amps Important

So, now that you know what cold cranking amps actually are, why is cold used?

Well, starting a vehicle in the cold is harder than in the warmth. That is why cold is used for the measurement.

It is important to know how many amps a battery can put out in extremely cold conditions. Yes, some places get colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit, but this is a good baseline measurement number to give you an idea of how the battery is designed and how well it will perform in extreme conditions.

Checking the voltage level in a car battery

Should I buy based on CCA

So, now that you know what cold cranking amps are or CCA for short, the question becomes should you buy a battery based off them. A lot of people when going battery shopping say that they are going to buy the battery with the coldest cranking amps, but is this a good method.

The answer a lot of times is NO. That is because most vehicles don’t actually see 0-degree weather. If you live in southern California or Florida for instance, then the temperatures never get that cold. What about if you live in South Dakota, but are buying a battery for a Corvette or sports car, then it doesn’t make sense to focus on CCA either because a Corvette isn’t going to drive in the cold.

The reason you should focus on CCA is if you live in an area that sees cold and if you are buying a battery for a vehicle that will be driving in the cold. Having the manufactures recommended cold cranking amps battery is good enough in most places.

If you live in an area where it gets cold you can spend extra to get a stronger battery, but if you aren’t going to be driving the vehicle in a cold area, then you don’t need to go overkill on the cold cranking amp power of the battery. You will just be spending more money on a battery that you won’t get the full benefit from.

Why did CCA become popular

So, if more cold cranking amps isn’t always needed, then why did it become popular. Well, the reason is that the brands advertise that more is better. They also compete with each other and brand x will say that they have more cold cranking amps than brandy to make their battery seem better. They do the same thing with cranking amps or marine cranking amps. This is just another measure of how much power a battery can put out under certain conditions. For regular cranking amps or marine cranking amps, it is the same test as CCA, but it is done at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This means this number will be bigger than the CCA number because it is easier for the battery to work in warmer temperatures.

Then one brand will say their battery has more cranking amps than another to make their battery seem better. More is normally better, but sometimes more is just overkill. If you have a little 4 cylinder engine, then you don’t need as much power to start it as a V8. If you buy a battery that can start a V8, then you are just spending more money than you need too.

Why should you look at CCA

So, if the numbers are inflated for marketing purposes and more weight is put on the CCA due to marketing, then why is it important. Well, some brands have started to add all kinds of cranking numbers to their batteries such as pulse crank or hot crank. These numbers have no set standard, so you can’t compare one batteries number to another and it is balanced. With cold cranking amps that is not the case. Cold cranking amps are measured the same no matter the battery brand. That means that you can compare apples to apples. That is why cold cranking amps is a good starting point when comparing batteries. It tells you when the battery is brand new and fully charged on strong it is. If one battery is way stronger than another, then it will probably stay stronger throughout the life of the battery. The key thing when buying a battery is finding one that will maintain the CCA years down the road that it has at the start. Life of a car battery is the real thing to focus on, but CCA is a good starting point when comparing batteries and trying to find one to buy. The key is don’t go overboard and spend more than you have to just because it has a lot of cold cranking amps.


So, now you know what cold cranking amps are. You know that CCA is a test to measure how many amps a battery can put out for 30 seconds at 0 degrees Fahrenheit while still maintaining 7.2 volts of charge. You also know that you don’t need to solely focus on a lot of CCA if you don’t live in an area that gets cold or are buying a battery for a car that won’t see cold driving. You know that you should focus on your manufactures specific in most situations so you don’t spend more money on the battery than you need to. Cold cranking amps are used for marketing to get you to buy more of a battery than you need, but really they should just be used to give you an apples to apple comparison on how strong two batteries are.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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