While trucks come in various shapes and sizes, one quality that they all share is that they are all built rugged. That’s part of why they’re becoming so popular in several countries. According to recent statistics, the global market for just pickup trucks can exceed USD 113 billion by the end of 2023.
Whether for commercial or recreational purposes, you will likely encounter cold weather during your travels. Your truck’s frame, tires, and suspension may be prepared for it, but is the battery up to mark? Throughout this guide, you’ll learn all about how to choose the best truck battery for cold weather, alongside our best picks for various applications.
What Type of Battery Works Best in Cold Weather?
Your truck may have a robust build and state-of-the-art features to get out of snow. But none of that matters if you can’t get it moving. The battery is an essential part of that, as it supplies the energy to all the electrical systems, from the ignition to the infotainment.
As the temperature lowers, the chemical reactions in the battery slow down, reducing the available current to flow through the circuit. For lead-acid batteries, a cold enough environment can even freeze the electrolyte and prevent the battery from starting at all. Thus, it helps to consider specific designs when it comes to automobile batteries in cold weather, especially for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs.
So far, the best battery for cold weather is lithium-phosphate or LFM batteries. Since they have the electrolyte in a solid state, the temperature of the surroundings has little effect on its properties. It can also retain its charge for longer when left idle and requires less maintenance than its acid-based cousins.
What Batteries Last the Longest in the Cold?
Lithium-ion batteries last the longest in the cold as they have exceptional thermal stability, and the transfer of charges can occur without a change of state. Moreover, the heating effect on startup can be distributed throughout the battery case with a viable design. You can’t do that with other batteries, as the incompressible acid-water solution introduces limitations to the heating process.
Lithium batteries are lightweight as well. Thus, you’re not adding much weight to an already heavy vehicle, which translates to more mobility in snowy, low-traction conditions. The best part is that because lithium ions are always present within cells, you can also use the battery as an emergency measure to start a fire, even when it’s completely discharged.
Why Are AGM Batteries Ideal for Cold Weather?
The problem with Li-ion batteries is that they’re often quite expensive. You can expect to spend up to 50% more on an LFM battery than an AGM variant of similar capacity. That’s why most truck owners prefer an AGM battery for cold weather. They are less expensive and are conveniently available in a nearby store, even in rural areas.
A few truck manufacturers are supporting the trend. Several models, you look over today ship with an AGM battery below the hood. Since all of them have a definite battery size, it’s pretty straightforward to manufacture batteries of various sizes, making it easier for outlets to stock them. Moreover, the robust design of the AGM batteries allows them to function even as multiple cells get damaged.
Choosing the Best Car Battery for Cold Weather
There are several parameters you can consider when choosing the best car battery for cold weather. A few of the most notable ones are detailed below.
Cold Cranking Amps
Cold cranking amps are essential for cold weather, as they denote the capacity of the battery to deliver a specific current magnitude in adverse conditions. In standard terms, it’s the maximum current a battery can deliver for 30 seconds while maintaining a potential difference of 7.2 Volts at 0°F (-18°C). In the case of trucks, it’s best to purchase a battery with a CCA rating of 600 A or more.
The reserve capacity of a battery denotes the maximum charge that can be stored in the battery to deliver a constant current before being depleted to about 90% of its standard capacity. The reserve capacity rating conveys the time it takes for the battery to deplete. In the case of trucks and SUVs, experts recommend installing a battery that takes at least 80 minutes to go from 12V to 10.5V while supplying a peak current of 25 A.
In cold and snowy conditions, you may not have emergency repair services to quickly get to an accident scene. Therefore, it pays to have a battery that has substantial vibration and impact resistance. It prevents the leakage of electrolytes and keeps things manageable in the event of a crash. An excellent truck battery should pass a Rev 7 vibrations test, which is a rigorous examination of its structure and electrical supply stability. It also ensures that the terminals of the battery shall remain intact, preventing an electrical fire or circuit overload, which can cause massive damage to the entire vehicle.
You don’t want to carry out repair work on your battery in freezing temperatures and several inches of snow. Thus, having a low-maintenance battery is often the ideal choice, more so when you’re planning an excursion to an area that is far away from the nearest service station. A desirable truck battery won’t require more than a few checks in a year.
Choosing a battery that fits your vehicle’s engine bay is mandatory. There are several classes of trucks and SUVs, each compatible with a different battery size. You can replace the default battery with a different manufacturer, although the size class should remain the same. Group 51-size batteries are often the appropriate fit for full-cab pickups.
Having an extended warranty with your truck battery allows you to replace or repair it in case of manufacturing faults. Although most batteries last far longer than their rated warranty, it lets you drive around in peace. A typical truck battery comes with a 24-month replacement warranty, but you can find variants with a 36-month warranty or longer at your nearest Walmart or Target store.
