What Are the Different Car Battery Types?

Auto mechanic replacing car battery

Understanding your vehicle is a valuable piece of knowledge that can save you from incurring maintenance fees. No one wants to turn their car key on the way to work and hear the dreaded clicking sound of an engine refusing to ignite. 

So what are the different car battery types? They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and configurations. Next time you go to the mechanic, do so with a little more confidence and knowledge. 

Read on to discover the many bells and whistles of car battery types. 

Wet Cell (or Flooded) Batteries

Wet Cells carry liquid- which is usually a combination of lead, sulfuric acid, and water. This liquid comprises the battery’s “electrolyte.” 

Wet Cell batteries are usually more affordable than dry cell batteries. With affordability comes less convenience and less reliability than VRLAs.

Also, wet cell batteries can require regular maintenance to replace lost electrolytes.

Starting, Lighting and Ignition Batteries

If you own a vehicle, chances are, it operates with a Starting, Lighting, and Ignition (SLI) battery. SLI batteries don’t just assist with starting your car; they also power your lights, radio, and ignition. 

SLI batteries have shallow charge cycles. A charge cycle is the time it takes the battery to charge after depleting its energy source.

SLIS can only provide power for short bursts of time. For example, SLIs provide battery power to the engine while your starting your car but do not afterward.  

Deep Cycle Batteries

Contrary to SLIS, deep cycle batteries provide sustained power to vehicles. Deep cycle batteries can run low on charge many times without sustaining damage.

These types of batteries provide energy to electrical components while the vehicle’s engine is off. But deep cycle batteries do not have the strength to deliver electricity to large engines. 

This sustained energy fits well with water vehicles, small recreational vehicles, and golf carts.

Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid Batteries

Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid (VRLA) batteries are low-maintenance batteries that don’t require adding water to the battery cells.

As a result of their low maintenance, VRLAs don’t spill if they’re tipped over or inverted. Because of their low maintenance, however, in most cases, these batteries cannot be serviced. They must have replacements instead. 

There are two car battery types of VRLAs: Absorption Glass Mat (AGM) batteries and Gel Cell batteries. 

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM)

AGMs are the newest trend in car battery types. Mats of glass contain electrolytes instead of free-floating electrolytes around the battery. These batteries deliver a higher burst of energy in a shorter time than other car battery types. They accomplish this with the fast reaction between electrolytes and the fiberglass surface melt.  

One advantage of AGMs over lead-acid car battery types is that they’re lighter. Because of their weight and design, you can install AGMs in places other than under the hood, using unusual angles.

The lightweight and engineering of these batteries give automotive manufacturers flexibility in their design. But with this design liberty comes a price. Manufacturers often deliberately place batteries in odd places so they can capitalize on maintenance visits. 

Considering the pitfalls of AGMs, they are still effective at maintaining charge during long periods of disuse. They also degrade very slowly.

AGMS are expensive, but you can expect a long life from your AGM battery.

Gel Cell Batteries 

Gel cells provide optimal electrolyte use, utilizing a fluid electrolyte system without the chance of spilling. The sophisticated valve design prevents electrolytes from spilling, and they are much harder to jostle or disrupt than other car battery types. 

While dry cell batteries tend to be less expensive, gel cell batteries are stable at extreme temperatures and, thus, more efficient while driving in dangerous conditions.

There are temperature limits to all car battery types, however, and you must take care to check the temperature rating for any battery you buy.

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Batteries

Lithium-Ion batteries haven’t yet made the jump to internal combustion (IC) engines. That said, many believe these car battery types are the wave of the future. These batteries are already the primary car battery type for hybrids and electric cars

Li-ion batteries store more energy and weigh much less than traditional lead-acid batteries. But because of this, they have shorter lifespans. Typical Li-ion batteries only last about three years.

This type is best for:

  • Higher-end modern vehicles
  • Hybrids and EVs
  • Off-roading, 4x4s (especially for the electronics in the vehicle)

Car Battery Groups

Car battery types have three distinct groups that are defined by the position of their terminal posts.

If you plan on replacing your car battery, you should consider keeping the same configuration. Maintaining the same configuration ensures a tight fit and sound connection.  

Side-Post Batteries

On side-post batteries, the side-bolted posts leave the top of the battery smooth- making them maintenance-accessible. 

General Motors has used side-post batteries for many years. Some people love them; some people hate them.

Side-post batteries intend to reduce corrosion. But connecting a set of jumper cables can prove clunky and awkward. For this reason, many people exchange their side-post battery for a top-post battery. 

Standard Top Post Batteries

Standard top-post batteries are self-explanatory- they’re the industry standard. When you open your car hood, chances are, you’ll see a top-post. The positive and negative terminals stick out from the top and usually have little plastic covers on them. The reason why they’re an industry standard? It’s simple to make a connection. 

You can find top post batteries in almost all of the Japanese cars, as well as other imported vehicles and American cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Recessed Top Post Batteries

While trying to picture the less common recessed top-post batteries, think German engineering.  These batteries have posts that are attached to small recesses at the corners of the cell.

Because German engineered cars already have very tightly constructed engines, car battery maintenance can be difficult. These engines have been referred to as “knuckle breakers” because of their compact construction. If you drive an Audi, BMW, or Volkswagen, chances are, you have a recessed-top battery.

Car Battery Types Matter 

Changing a car battery is one of the most common repairs for mechanics. But while it’s easy to write off as a standard repair, consumers should always inform themselves on the best deals. The more knowledge you have, the more confidence! Check out our selection of car battery types and make sure your car runs perfect!  

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