One of the often overlooked aspects of vehicle maintenance is making sure your battery is in good working condition. Having your car’s battery unexpectedly die can really throw a wrench in your day. A car battery tester is a cost-efficient method to test your battery, making sure it’s in good shape before you hit the road.
It’s even better if you get into the habit of checking your car’s battery from time to time, along with the rest of your car’s electrical system for signs of weaknesses. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best car battery testers currently available in today’s market, covering a broad range of price tiers. Some testers are easier to use than others, while some offer more comprehensive data and other features such as the ability to test your car’s alternator.
To learn more about the best car battery testers, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Topdon BT100 Car Battery Tester
- 2. Easiest to Use: Innova 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor
- 3. Cartman Car Battery and Alternator Tester
- 4. Clore Automotive Solar Digital Battery and System Tester
- 5. Motopower Digital Battery Tester
- 6. Ancel Automotive Load Battery Tester (BA101)
- 7. Performance Tool Cigarette Lighter Car Battery and Alternator Tester (W2989)
- 8. Foxwell Battery Tester (BT-705)
- 9. Suner Power Car Battery Tester (AE300)
- 10. Online LED Store Automotive Battery Tester
- What is a Car Battery Tester?
- Why Do I Need a Car Battery Tester?
- How to Check Your Car's Battery
1. Editor's Pick: Topdon BT100 Car Battery Tester
Topdon’s BT100 is the top rated product in the category, and replaces the former #2 pick AB101 on our list. It works with all major battery technologies: Conventional and enhanced flooded (EFB); AGM flat plate; AGM spiral; and gel. It can perform a standard battery health test (shown), cranking, and ripple charging system test. You get both a backlit illuminated 128 x 64 LCD readout, and green-yellow-red warning lights.
Testing the BT100 Car Battery Tester
We hooked up a BT100 Car Battery Tester to one of our Optima Yellow Top test batteries (note: you must connect it directly to the posts), and the display came on immediately. The opening screen shows a small voltage readout at the bottom, and then you have to select your battery technology, in this case AGM spiral wound, from the following screen. During several rounds of testing we noticed that the display gets sluggish in colder temperatures. Getting a battery health reading was easy. We then tried the cranking and charging system health functions in a Mazda with a flat-plate AC Delco Gold battery. The battery health ripple test requires starting the car and holding the RPM at 2,500 for five seconds, which would be a lot easer with two people. But it was possible, and gave us useful information (including that wherever our short is, it’s not in the charging system). Our biggest complaint is that it must be connected to a battery for the display to work. With short leads, this could be inconvenient for trunk-mounted batteries. It’s a great battery tester for for occasional use, but if we were using one a few times a week, we’d want to upgrade to either a printout or Bluetooth. We would also have liked a case, or at least a storage bag with it.
The BT100 has a great 92% positive rating from over 2,000 reviews, the best weighted average in the category. Topdon’s other models of battery tester have similar 90%-plus ratings.
Topdon Warranty and Customer Service
There is a good two-year limited warranty on Topdon battery testers, and a brief three-day money back guarantee on defective items. The company also offer a loaner tool program if your tool requires repairs under warranty. There is a toll-free customer service number for Topdon’s New Jersey headquarters, and a number of web forms for technical support and warranty issues. We found high-quality pdfs of user manuals as well.
We requested this unit for review from Topdon. The company had no input into our testing, results, or ranking. Photo Credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com
2. Easiest to Use: Innova 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor
One of the most popular and highest-rated products on Amazon in this category is the Innova Battery and Charging System Monitor. It’s an extremely easy-to-use device, because it plugs straight into your cigarette lighter to monitor battery and charging system voltage. It’s designed for 12-volt negative ground systems and features an LCD display with a bar graph to indicate charge level. There are also color-coded LEDs so you can quickly identify your battery’s charge status. The head of this device pivots so you can easily adjust its angle for better viewing.
This is one of the more affordable car battery testers on the list, and it’s a favorite among its owners since it does its job with little fuss.
Many users praise this unit for its accuracy and the fact that it has a four-digit display, while other meters display up to three digits. There are however, a few users who have experienced failures with the device after a few months of use.