Best Truck Battery for Cold Weather
With the available options in the market, it can prove hard to choose the correct truck battery for cold weather. Still, a few variants stand out for their qualities and reliability. A few of our favorite picks include the following.
Best Overall: Optima OPT8002-002 34 RedTop Starting Battery
When you want the perfect balance of all the relevant qualities necessary for a truck battery, the OPT8002 series offers exceptional value. With 800 CCA and a reserve capacity of over 100 minutes, it’s the ideal choice for cold weather conditions. It comes with an official 36-month warranty, regardless of whether you purchase it from official Optima stores or an authorized retailer.
Optima’s patented spiral cell design works well for cold conditions, and the OPT8002 has six of them. Its rugged build allows for fifteen times more durability from vibrations than other batteries within a similar size range. You can use Optima OPT8002 series batteries for SUVs, RVs, pickups, hot rods, and sports cars.
Best Deep Cycle Battery: Optima 8004-003 34/78 RedTop Starting Battery
Reserve capacity is also a significant asset for any cold-weather truck battery. At lower temperatures, there are faults within the circuit as the metal components shrink, requiring more energy to run the vehicle. Over time, an idle battery in the cold has a higher discharge rate than one at room temperature. In light of that, the Optima 8004 RedTop battery can serve you well if you wish to leave your truck in the parking for a while as you enjoy a nice hot cup of Joe.
In addition to Optima’s effective spiral cell design, the Optima 8004 has a reserve capacity of 100 minutes, tested for sub-zero temperatures. Its AGM design is spillproof, and you can leave it in any orientation, which is useful when parking on steep inclines. It also comes with a faster-recharging capability, reaching 100% from a dead charge in just 12 hours when connected to a trickle charger.
Best Compact Battery: Optima Batteries OPT8071-167 D51 YellowTop Dual-Purpose Battery
A full-size truck or SUV has higher power requirements than an average family saloon. Therefore, you require not only a robust build but also a current output to handle several infotainment and driver assist systems at once. For a compact design including all those features, you can consider purchasing the Optima 8071 series YellowTop battery.
The version is suitable for smaller trucks and crossovers that are compatible with D51-size batteries. Its propylene case offers top-notch insulation against water and dust while maintaining an operating temperature for all cells. The entire battery weighs less than 20 pounds (9.07 Kg), making it one of the most lightweight battery designs available for larger vehicles. You can carry a spare or two in the back of your truck for emergencies or powering other systems.
Best Budget Pick: ACDelco Gold 4 AGM BCI Group 48 Battery
If you want to economize on your battery budget but still desire a decent cold-weather performance, then ACDelco Gold is a suitable choice. You can buy a group size 48 battery for less than USD 200 at any online store. It ships with a 36-month free replacement warranty, giving you enough confidence to store it during the winter without losing its reserve charge.
The 4-series ACDelco Gold batteries have silver-calcium terminals, possessing a resistance of 0.02 Ohms. That gives you plenty of flexibility to drive your vehicle in cold weather while maintaining a minimal drain on the battery. It also has puncture-resistant electrodes in all cells, providing proper acid circulation and preventing short circuits during spills or collisions.
Best Runner-Up: Delphi BU9047 MaxStart AGM Premium Automotive Battery
Delphi Technologies is an off-shoot of General Motors based in the UK. In addition to supplying reliable car parts, the company supplies high-quality car batteries for various vehicle classes, including trucks and RVs. By far, the best variant they have available is the BU9047 MaxStart AGM battery. It has been on sale since 2017, with several vehicles still having the first batteries installed and working fine to this day.
MaxStart AGM batteries are designed to withstand the worst your vehicle can experience off-road. It has a vibration resistance 20 times higher than conventional batteries, able to absorb shocks and impacts as it maintains the required current output to the truck. It has a CCA rating of 600, so you can start your pickup even as the snow fills the running boards. The only reason why Optima RedTop batteries beat it for the top spot is that they have better reserve capacities.
Best For Extreme Power: Odyssey PC680 Red Top Battery
While trucks and cars can work with most lead-acid batteries, Odyssey has a variant that suits various additional applications, from pickups and ATVs to snowmobiles and powerboats. If you desire a battery that can withstand extreme shocks while providing ample current supply, then you should go for the Odyssey PC680 Red Top.
With up to 10 years of service life, the Odyssey PC680 is the definition of ‘install and forget’ It requires minimum maintenance and has an impressive discharge rate. You can drain it to 20% of its total capacity without compromising its function. Moreover, reviews claim that it can be recharged back to 100% from that state in just 4 hours. Thanks to its purified lead electrodes, it can maintain a constant current supply for longer, even in cold temperatures. It also allows you to recycle the battery conveniently, as you need only replace the acid to renew its lifespan.
Odyssey PC1200MJT Automotive and LTV Battery
Safety is always a concern when you consider a truck battery for cold weather. Low temperatures can wreak havoc on the internal circuits, increasing the chances of short circuits, leaks, and electrical fires. In terms of safety, the Odyssey PC1200MJT is often the expert’s recommendation.
