Best Automotive Battery Testers: All Juiced Up

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Best Car Battery Testers

best automotive battery testers all juiced up

Whether it’s a prized collector car or simply your daily beater, twisting the key (or pushing the button) only to come up with a fistful of no-go thanks to a dead battery is a deeply disappointing moment. Who left those devices plugged into the always-on 12V socket again?

There is a case for not simply ditching the old battery for a brand new one; whether that argument is environmental or financial is up to each particular gearhead. In some instances, it’s better to test the thing to see if it’s holding a charge before splashing out your hard-earned money on a new zappity lump. Also, not all electrical problems are caused by the battery, so a bit of diagnosis can help prevent wasting money on unneeded new parts.

It goes without saying we’ve looked at these battery testers through a standard 12V lens with the intent to identify problems with a traditional-style car battery. This post is not touching hybrids or pure EVs with a 10-foot (insulated) pole.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: Topdon BT100 Car Battery Tester

Equipped with a large and easy-to-read TFT screen, this battery tester can directly detect the battery data and give suggestions on whether to replace the battery. It also has a cranking test and charging system tests that advise on repairing a circuit or buying a new battery.

According to the seller, it displays test results (actual cranking voltage & cranking time) of the starter system in milliseconds to indicate if the cranking system is working properly. Its load tester can check the 12V charging system, ensuring the output voltage is within spec and the charging current is with normal range.

Pros

  • Easy to use, handheld grips, you know I like the color

Cons

  • Monochrome display

Bottom Line

  • A solid all in one tester

Equipped with a large and easy-to-read TFT screen, this battery tester can directly detect the battery data and give suggestions on whether to replace the battery. It also has a cranking test and charging system tests that advise on repairing a circuit or buying a new battery.

According to the seller, it displays test results (actual cranking voltage & cranking time) of the starter system in milliseconds to indicate if the cranking system is working properly. Its load tester can check the 12V charging system, ensuring the output voltage is within spec and the charging current is with normal range.

2. Foxwell BT100 Pro Car Battery Tester

This is apparently FoxWELL, not FoxCONN, so any images of these things being assembled within proximity of an iPad should be put out of your mind. This 12V analyzer permits users to read details of a battery cell before blowing notes on a new one at Autozone.

A large backlit LCD display, combined with a clearly arranged keypad and menu-driven operation, make this tester much easier to operate. In fact, the ad says it is “especially born for beginners” which is an, erm, interesting way to phrase it. If you’re wondering it powers itself off the very battery it is testing.

Pros

  • Clear screen readout, “born for beginners”

Cons

  • Doesn’t test the starter

Bottom Line

  • Compact, simple operation

This is apparently FoxWELL, not FoxCONN, so any images of these things being assembled within proximity of an iPad should be put out of your mind. This 12V analyzer permits users to read details of a battery cell before blowing notes on a new one at Autozone.

A large backlit LCD display, combined with a clearly arranged keypad and menu-driven operation, make this tester much easier to operate. In fact, the ad says it is “especially born for beginners” which is an, erm, interesting way to phrase it. If you’re wondering it powers itself off the very battery it is testing.

3. Ancel BA101 Professional Automotive Load Battery Tester

Baked into its small and compact design is an ability to read a much wider test range than some of the other testers in this post, with a spread of 100 - 2000 cold-cranking amps (CCA). If you’re wondering, anything over 1000 CCA is considered extremely robust by road car standards, so the lead-acid cube in your ’99 Cavalier will likely not exceed the tolerances of this tester/

It provides a check the alternator's charging and starter's cranking conditions, handy when diagnosing problems. A vehicle charging system test is also available, including load voltage, unloaded voltage, ripple status, and charging system status.

Pros

  • Detailed screen, lots of functions, ribbed for [redacted]

Cons

  • Cable isn’t terribly long

Bottom Line

  • A useful workshop tool

Baked into its small and compact design is an ability to read a much wider test range than some of the other testers in this post, with a spread of 100 - 2000 cold-cranking amps (CCA). If you’re wondering, anything over 1000 CCA is considered extremely robust by road car standards, so the lead-acid cube in your ’99 Cavalier will likely not exceed the tolerances of this tester/

It provides a check the alternator's charging and starter's cranking conditions, handy when diagnosing problems. A vehicle charging system test is also available, including load voltage, unloaded voltage, ripple status, and charging system status.

