Blog Car Care Advice Cold Cranking Amps: Everything You Need To Know (+9 FAQs)
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Cold Cranking Amps: Everything You Need To Know (+9 FAQs)

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If you’ve ever dealt with car batteries, you’ve likely come across a CCA rating at least once. 

But what does that Cold Cranking Amp rating mean?

Why is it “cold,” and what are “Cranking Amps”?

We’ll explain what Cold Cranking Amps are, how much CCA is needed to start a car engine, and answer some other CCA-related FAQs.

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Let’s get cranking.

What Is “Cold Cranking Amps (CCA)”?

Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) is a rating used in the battery industry to define a battery’s ability to crank an engine in cold temperatures. 

It measures how much current (measured in Amps) a new, fully charged 12V battery could deliver for 30 seconds while maintaining 7.2V at  0°F (-18°C)

So, how many Cold Cranking Amps does an internal combustion engine need?

How Many Cold Cranking Amps Are Required To Start A Car?

The cranking power an automotive battery requires to start an engine varies. 

It’s driven by several factors, including the engine size, temperature, and engine oil viscosity. 

For example, a 4-cylinder engine may not require as much cranking power as a larger 8-cylinder engine. The vehicle manufacturer takes all these factors into account when they spec out the original equipment (OE) car battery. 

Generally, the rule of thumb is 1 Cold Cranking Amp for every cubic inch of engine displacement (2 CCA for diesel engines). 

You’ll often see engine displacement expressed in cubic centimeters (CC) or liters (L), which is the total cylinder volume of the engine. 

1L is about 61 cubic inches (CID).  

For example, a 2276 CC engine is rounded to 2.3L, which is equivalent to 140 cubic inches. 

How do these numbers work with the car battery CCA?

Applying that rule of thumb we mentioned earlier would mean:

A 280 CCA battery would be more than enough for a 140 cubic inch V4 engine, but insufficient for a 350 cubic inch V8 engine.

Now that we’ve got the math out of the way and cleared up how many Cold Cranking Amps you need, let’s look at some related FAQs. 

9 Cold Cranking Amp Related FAQs

Here are some questions related to the CCA rating, and their answers : 

1. Why Is Cold (Instead Of Hot) Cranking Amps Used?

It’s harder to crank an engine in cold environments compared to a warm one. 

The starter battery needs to quickly deliver large amounts of power to the engine — typically within 30 seconds of high-rate discharge. As a result, the amp value generated in cold temperatures represents the worst-case scenario.

How does temperature affect cranking power?

Cold temperature influences the engine and battery fluids. 

When cold, engine fluids increase in viscosity, making it harder to start. Lead acid battery electrolytes also become more viscous in the cold, increasing impedance, so it’s harder to discharge current.

Not only that, battery voltage lowers in a colder temperature, meaning the battery has less electrical energy. 

In warmer environments, the chemical reaction rate increases, boosting available battery power. Here’s the difference — a battery at 18°C can deliver double the power compared to when it’s at -18°C. As a result, solely relying on Hot Cranking Amps (HCA) could be misleading.

2. Who Defined The CCA Test?

Global standards were created because of the temperature impact on the engine and the automotive battery. 

Several agencies — like the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) or the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) — have standards focused on the Cold Cranking Amp (CCA) and Cranking Amp (CA) measurements.

The starting battery test for the Cold Cranking Amps often used by battery manufacturers is based on the SAE J537 Jun 1994 American Standard. This test measures the output amp of a 12V battery for 30 seconds while maintaining 7.2V at  0°F (-18°C).

3. Where Does The Term “Cranking Amps” Come From?

Before the modern battery-driven car starting system, a hand crank was used to start the engine. This was a dangerous task that needed a lot of strength. 

However, in 1915, Cadillac introduced the electric starter motor in all their models, using a starting battery that provided enough current — “cranking amps” — to start the engine. 

This development not only birthed the term Cranking Amps but also ignited the evolution of the car battery industry.

4. What Is CA?

The Cranking Amp (CA) is sometimes called Marine Cranking Amps (MCA).

Why ‘marine’?

The Cranking Amp test has the same conditions as Cold Cranking Amps but performed at 32°F (0°C). It’s a more relevant rating for a battery in warmer or marine environments, where freezing 0°F (-18°C) temperatures are rare. 

As the test environment is warmer, the resulting amp value will be higher than the CCA number. 

5. What Are HCA And PHCA?

The HCA and PHCA are battery ratings like the CA and CCA, with a few differences in testing conditions. 

A. Hot Cranking Ampere (HCA)

Like the CA and CCA, the Hot Cranking Amp measures the current a fully charged 12V car battery delivers for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of 7.2V, but at 80°F (26.7°C).