3. Cartman Car Battery and Alternator Tester
One of the more affordable options on this list comes from Cartman. The company’s battery and alternator tester is compact and easy to read, with an LED display that indicates the condition of a 12-volt battery. When conducting a battery check using the Cartman Car Battery and Alternator Tester, you simply have to connect the red clamp to the positive terminal, and the black clamp to the negative terminal of your battery – with your car turned off. The tester will then illuminate the OK light, followed by the battery state. If you want to check the state of your car’s alternator, you simply have to turn the car on before connecting the two clamps.
Battery state is designated by Low, Medium, and High, and the charger will update the status as the battery charges. This device also lets you check the battery’s condition before charging. If it’s a steadily-lit LED, then your battery is in good condition and can be charged. But if the LED is off, then the battery voltage is out of range and could possibly be dead.
4. Clore Automotive Solar Digital Battery and System Tester
Clore Automotive offers a digital battery and system checker, although it is one of the more expensive products on the list. It’s a 12-volt battery and system tester that has 40-1200 CCA testing capacity. It has an operating range of 7 volts to 15 volts and is compatible with multiple battery types, including Conventional Flooded Acid, AGM Flate Plate, AGM Spiral Wound, and Gel Cell.
This device offers quick, easy battery and system analysis and can be used to test against a wide range of rating systems including CCA, DIN, JIS, EN, and IEC. The front of the device features an LCD display for optimal viewing in all lighting conditions. It’s also easy to use since the display walks the operator through the test sequence with instructions.
While most users do say this device is easy to use, some did say the instruction manual is a bit confusing and not very thorough. Some users also say they had trouble getting good contact with the clips.
5. Motopower Digital Battery Tester
Microprocessor-controlled, the Motopower Digital Battery Tester is designed to provide a quick reading to determine if a car’s battery needs a jump or replacing. It’s safe and simple to use, thanks to reverse-hookup and over-voltage protection features. The front of the device has a four-character lighted digital display, making this tester easy to read with accuracy.
Colored LEDs on the device indicate the status of your car’s battery and alternator, while a black rubber painted body makes it nice and durable. This tester uses 30-amp Alligator Clamps.
Testing range on the Motopower Digital Battery Tester is 4 volts to 20 volts for all types of 12-volt batteries.
Most owners praise this device for being easy to use with clear and concise readings. While it’s a minor complaint, some users did say the cables are a bit short, so you may experience issues if your battery’s terminals are far apart.
6. Ancel Automotive Load Battery Tester (BA101)
Another more expensive option comes from Ancel. This compact tester can be used on a wide range of 12-volt batteries and meets major battery standards including JIS, SAE, EN, DIN, and IEC. It’s designed to easily, quickly, and accurately measure the actual cold cranking amps capability of your car’s battery, as well as the battery’s health. Each reading will display the battery’s CCA or AH value, charge percentage, voltage, internal resistance, and battery health percentage.
Conductance correlates directly to the battery capacity, and this device will never discharge or drain the battery. It can also be used to test the condition of a discharged battery and its passive testing method is safe to use. No internal batteries are required with this device, as it powers up once it’s connected to posts on the battery you’re testing.
This device can also be hooked up to a printer, so you can print out your test results.
Users who purchased this device praised the comprehensive data it provides, while still being easy to use. Some did note that the while it’s nice the device is very compact, that the screen is also small and may be difficult to read for some. There is also a small number of complaints that the screen easily gets scratched.
7. Performance Tool Cigarette Lighter Car Battery and Alternator Tester (W2989)
Another battery tester that uses your car’s cigarette lighter is offered by Performance Tool. Like the INNOVA tester, you simply have to plug this into the cigarette lighter in your car and the LED indicators will show you the status of your battery and alternator. There are six LED indicators total, three for the battery state and three for the alternator state.
For the battery, the device will report whether the battery is dead, needs to be recharged, or is already charged. The alternator’s three statuses are low, normal, or high. It’s a compact device that can easily be stored in your glove box or center console, so you have easy access to check whether an issue is related to your car’s battery or alternator.
This is a more affordable tester that plugs into your cigarette lighter, but some users do note that it’s short and may not work well in every vehicle.
8. Foxwell Battery Tester (BT-705)
The Foxwell Battery Tester is one of the most expensive items on our list, but it’s one of the most comprehensive testing devices you can buy. It will accurately test regular Flooded, AGM Flat Plate, AGM Spiral, and Gel batteries, allowing the user to analyze the battery health status to calculate the actual cold cranking capability of the battery and its aging status. Multiple rating systems are supported, including CCA, BCI, CA, MCA, JIS, DIN, IEC, EN, SAE, and GB.
