Best Batteries for Diesel Trucks: Top Picks for a Powerful Charge
Ensure that your diesel truck has full power with these high-performance batteries.
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON June 7, 2021
Diesel trucks are favored for their impressive power and overall fuel efficiency. These engines offer lower carbon output and are more cost-effective when it comes to filling the tank. To achieve this high performance value, the trucks have detailed electrical systems — including the batteries. The battery must offer sufficient power to crank the starter and kick the truck into gear.
Of course, if the weather’s cold or you’ve parked the truck for too long, this might not be such an easy task. Batteries wear down with time, and if yours is getting up there in years, you’ll want to invest in a new one. Now, it can be a bit tricky to identify the best battery for diesel trucks, and that’s exactly why we wrote this article. By tracking down the top options, we’ve streamlined the search so you can find the perfect fit for your diesel truck. Let’s take a look at the leading contenders, broken down alongside everything you need to know to make your pick.
This battery performs well in any weather conditions. Using a 12-volt system, it is highly compatible and easy to install.
- Mounts well with any truck setup
- Impressive reserve power
- Works in cold and warm weather
- Resistant to vibrations from engine
- Comes at a higher price point
- High power system means faster wear and tear
Crafted to crank powerfully, this 12-volt model works as both a backup and regular battery for diesel trucks.
- Comes at a friendly price point
- Tough against ambient vibrations
- Battery charges rapidly
- Impressive service life
- Issues arise if left without charge for long periods
- Extreme weather shortens its lifespan drastically
- Not universally compatible
Compatible with start-stop tech, this battery makes starting your diesel engine easy through its overall power.
- Impressive battery life
- Circuitry prevents issues with shorts
- Resistant to leaks and impact
- Charges quickly
- Battery itself is heavier than most other models
- Won’t be compatible with all diesel trucks or mounting schemes
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Batteries for Diesel Trucks
- Necessary for truck function. The clearest benefit of diesel truck batteries is powering your truck. Diesel vehicles let you choose between one large or two medium batteries; but, no matter what you select, you need a battery for the truck to work.
- Improve truck’s performance. Not all batteries are made the same, and picking an incompatible battery can impact the circuitry in your vehicle. Eventually, it can lead to stalls and diminished electrical performance in the whole truck. A proper battery has the benefit of helping your truck work better overall.
- Better handle all seasons. Even if you experience mild winters in your area, the chance of a cold snap remains. These can wreak havoc on older, weaker batteries. Picking a new model with high cold cranking amps and ample reserves keeps you working in icy temperatures.
- Long performance life. All batteries eventually lose their effectiveness. The chemicals inside of them lose potency and the structure itself wears down. Depending on how you treat it, your truck can stick with the same battery for up to five years. Even in harsher conditions, you should get at least four years of use.
- Lets you plan ahead. If your truck starts showing signs of battery damage, it’s all downhill from there. Sure, you can use it for a bit with the help of boosts, but it’s time to swap it out. Having a spare battery ensures that your truck has no downtime since you can switch out your batteries right away.
Types of Diesel Batteries
AGM: Absorbable Gas Mat Batteries
This type of battery performs two key roles: offering high cold cranking amps and running your truck’s electrical system for a long time. Using an electrolyte formula proximal to metal plates, it improves the battery’s efficiency. The conductivity is improved by the close placement of the battery formula and metal connection. Discharging more slowly than other batteries, AGM models are made to be long-lasting. An eco-friendly solution, these batteries are almost entirely recyclable. These are suitable for environments with cold weather, since the cold cranking power makes it more likely to hold a charge at freezing temperatures.
Easily the most common in diesel trucks, these batteries look identical on the outside but function very differently than AGM models. An acid formula blends with lead to store electricity. Depending on your preference, you can opt for wet or gel cell lead batteries. Wet cell models have a sealed compartment to hold the electrolytes. You can add distilled water to it in order to get an extra kick out of the battery. Conversely, gel-type batteries use a viscous formula to suspend the electrolytes. These are better for warm climates, since the gel accounts for the thinning of fluids in heat. However, this same trait makes the gel an issue in cold temperatures. Base the type you choose on your climate.
