Cold Cranking Amps Explained

If you come across the term cold cranking amps (CCA) on a battery, you may not be aware of its meaning. CCA is an important metric related to how much power an engine needs to start in cold temperatures. Knowing the difference between CCAs and other types of cranking amps (MCA, for instance) can help ensure that you purchase the most suitable battery for your requirements which could save you money in the long run. In this article, we outline what precisely CCA stands for, how it differs from similar metrics, and explain why they are important.

What Are Cold Cranking Amps?

Cold-cranking amps are used to measure a battery’s capacity to start an engine in cold weather, terms that are particularly important for those in climates where temperatures tend to be lower. For these individuals, a better power output is required to provide enough juice to begin the ignition process, compared with those residing in more temperate areas.
More than anything, a CCA rating will help you determine how many amps your engine needs in order to start in cold weather. To enable buyers to make the optimal battery selection, the CCA rating provides information about the number of amps generated by a charged battery during a 30-second period when the battery maintains 7.2 volts at 0°F (-18°C).
In cold weather, batteries can have a strong impact on starting, so this information is crucial for batteries that need to be started frequently. You can choose a battery based on its CCA rating if you live in a colder location because cold weather makes them less efficient and slows down their reaction times.
If you’re wondering how many CCAs you’ll need, the rule of thumb is that an engine requires one amp per cubic inch of engine displacement. The average vehicle requires 250 to 600 CCA, depending on its engine size, though buses or larger RVs may need as much as 1,000 CCA.

MCA, CCA, and HCA – What’s the Difference?

The CCA measures the amp output of a battery at 0°F, the temperature on land when it freezes. The MCA, on the other hand, is mainly related to batteries used for maritime activities. It’s because most boats don’t sail when temperatures below 32°F are present that MCA is measured at this lower temperature. As a result, the amps produced through MCA are generally higher than CCA measurement. On the other hand, HCA measures the amps needed to start an engine at 80°F – completely opposite from what CCA measures.

How Important Are Cold Cranking Amps?

For those who contend with freezing or colder temperatures, cold cranking amps (CCA) are critically important. In these wintry locations, batteries naturally become sluggish and less reliable. Therefore it is essential to select a battery that has an adequate CCA rating to ensure starting your engine will not be an issue.
You should, at the very least, ensure that any battery you purchase matches the battery cranking recommendations of your vehicle, even if you do not live in colder climates. In the event that you do not do this, your battery will burn out too soon and you will not be able to start your car.

Do Lithium Batteries Use Cold Cranking Amps?

In general, lithium batteries typically have peak current ratings (20°C/68°F for 5 to 10 seconds), instead of CCA. As an illustration, the RELiON RB100 has a rating of 200A in that time frame. These ratings are most useful when it comes to quickly starting up or cranking an engine in cold temperatures, since they indicate how much current the battery can hold while maintaining voltage. However, this doesn’t tell us much about how a battery will perform during deep cycle storage or long-term use.
Some lithium batteries are dual-purpose, providing both cranking and deep cycling functions.

Impacts of Cold Cranking Amps On Engines

The best way to ensure that the battery powering your engine is not damaged while cranking is to install a battery with an adequate CCA rating. It is recommended to get one slightly higher than you anticipate needing so that you don’t run into any difficulty in cold temperatures. When using lead acid batteries, however, it is essential to take extra precaution since they do not have a BMS like RELiON lithium batteries. Lead acid batteries are prone to arc flash and explosion when shorted out; therefore, such risks should be kept in mind when installing them in colder climates.