This tester works on 12-volt and 24-volt charging systems and ensures the output voltage of the generator is normal, that the rectifier diode works correctly, and the charging current is normal. In addition, there’s a comprehensive cranking test to check the starter system, cranking voltage, and cranking time in milliseconds, so ensure the starting motor works correctly. Battery tests can be done in as a little as 3 to 5 seconds.
The Foxwell Battery Tester features a premium quality copper clip and wire, so it maintains a stable connection throughout the testing process. There’s a 7.8-foot cable attached, so testing can be done from inside the vehicle. At the end of that cable are all-metal spray gold clamps, which are more solid and durable than normal clamps. A large backlight LCD displays all the information, while the device is fairly straightforward to use thanks to menu-driven operation. It also supports several different languages: English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian.
Safety features on this device include short circuit protection and spark proof protection.
9. Suner Power Car Battery Tester (AE300)
Another mid-range option is the Suner Power Car Battery Tester, designed to test and analyze your 12-volt battery load system to show your battery condition. This device will tell you the battery’s life percentage, CCA, voltage, and resistance. You can continually test the battery without worrying about damaging it, with safety features including reverse polarity and over voltage protection. Operating ranges covered by this tester include CCA (100-9999), SAE (100-2000), EN (100-2000), IEC (100-1300), and DIN (100-1500).
It is compatible with a variety of batteries including Flood, AGM, Deep Cycle, and Gel. This tester features a large LED screen and heavy duty, fully insulated clamps.
This is a fairly straightforward and basic battery tester, and most users are content with how it works, adding that it’s easy to use. There are complaints about the instruction manual being poorly written and the terminals feeling cheaply made.
10. Online LED Store Automotive Battery Tester
One of the most affordable items in the category comes from the Online LED Store. Its battery tester is compatible with 12-volt and 24-volt batteries and features larger-sized clamps than the competition for a more secure fit. It has a bright LED display that’s easy to read, so you can see exactly the state of charge for your battery or alternator. This device can do three different checks: battery check, alternator check, and external charge check.
The battery check will tell you whether or not your car’s battery is in working condition, while the alternator check will indicate the state of your alternator based on its measured voltage. An external charge check lets you know your battery’s charge when using an external power source.
This is another affordable battery tester that will give you basic information on the health of your battery and alternator. It’s not overly complex and very straightforward to use. Users find it easy to connect and use, although some do wish the leads were longer.
What is a Car Battery Tester?
A car battery tester is a device designed to test the state of your battery. If you’ve taken a look at our list of products, you’ll notice that there are some testers that are extremely basic, while others will offer more data and information on your car’s electrical system. The type you choose to buy is entirely up to you, but it’s generally recommended to have a basic tester handy so you can replace your battery before it’s entirely dead.
More complicated testers will do a more thorough job and can even test your car’s alternator for potential issues.
Why Do I Need a Car Battery Tester?
You want to purchase a car battery tester so that you can routinely check the state of your car’s battery. This way, you know exactly when your car’s battery is on its way out, allowing you to get it replaced before it completely dies and can’t hold a charge. Most testers are affordable and they’re a minor investment to save you from a potential headache of being stranded unexpectedly.
How to Check Your Car's Battery
Once you’ve purchased a car battery tester, it’s time to see what condition your battery is in. Most testers will come with detailed instructions on how to operate the specific device, but here are some general steps and tips to follow.
- Before you start to do anything, it’s always recommended to wear a pair of rubber gloves and goggles when working with your battery. Gloves and goggles will protect your hands and eyes from acid.
- Start by making sure the ignition of your vehicle is off and all the lights on your car are turned off.
- Connect the positive lead on your battery tester to the positive terminal on your battery.
- Connect the negative lead on your battery tester to the negative terminal on your battery.
- Check the voltage of your car’s battery. If it reads somewhere above 12.6 volts, then your battery is in great condition (100 percent). A voltage reading around 12.4 volts means your battery is in good condition – approximately 75 percent. A value of 12.2 volts is about 50 percent, which means readings of 12.2 volts and lower indicate a bad battery.
- Once you’re done checking your battery state, remove the negative terminal first. If the clamps aren’t coming off easily, you will want to use a battery terminal puller to remove them.
March 21, 2022: Removed Topdon AB101. Added Topdon BT100 as Editor’s Pick. Moved Innova 3721 to second place.
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