Opening its doors in ‘70s, this brand is under the umbrella of Johnson Controls after its buyout in 2000. Since that time, it has continued to innovate battery technology, retaining a large market share in the machinery industry. It creates reliable, high-powered batteries for all types of vehicles, ranging from golf carts to water vessels. Among its best batteries for diesel trucks is the Optima Batteries 8004-003 34/78 RedTop Starting Battery.
Odyssey has more than 100 years of experience in providing energy solutions for the military and automotive industries. The batteries are manufactured by EnerSys Energy Products Inc. in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in the United States as well as France and the United Kingdom. Odyssey makes some of the best light truck batteries, including the Odyssey Automotive and LTV Battery.
ACDelco is a leading automotive parts manufacturer in America that was founded in 1916. The brand is owned by General Motors and is headquartered in Grand Blanc, Mich. Some of its products include AC units for cars, brakes, spark plugs, filters, chassis, windshield wipers, and batteries. One of its best batteries for a Dodge Cummins diesel engine is the ACDelco AGM Battery.
Diesel Truck Battery Pricing
- Under $200: Expect to find mostly lead acid starter batteries within this price range. Most units will deliver sufficient cranking power to start your truck in wintry conditions but may not be suitable for powering extra accessories.
- $200 and up: This price range is mostly for batteries with higher cold cranking amps. They are mostly deep cycle batteries that can maintain consistent voltage even after discharging for long periods. The high-end versions can have a life cycle that extends to more than eight years.
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA)
This refers to the amperage output of your battery, measured at zero degrees Fahrenheit or minus 18 degrees Celsius. It’s a metric of the amps put out within 30 seconds. Taking this amount and dividing it by 7.25 in order to calculate the amperage hours, telling you how much it will last at standard power usage. The higher the cold cranking amps, the better the battery will perform in cold environments or if left unused for long periods. Since CCA is measured at zero degrees, if your area is prone to cold snaps, aim for the highest number possible. 500 CCA is a good starting threshold.
Your batteries’ reserve capacity (RC) determines how long your battery can run while outputting 2.5 amps. If you’ve ever left your radio on while the truck’s off, only to realize the battery died, you can blame the low RC. Higher reserve capacity means that you can run more equipment on the battery before it loses power. While lead-based batteries have a basic level of reserve, AGM models are far superior in this regard. These batteries hold onto almost 80 percent of residual energy after discharge. With that, you can run tech off of your 12-volt adapter and the truck will keep working.
Size and Structure
If the battery isn’t compatible with your truck, you’ve hit a stopping point. Instead of running the risk, look at compatibility first. Using the make and model of your truck, you can pinpoint compatible batteries based on the structure of the OEM model. In order to fit into place, the battery must be the same size (or smaller) than the battery you’re replacing. If you’re off-booking it, be sure to leave clearance between the battery and the hood. Aim for 4 inches, though 3.5 is usually sufficient. Also, the battery should never come in contact with the hood of your vehicle.
- Shelf Life. The shelf life of your battery refers to how long it will retain its full efficiency when unused. Depending on manufacturing demand over time, there can be huge stores of batteries that continue to be sold beyond their prime. Look for reputable vendors with popular batteries. Since the supply and demand is steeper with these batteries, the turnover increases, as does your likelihood of finding a truly brand new battery.
- Lifespan. This refers to the number of times you can fully discharge and fully recharge your battery. While the battery specifications will indicate a rough number of cycles the battery can handle, it isn’t a fixed metric. The lifespan of your battery depends on factors like weather, the truck’s electrical system, and even the road conditions.
- Compatibility. In order to attach to the electrical terminals, the battery needs to be a proper fit. It might seem like a box-style battery with similar dimensions will be a sure fit, but the terminal placement plays a big role in its fit. By choosing something that’s right for your vehicle, you can reduce ambient vibrations and prevent overheating.
- Sturdiness. The battery you see is really just the case that contains all the chemicals used to carry that charge. As such, if it leaks or spills, you’re in for trouble. Aim for batteries with a sturdy exterior and a design meant to limit the shaking while you’re on the road. A quality battery will stay firmly in place even on the roughest dirt roads.
