Up close shot of a car battery

A dead car battery can be a major inconvenience that can even leave you stranded. Become battery savvy with these easy shopping and maintenance tips to keep your vehicle’s battery in its best form.

The car battery is an important part of your vehicle. It’s the power behind your engine, and it also keeps your electrical system going strong. Just like any other part of your car, you need to properly care for your battery to keep everything running well, from your heat and AC to your stereo.

And once you build confidence from caring for and maintaining your battery, move onto other areas of your car with this handy DIY maintenance checklist from MoneyCrashers.

Car Battery 101

Car Battery 101


Battery basics

Replacing BatterySize: It’s important to buy a battery that fits your car perfectly. Check your owner’s manual for details on the best size of battery for your car.

Cold-cranking amps (CCA): CCAs measure how much current your battery needs to power a car in cold weather. It can take almost twice as much energy to start a battery when the temperature drops, so this is a must for cooler Canadian climates. The higher the rating, the more powerful the CCA.

Reserver capacity (RC): The RC measures how long your accessories will run without power to the engine, crucial for cars equipped with several electrical accessories. The higher the rating, the longer your electronics will last without engine power.

Freshness: The longer a battery sits, the more it loses its charge and its capacity to recharge. Luckily, batteries come with date codes so you can check just how fresh it is. For guaranteed freshness, look for a battery that is fewer than six months old.

If you plan to replace the battery yourself, consult your vehicle owner’s manual and expect the job to take about 30 minutes.


Battery warranties

Battery WarrantyThere are two main terms in battery warranties:

Free replacement term is the timeframe in which a defective battery will be replaced for free.

Total replacement period is the timeframe in which the battery will be replaced at a portion of the original cost.

Once you’ve decided on a warranty, ask about any restrictions. Keep your receipt and a copy of your warranty agreement in a safe place.


How to tell if your battery is dying

Check Engine Battery LightThe average battery lasts four to five years, but outside factors can lead to an early demise. Extreme temperatures, dirt and running the electrical system with the engine off can lead to battery failure. Don’t get caught in an unfortunate situation by having your battery die and learn the early warning signs.


Here are five tell-tale signs that you need a new battery:

  1. The vehicle is slow to start.
  2. Lights appear dim.
  3. You’ve had to jump start it a lot.
  4. The check engine light is on.
  5. Corrosion (ashy material) is visible on the battery’s metal parts.

How to jump start a dead battery

Jump Starting BatteryJump starting a dead battery is an important skill, and one that’s really simple and straightforward to learn. Think of it as CPR for your car. It’s easy, effective and can save you a pricey service call—or even help out a stranded motorist from an expensive service call.

Ensure always to keep a set of jumper cables in your car. Get a pair that are long enough to stretch to another car, as sometimes batteries might be installed in opposite locations under the hood.

  1. Grab your jumper cables.
  2. Put on protective eyewear.
  3. Find a vehicle with a working battery that has the same voltage as yours.
  4. Park the cars close to each other, and make sure they don’t touch.
  5. Turn off the ignition.
  6. Take the positive clamp of the jumper cable. It will be labeled with the word “POS,” a positive (+) sign and will typically be red. First, connect the positive clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  7. Then, connect the other positive clamp to the positive terminal of the starting vehicle battery.
  8. Take the negative clamp, labeled with the word “NEG,” the minus (-) sign, which is typically black, and connect it to the negative terminal of the starting vehicle.
  9. Take the other negative clamp and connect it to an unpainted, metal part of the engine block or chassis (a bolt works well). This step is crucial, as it will act as your ground or connection point while recharging the battery.
  10. Double check the cables and engine to make sure all lines are clear of fan blades, belts or other moving parts.
  11. Once everything is ready, everyone should move a safe distance away from the cars. Start the car with the working battery, and then try to start the stalled vehicle.
  12. If your car starts, you’ve successfully boosted your battery!
  13. If your car doesn’t start, wait a few moments before trying the jump start again. If it still doesn’t start, you might need a new battery.
  14. Remember: always take off the clamps in the reverse order that you put them on.

Jump starting dos and don’ts

To make sure everyone is safe while boosting your vehicle, follow these tips:


  • Take the proper precautions when jump starting a vehicle (wear proper eye protection).
  • Avoid contact with battery fluid, which contains sulfuric acid.
  • In case you come into contact with battery acid, immediately wash your skin and/or flush your eyes with water and call a doctor or poison control hotline. (Here are Provincial Poison Hotline numbers.)
  • If you’re unsure about your battery’s condition, it’s best to call a car service professional.


  • Guard against jump starting a damaged or frozen battery.
  • Never smoke, light a match or bring open flames near the battery.
  • Ensure not to lean on the battery while charging it.

3M Clear Frame with Clear Lenses Over-the-Glass Eyewear3M Clear Frame with Clear Lenses Over-the-Glass Eyewear

Keep these inexpensive 3M Canada eye-protectors in your glove box, so they’re handy when you need them. Slip them over prescription glasses during jump starts and other activities where eye protection is suggested. The polycarbonate lenses have built-in side shields

Taking care of your car battery is one of the easiest habits you can pick up, and it can save you a lot of money down the line, both preventitively and with scheduled repairs.. We hope these car battery-buying and maintenance basics will help keep you on the road and your vehicle running smoothly.

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Lisa is the author of five books and counting. She’s also a versatile voice-artist and the former morning co-anchor at 680 News. She loves coffee, cheese and Twizzlers, but not at the same time. She believes the best part about working from home is talking on the phone to people who have no idea that she's still wearing her pajamas. Animal lover Lisa lives in Wallaceburg (about an hour west of London) with her husband and their senior rescue cat Miss Sugar. You can follow Lisa on Twitter @lisambrandt.