Car battery replacement is one of the most often-replaced non-maintenance car parts. It’s easy enough to do at home, and many auto parts stores will even install a new battery for you at no charge. But buying a car battery isn’t a simple process, as there are many factors to consider. Whether you’re replacing your old one or needing to add a second one, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a new battery.

Start by getting the right size battery. Batteries come in a variety of sizes, and choosing the wrong one can cause your car to malfunction. Your owner’s manual or in-store fit guide can help you find the correct one for your vehicle. It’s also important to consider the climate where you live and how often you drive; batteries in hot climates will last less than those in colder ones.

Then, get a new battery with a warranty that matches your needs. Battery prices vary widely, so shop around to find the best deal. Generally, premium brand batteries offer longer warranties than cheaper ones.

When changing a car battery, always disconnect the negative terminal first. It’s usually black and may have a minus sign near it. Then disconnect the positive terminal, which is usually red and marked with a plus sign. If your battery is in a tray, remove the retaining clamp with a spanner and socket set or a big flat screwdriver. Be careful, as a battery contains an electrolytic solution that’s divided vertically. The upper portion is a light acid, while the lower portion is heavy acid. It’s important to keep this layer separated to prevent corrosion.

Once the connections are disconnected, remove the battery from the tray and prepare a safe place to put it down. Then, remove the battery clamp and loosen the electrical clamps on each terminal with a spanner or socket set and a big flat screwdriver. A voltmeter can be helpful here, as you’ll need to check the voltage of your new battery.

A fresh, fully charged battery should have a reading of about 12.5 volts. If the battery is too low, it won’t hold a charge and will need to be recharged or replaced.

Once you’ve removed the battery, be sure to recycle it as instructed (generally, at the auto parts store where you bought it). Old batteries emit toxic gasses when they’re crushed, so don’t keep them or throw them away in regular trash.

When you’re ready to install the new battery, be sure to follow your vehicle’s instructions exactly. Be especially careful to align the terminals properly. Using the incorrect terminal position can lead to damaged wiring and an inability to connect the battery to your vehicle’s engine. Also, be sure to test the new battery with a voltmeter again after installation. If you see any voltmeter readings that are significantly different from the previous one, the battery isn’t the right one for your car.

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