Best Batteries for Diesel Trucks Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Park your vehicle indoors whenever possible to limit the battery’s exposure to cold weather or opt for a block heater to keep it at a good base temperature.
- Use a battery tester or multimeter to assess your battery’s health once it reaches four years. These let you check the voltage and overall well being of the battery and tell you if it’s time for a replacement.
- If your vehicle starts showing signs of battery damage, get a new battery as soon as possible. Unless it’s a wet-cell that needs replenishment, the battery won’t improve. Waiting too long can damage your truck’s electrical system.
- Keep the battery at full charge to slow the process of wear and tear. This usually means driving the truck for a while to cycle the power through the battery.
- Having a booster pack never hurts, even with a high-grade, new battery. It’s a good part of your truck’s emergency kit. In a pinch, it can restore enough charge to a damaged battery to get you home.
- Account for the climate when choosing your battery. Gel-style batteries are better for warmer weather while AGM models are suitable for cold environments.
- Trickle chargers are a handy way to keep your battery strong if you are parking the truck for an extended amount of time. They flow a small charge through the battery, preventing it from dying outright.
- Always shut off electronics immediately after use to avoid draining the battery unnecessarily. Models with larger reserves will last for longer, but using too many electronics at once can cause a strain on even the best batteries.
- Take your time when installing the battery. To make sure that it is firmly in position and won’t incur excess vibrations, check that it is tightly fitted. Be sure there is sufficient clearance from the hood of the car to prevent overheating and fire risks.
Q: How long should diesel truck batteries last?
The lifespan of your battery depends on everything from driving habits to truck health to climate. You can get five years out of a good battery and a quality truck. Expect closer to four years if your truck is frequently exposed to cold.
Q: How many CCAs do I need for a diesel?
Short for cold cranking amps, CCA is a good metric to assess a battery’s ability. Look for 800 CCAs at a minimum if you have two batteries. If you’re relying on a single battery for your truck, make sure it has a minimum of 1,000 CCAs.
Q: Is it okay to jump start a diesel?
Yes, it is okay to jump start a diesel truck (even if you’re pulling from a gas-powered vehicle). If you live in an environment where the temperature drops frequently, it’s easier to keep a booster on hand so you can jump start it yourself. Be sure it has reserve capacity, too, especially if you’re only using one battery.
Q: Is higher cranking amps better?
Cold cranking amps refers to the performance ability of your battery right when you start it up (cold crank it). The higher the cranking amps, the better, since it reflects the overall strength of the battery. Keep in mind that CCAs are assessed at 32 degrees, so temperature changes can impact the battery’s ability.
Q: What are the signs of a bad battery?
The first obvious sign of a bad or dying battery is a vehicle that won’t start. Also, your vehicle may crank slower, and there may be sporadic sparks in the battery cylinders that may cause your truck to backfire. Moreover, you may notice that your headlights are dimmer since the failing battery can’t power your car’s electrical components.
Q: How many batteries does a diesel truck run on?
A diesel truck can run on one oversized battery, but since it’s a bit challenging to find an oversized aftermarket replacement, most people use two batteries. A diesel engine requires more cranking amps to start than a gas-powered engine. It, therefore, needs two batteries hooked up in a parallel connection to keep the voltage constant and to increase the current rating that delivers sufficient power to turn a diesel engine over.
Q: Can a gasoline-powered vehicle jumpstart a diesel battery?
It is possible for a gasoline-powered vehicle to jump start the diesel battery and the other way around. The process may take longer if the battery level is really low or dead. If you manage to get a full charge but experience the same problem the next time you try to start your truck, then you may have a defective battery and need to buy a new one.
Now that you know exactly what to expect from the best battery for diesel trucks, you can make your pick. It could be the Optima Batteries 8004-003 34/78 RedTop Starting Battery, our top pick for sturdiness and compatibility. If you’re looking to save, consider the Odyssey Automotive and LTV Battery for its affordability and strong design.