Most people don’t give their car batteries a second thought, until they’re stuck by the roadside, waiting on recovery or a good friend to rescue them, but with a little thought, and some planned maintenance, that person needn’t be you … pick one of the best car battery testers and at the first sign of trouble, you can diagnose exactly what’s happening.
In days gone by, it was only professional auto shops that access to specialized equipment such as battery testers, and they would have paid handsomely for the privilege … I paid close to $450 for a full battery tester that was capable of doing pretty much everything (and printing a readout for my customers), some of the testers listed here will do nearly the same job, for a quarter of the price or less.
Before you rush out and grab your battery tester, it’s important to understand just what it is you need though … some testers will check the battery, charging system, voltage, load capacity and a myriad of other things, while others will just check the battery condition and its ability to hold a charge … both testers have their uses, but sometimes you just don’t need it too complicated.
Table of Contents
- The Best Car Battery Tester
- 1. Schumacher BT-100 Battery Load Tester and Voltmeter
- 2. SOLAR BA9 Digital Battery and System Tester
- 3. FOXWELL BT-705 Automotive Battery Load Tester
- 4. CARTMAN 12V Car Battery & Alternator Tester
- 5. ANCEL BA101 Professional Automotive Load Battery Tester
- 6. OTC 3181 Heavy-Duty Battery Load Tester
- 7. MOTOPOWER MP0514A Digital Battery Tester
The Best Car Battery Tester
1. Schumacher BT-100 Battery Load Tester and Voltmeter
In the middle of the price range is the BT-100 tester, capable of testing both 6v & 12v systems, making it ideal for everything from light trucks, RVs, ATVs, motorcycles, boats and of course, cars.
It can check up to 1,000 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) and give a 100A load test on 12v batteries, or a 50A test on 6v batteries. It will test the load, overall battery condition, starter motor draw and give a complete diagnosis of the charging system.
It’s simple and quick to use – connect up to the battery and operate the spring mounted rocker switch to send the load through the battery. The scale is analog, the wires are all copper and heavy duty – which they need to be for this type of tester – smaller gauge wires would just burn out.
It’s built in a steel case and the gauge is shockproof … this should give you years of trouble free service if looked after correctly, and as it’s all analog, there’s no fancy electronics to go wrong. A great all rounder.
2. SOLAR BA9 Digital Battery and System Tester
The SOLAR BA9 has a wide range for testing – from just 40 CCA through to 1,200 CCA, so it can handle a wide range of batteries, and will measure from 7v through to 15v. And there’s a built in LCD screen to give you the readings instantly, under any lighting conditions.
It will test a battery and the starting or charging systems, but there are a couple of drawbacks. The first being that it’s quite small, the leads aren’t that long, and then the slightly more complicated issue – you need to know the specifications of the battery … fine on a battery where the label is still intact, but if not, you may be playing a guessing game.
It has reverse polarity and over voltage protection built-in, and the overall feel of the tester is OK … it does what it needs to, but things could be a little better.
3. FOXWELL BT-705 Automotive Battery Load Tester
This is labeled as both 12v and 24v, and that’s true, to an extent … it will test 24v systems but can’t check a 24v battery as a standalone test. With that said, it will test pretty much any type of battery including Flooded, AGM flat plate, Gel, AGM spiral and all deep cycle batteries.
Not only that, but the standards it uses are: IEC, MCA, CA, GB, BCI, JIS, EN, DIN, SAE and CCA – so whatever your battery type, you’re pretty much guaranteed that this tester will work, you just need to know the battery specification before you start.
The tester itself is well made and built with quality components. The test leads and clips and made from premium quality copper, and they’re a sensible length – 7.8’, which means you can crank the vehicle and still check the meter if you need to – it’s the only one here that you can do that with.
The large and easy-to-read backlit display gives you all the information you need – the actual cold cranking amps, the capability of the starting system, the state of the charging system and the overall condition of the battery. The device also can send all the information to a Bluetooth enabled printer – perfect if you want to keep a record, or if you’re like me – want to give that record to a customer.
The whole kit comes in a sturdy carry case and is the closest thing I’ve seen to a full professional battery tester, just without the huge pricetag.
4. CARTMAN 12V Car Battery & Alternator Tester
This is the simplest of testers here, designed for 12v use only.
It’s very cheap (I honestly don’t know how they can make and ship it for the price), but it works … providing you need only simple diagnostics.
It tests the overall battery condition, along with the alternator and charging system, using LEDs as an indicator as to whether they’re within limits or not. It will give you results for battery condition, alternator state, battery state and a check before charge state. When I say it’s simple … the alternator check is literally revving the engine to 2,000rpm and seeing what the LEDs say … that’s how simple it is.
Be aware that the clips are small … not actually big enough to fit over a car battery post, but they clip well enough to the clamp or cable attached to the post. This is the #1 tester if you really just need something simple, quick and easy without having to read up an instruction manual or take a mechanical engineering scholarship.
5. ANCEL BA101 Professional Automotive Load Battery Tester
For 12v systems only, it has a wide range – 100 to 2000 CCA, up to 220Ah but will read as low as 30Ah, on all types of batteries: deep cycle, marine, maintenance free, sealed, wet, absorption glass mat and gel cell, using the same standards as the FOXWELL (JIS, EN, DIN, SAE etc).
The tester can tell you all you need to know about the state of the battery and the charging & starting system – voltage, charge, cranking power, unloaded voltage, load voltage, ripple status and charging system status … all on the large LCD display.
The ANCEL BA101 comes with a 3’ long cable, making it the second longest here, and there is the ability to print results, but it’s via a USB connection to a computer, to a printer … not exactly a mobile or quick solution. It offers similar functionality to the FOXWELL tester, at a reduced price … the question you need to ask yourself is whether those little extra touches are worth the extra dollars. (If you’re looking to use this regularly, in a semi-professional way, then the answer must be yes).
6. OTC 3181 Heavy-Duty Battery Load Tester
This battery tester would be classed as ‘old skool’ … this is pretty much the same tester that was around when I first started on the tools, which makes it old, limited functionality but reliable and accurate, for what it does.
Sure, it doesn’t have the hundred different functions of some of the other testers here, because really, this is designed to do one job, and do it well. It’s an analog gauged, hand-held battery tester that loads the battery up to 130A, from 0-16v.
Need simplistic reliability? This is the battery tester for you.
7. MOTOPOWER MP0514A Digital Battery Tester
12v systems only, although it does read from 4v to 20v. Essentially what you’re getting here is a simplified multimeter that uses a combination of a 4 figure LCD display and LEDs to indicate the state of the battery and charging system.
It’s quick and accurate, and uses reverse hookup and over voltage protection to stop you damaging any delicate components when connecting it up to the battery. The clips are rated at just 30A, and the leads are extremely short, but it does what you need it to … it’s simple quick and easy. In fact that MOTOPOWER don’t actually ship it with any instructions whatsoever, which really is a minus point, aside from that, it does the job.