With a 15% more area allowance than electrodes on conventional batteries, the PC1200MJT can handle current loads of 40 A in adverse conditions. Odyssey rates the battery as having 400 recharging cycles with 80% depth of discharge. Thus, you can obtain more than 10 years of service life with zero maintenance. Additionally, the tin-plated brass terminals prevent corrosion while maintaining minimum internal resistance.
ACDelco Gold B24R Hybrid Vehicle AGM BCI Group 51 Battery
With the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles, batteries have gained more responsibilities than just starting a car. These days, you need a battery that is compatible with hybrid and energy recovery systems. They can take a toll on your car’s electronics in the cold weather, especially when you constantly run climate control and heated seats. To that end, ACDelco Gold B24R hybrid AGM battery can serve you well.
Hybrid trucks are not just about reducing emissions but also maintaining ample power for all the wheels, even when encountering low traction conditions like mud or snow. The B24R can do that by providing a maximum current of 55 A while not letting its components overheat. Its calcium-doped electrodes minimize corrosion and let you clean the terminals with regular household solutions. The only reason it’s further down the list is that ACDelco doesn’t recommend the B24R for temperatures lower than 30°F (-1.11°C).
Optima 8020-164 35 RedTop Starting Battery
Oftentimes, it’s best to trust the word of customers who have used the battery and provided feedback on public forums. In that case, the Optima 8020 series RedTop starting battery is the clear winner. With an average rating of 4.8 from over 2000 reviews on Amazon, it has been trusted by owners of several vehicle classes, including trucks and SUVs. It belongs to the group size 34 category, making it compatible with most small SUVs and crossovers.
The 8020 has over 720 cold-cranking amps, delivering the starting power for your vehicle that keeps it going in most cold conditions. The electrodes within the cells are wound tightly by a winding compression process, enabling a shock and vibration resistance 15 times better than conventional lead acid batteries. It’s also relatively lightweight compared to other AGM batteries, weighing just over 30 pounds (13.6 Kg).
See full this video: Top 5 Best Truck Battery for Cold Weather/Solar System/Chevy Silverado & Cold Weather
Other Helpful Tips
While the above picks are our top choices for the best truck batteries for cold weather, it helps to follow a few tips that can fetch you the most suitable battery as per your needs. A few of the most critical ones are listed below.
- Consult your vehicle’s owner manual to determine the appropriate size for the battery. A larger battery won’t fit within the assigned compartment, whereas a small battery can shift around during acceleration or tight turns.
- Before connecting a battery, make sure that it’s fully charged by using a multimeter. You should also check for signs of degradation, such as damage to the outer case or electrolyte leakage from the cells.
- Ensure that the terminals are not corroded. A rusty terminal is a recipe for a major electrical fire. Use an anti-corrosion cleaner and apply rust-inhibiting polish if you want your battery to last in the cold.
- Check-in with the battery manufacturer for warranty terms. Occasionally, manufacturers would void a warranty if the battery is operated under adverse conditions. So, it helps to ensure that the agreement still holds after a trip to the snowy mountains.
See more this video: Cold Weather Car Battery Tip
Frequently Asked Questions
Are AGM Batteries Better in the Cold?
Compared to FLA batteries, AGM is a massive design improvement to make the batteries last longer in the cold. The insulated casing keeps the chilly winds from entering the cells, and the separated cells allow the battery to operate even with partial capacity.
Are Lithium Batteries Good in Cold Weather?
Yes. Lithium-ion batteries (particularly LFM batteries) are best for cold weather conditions. Their design provides the necessary heating to prevent the circuit from freezing. Furthermore, their electrolyte is in a solid state, so it’s suitable for even the coldest temperatures known to man. Even the batteries used in satellites and the International Space Station use Li-ion design.
Do You Need a Special Battery for Cold Weather?
There are several batteries that are designed specifically for working the circuits in cold weather. You can find our top picks in the above sections, but there are a few common points that you need to consider. Ensure that the battery has a high CCA and RC rating, along with a flexible warranty plan that doesn’t collapse when you take your vehicle in the snow.
Do Car Batteries Drain Faster in the Cold?
Yes. At low temperatures, the reactions within the cells slow down, which translates to less current delivered to the system. But, since the battery capacity remains the same, the ions are less likely to hold a charge. As such, the drain of the battery is faster in the cold.
There are several points that need consideration when you’re trying to buy an appropriate battery for cold conditions. We hope this guide gave you an idea of what you must consider and a few notable examples to help you choose the best truck battery for cold weather. Still, it pays to keep an eye on the condition of your battery, having a multimeter handy to make sure that it isn’t going to fail you anytime soon.
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- Top 5 Best Truck Battery for Cold Weather/Solar System/Chevy Silverado & Cold Weather [Review 2022]