Car batteries are not standard issue. While most drivers in America believe that there are 12 volts in a car battery, that's not necessarily true. In fact, it's not even accurate-it's just an easy way to remember approximately how many volts are in a car battery. This myth about the right number of volts in a car battery and a general lack of connection to battery maintenance came about when manufacturers changed their battery designs in the 1970s to make them maintenance-free. This let car owners ignore their batteries for years and forget the finer points of battery design. However, to protect your battery and get more from your car, it's important to understand exactly what voltages are under your hood.
Honesty about modern car battery voltages
There are not 12 volts of car battery under your hood and there never have been. This has to do with how volts in a car battery are measured. Consumer car batteries are currently made up of six galvanic cells laid out in a series. Each cell of your battery actually puts out 2.1 volts, making a true car battery voltage of 12.6. For cars or batteries that were made before the early 1970s, the voltages can range up from 12 volts to 14 or even 15 volts, since batteries in those days had a different blend of lead, antimony and acids to give them power. Heavy vehicle batteries are also different. They are often linked, six-cell batteries designed to create what is called a 24-volt system. However, just as with consumer car batteries, each cell is more than two volts, giving trucks, tractors and other types of heavy equipment batteries that are actually 25.2 volts. Hybrid and electric car batteries-especially from imported cars-can also have special voltage settings. This should be clearly explained in your car's owner's manual.
Checking your car for the right voltage
When you are looking at your car battery, keep the myth of 12 volts in mind. If you car battery is only at 12 volts, it's not fully charged. It's actually almost dead and may not give you the power you need to start your car. To make sure everything is charged to the right level, you can use a voltmeter to check your battery. This will give you a readout of the charge your battery is capable of producing, and you want it to be above 12.6 volts for your car and above 24 volts for a truck, tractor or other piece of heavy machinery to ensure that it will start properly. If it's low, you'll need to recharge it to avoid the strain on your electric systems and stress on yourself caused by a dead battery.