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What Are Cold Cranking Amps?

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Have you come across the term cold cranking amps when looking at batteries? What is this metric and when is it important? Today we answer all these questions, so bundle up as we take a closer look at this energy concept and what it means for your battery. 

CCA On battery

What Are Cold Cranking Amps? 

When considering new batteries for starting an engine, it’s crucial to have standards to help buyers compare apples to apples and decide which works best for their needs. Cold-cranking amps is among these standards. It measures the number of amps produced by a charged battery over 30 seconds at zero degrees Fahrenheit without dropping below 7.2 volts. 

The goal is to give buyers an idea of how much power they can expect these batteries to deliver in below-freezing conditions. This is especially important for batteries used to start vehicles or other machinery in cold-weather climates. Cold weather has a huge impact on lead-acid battery chemistry. While it might be fine in warm temps, all batteries suffer from slower chemical reactions in cold temperatures.

CCA Rating on top of battery
Most starting batteries will show their CCA ratings on the label

What Does MCA Mean on a Battery? 

MCA is short for marine cranking amps, a slightly different concept than cold-cranking amps. As the name suggests, it’s used primarily for boats or other water-based uses. Therefore, land-based battery buyers can generally ignore MCA ratings. It’s one of several alternative ratings, which also include HCA (hot cranking amps), measured at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Are MCA and CCA the Same?

These two concepts are similar but have one important difference that should make sense on an intuitive level. Instead of measuring the amps produced by the battery at zero degrees, MCA measures the amperage at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing temperature of water. This is because most boats typically won’t be out on the water when it’s below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is for reasons of both comfort and practicality. Many lakes and rivers may freeze over at those temperatures.

MCA chart example
This is an example of a marine outboard chart. Note that MCA amps are higher than CCA. This is because the batteries can produce more current at 32F than 0F.

Do Battle Born Batteries Have Cold Cranking Ratings? 

Don’t bother looking for CCA ratings on Battle Born Batteries — you won’t find them. Cold-cranking amps are primarily important for batteries used to start vehicles or other systems. That’s not what Battle Born Batteries are intended for. Battle Born Batteries are designed to provide long-lasting power and are rated for a continuous output current that they can achieve at any temperature.

Battle Born Battery with Clean Terminal
You won’t find CCA ratings on our batteries because they are not designed to start engines. Our batteries are the best in energy storage applications.

Our batteries use battery management systems that limit output from the batteries as a way to protect power systems and the batteries themselves. Instead, our Battle Born products work best for off-grid energy storage, boat or RV house batteries, or as a home backup battery bank. They work particularly well with wind and solar power systems.

Starting batteries have a completely different job than storage batteries. They are required for large bursts of power followed by a relatively quick recharge from the started engine. This is why CCA is so important for these starting situations; you need to be able to start your engine in the cold. Starting batteries, however, fail when it comes to trying to use them for energy storage.

How Many Cold Cranking Amps Do I Need? 

A good rule of thumb is that an engine will need about one amp per cubic inch of engine displacement. For most vehicles, this means between 250 and 600 cold-cranking amps, depending on the size of your engine. Larger or commercial vehicles may require more. In fact, some the larger RVs or buses could need as much as 1000 cold-cranking amps or more! If you’re unsure, consult your vehicle or device’s documentation to determine exactly how much you’ll need.

CCA Chart example
This is an example of a CCA recommendation by a vehicle manufacturer.

Will More Cold Cranking Amps Hurt an Engine? 

No, an engine starter will only draw as much power as it needs. With this in mind, it may be wiser to slightly overshoot the CCA rating you think you’ll need. This will help you avoid potential issues starting your engine in very cold situations. Better to be safe than sorry, especially when the alternative is a vehicle that won’t start in frigid temperatures!

Keep in mind, however, that installing an excessively large starting battery bank does come with some dangers. Because lead-acid batteries do not have any built-in BMS protection, an oversized battery bank can produce a very dangerous arc flash and explosion if they are ever accidentally shorted out.

Do Cold Cranking Amps Really Matter? 

The answer to this question is, it depends. Cold-cranking amps certainly do matter for those who need to start engines in climates where temperatures dip below freezing on a regular basis. Since cold can significantly impact the performance of batteries, it’s critical to check a battery’s CCA rating before buying. With this information, you can now go into your next starter battery purchase with your eyes open, able to make the best decision for your vehicle or system. 

For those shopping for batteries for cars or trucks exclusively used in temperate or warm climates, you could ignore CCA and focus on other battery metrics like battery reserve capacity. Keep in mind that if you do not meet the manufacturer’s recommendation for CCA your vehicle may wear its batteries out too soon or fail to start in a cold snap.

Likewise, cold-cranking amps do not matter at all for those shopping for batteries that they plan to use as long-term or deep cycle storage. If the battery doesn’t need to supply a quick burst of energy, CCA is not a useful metric at all. In fact, any buyer looking to use a battery for storage should be considering lithium. Our Battle Born line of products far exceeds the performance of any lead-acid battery.

Battle Born Batteries installed in home
Using batteries for energy storage? CCA is not a useful metric.

Want To Learn More About Electrical Systems and Lithium Batteries?

We know that building or upgrading an electrical system can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help. Our Reno, Nevada-based sales and customer service team is standing by at (855) 292-2831 to take your questions!

Also, join us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more about how lithium battery systems can power your lifestyle, see how others have built their systems, and gain the confidence to get out there and stay out there.

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