The HCA is aimed towards starting applications in a warm environment where battery power is much more available.

B. Pulse Hot Cranking Ampere (PHCA)

The Pulse Hot Cranking Amp measures the current a fully charged 12V battery can deliver for 5 seconds while maintaining a terminal voltage of 7.2V at 0°F (-18°C).

The PHCA rating is geared towards batteries made for the motor racing industry.  

6. Should The CCA Rating Drive My Car Battery Purchase?

While the CCA rating should be considered, it’s important to realize that most vehicles don’t see sub-zero temperatures regularly

Cold Cranking Amps becomes a critical number if you drive in cold climates but is less of a concern in warmer regions. 

Here’s the deal; using a lower CCA battery than the original battery may not give you enough power for your car. However, getting one with a much higher CCA rating isn’t practical. For the most part, an extra 300 CCA isn’t necessary and can cost more. 

So, use the CCA rating as a starting point. 

Make sure your replacement battery has a CCA rating that is the same or slightly exceeds the original battery.

Just remember that a high CCA battery doesn’t mean it’s better than one with lower CCA. It just means that it has more power to crank an engine in freezing temperatures. 

7. How Many CCAs Do I Need In A Jump Starter?

For an average-size car (this includes compact SUVs to light trucks), a 400-600 CCA jump starter should be enough. A larger truck may need more amps, maybe around 1000 CCA. 

The amps needed to jump-start a car will be lower than the car battery CCA. Also, keep in mind that a diesel engine requires more amps than a petrol engine. 

What about Peak Amps?

The Peak Amp is the maximum amount of current that the jump starter can produce on the initial burst. 

Don’t be confused by the numbers. 

A battery will only produce the peak amp for a few seconds, but it will maintain the cranking amps for at least 30 seconds. While a high peak amp value does indicate a more powerful jump starter, it’s the CCA number you should pay the most attention to. 

Keeping a jump starter in your vehicle is a good way to circumvent dead battery situations. They often come with added features like a built-in torchlight and power bank for accessories, so you can avoid a dead battery and dead phone, too!

8. What Should I Consider When Getting A Battery Replacement?

Here’s a breakdown of what to look for in a replacement battery:

A. Battery Type And Technology

Do you need a starter battery or a deep cycle battery

You’ll find these functions in both the lead acid battery and AGM battery.  

Lithium batteries tend to have a longer battery life but are in a different class altogether since they’re usually used in electric cars. 

You might also be interested in specific battery brands for their technology, like the Odyssey battery that features very thin battery plates with high lead content or the Optima battery with spiral-wound cells.

B. Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) 

CCA represents the battery’s ability to start in a colder temperature. Get one with a CCA rating that’s the same or slightly exceeds that of your current battery. 

C. Battery Group Number 

The battery group defines the battery’s physical dimensions, terminal locations, and battery type. It’s typically based on a vehicle’s make, model, and engine type.

D. Reserve Capacity (RC) 

The battery Reserve Capacity (RC) is a measure of minutes that a 12V battery (at 25°C) can deliver a 25A current before its voltage drops to 10.5V. 

It generally indicates how much reserve power (in terms of time) you’ll have if the vehicle’s alternator fails. 

E. Amp Hour Capacity (Ah)

Amp Hour (Ah) defines the total amount of power that a 12V battery will deliver for 20 hours before it’s fully discharged (that is, the voltage drops to 10.5V). 

For example, a 100Ah battery will supply 5A of current for 20 hours.

F. Warranty Coverage

The battery should have a hassle-free warranty that includes a free-replacement time frame. This way, if the new battery is faulty, you’ll have the opportunity to change it.

However, if it’s too much hassle to figure it out, let a mechanic handle the selection and installation for you. 

9. Where Can I Get Advice On Battery Replacement? 

If you’re unsure about which car battery is right for your vehicle, the next best step is to consult a reliable mechanic.

And you’re in luck because there’s AutoNation Mobile Service

AutoNation Mobile Service is a convenient mobile auto maintenance and repair solution. 

Here’s what they offer:

For a quick and accurate cost estimate of battery-related repairs, fill this online form.

Wrapping Up

The Cold Cranking Amp rating represents a facet of your battery’s capability and is important when selecting a battery. However, it shouldn’t be the sole selection criteria. 

Keep in mind that these numbers are based on a new, fully charged battery. 

How it performs over time and in real-life situations will depend on other factors — like internal chemistry, charging conditions, etc. 

At the end of the day, all you need is a battery that will start your car reliably. And if your battery does act up, contact AutoNation Mobile Service for professional advice and help!