4. Schumacher BT-100 Battery Load Tester

Here’s an old school option that deploys a sweep needle to provide readouts, just like the band speedometer in your grandfather’s 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity. It tests 6V and 12V batteries up to 1,000 cold-cranking amps, making it suitable for most cars and light trucks.

Despite its decidedly vintage appearance, this tester is capable of testing load, battery condition, and starter motor draw. It features a top-mounted rocker switch for easier operation, worth noting in a world where some manufacturers decide to place power buttons right where one would normally rest their finger.

Pros

  • Great reviews from a large sample size, all the capability most will need

Cons

  • More difficult to read than a digital version

Bottom Line

  • Great for those with good eyesight

Here’s an old school option that deploys a sweep needle to provide readouts, just like the band speedometer in your grandfather’s 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity. It tests 6V and 12V batteries up to 1,000 cold-cranking amps, making it suitable for most cars and light trucks.

Despite its decidedly vintage appearance, this tester is capable of testing load, battery condition, and starter motor draw. It features a top-mounted rocker switch for easier operation, worth noting in a world where some manufacturers decide to place power buttons right where one would normally rest their finger.

5. Autder Car Battery Tester

Remember LCD displays? If you’re of a certain age vintage, there stands an excellent chance those inch-high red numbers have been burned into your psyche thanks to a series of bedside alarm clocks. Whatever the case, that’s the type of readout deployed here.

At least it’s dead simple to read, with only four characters in its lighted display. Colored LEDs on the face of it indicate battery or alternator status with admittedly less precision than more detailed machines on this list. Picture a car with an idiot light for engine temperature instead of a gauge and you’ve got the right idea.

Pros

  • Dirt cheap, very simple

Cons

  • Fewer details than others

Bottom Line

  • Good for the basics

Remember LCD displays? If you’re of a certain age vintage, there stands an excellent chance those inch-high red numbers have been burned into your psyche thanks to a series of bedside alarm clocks. Whatever the case, that’s the type of readout deployed here.

At least it’s dead simple to read, with only four characters in its lighted display. Colored LEDs on the face of it indicate battery or alternator status with admittedly less precision than more detailed machines on this list. Picture a car with an idiot light for engine temperature instead of a gauge and you’ve got the right idea.

6. Suner Power Digital 12v Car Battery Tester

This tester has garnered a raft-load of good reviews thanks in large part to a pair of alligator clips more robust than most, contributing to its 4.5 out of 5-star rating. A good set of chunky rubber buttons doesn't hurt either. This battery tester has a reverse polarity safety backup and is pocket-sized. Its CCA range is listed as up to 9555, a figure which your author triple-checked to ensure it wasn’t a typo.

Some customers complained the included instruction booklet was more difficult to follow than the current NASCAR points system, so be aware that there are a few resources online including some cheat sheets for common operations. Real-world recommendations abound.

Pros

  • Good clamping clips, beaucoup functions

Cons

  • Choose-your-own-adventure instructions

Bottom Line

  • Affordable and practical

This tester has garnered a raft-load of good reviews thanks in large part to a pair of alligator clips more robust than most, contributing to its 4.5 out of 5-star rating. A good set of chunky rubber buttons doesn't hurt either. This battery tester has a reverse polarity safety backup and is pocket-sized. Its CCA range is listed as up to 9555, a figure which your author triple-checked to ensure it wasn’t a typo.

Some customers complained the included instruction booklet was more difficult to follow than the current NASCAR points system, so be aware that there are a few resources online including some cheat sheets for common operations. Real-world recommendations abound.

7. OBDMONSTER 12V Car Battery Tester

Good for any 12V charging system, this cheap-as-chips (less than 7 dollars!) battery tester has an extremely basic display - but if all you need is a yes/no on the health of a car's battery, it might just do the trick. It'll apparently show if there's an unnamed 'fault' along with state of charge.

Just don't expect any fancy TFT screens or specific percentages. Customers describe it as "not a professional grade tool by any means" yet one that can "get the job done". Hey, one doesn't always need overkill in their toolbox. Manage your expectations about wiring quality in a unit costing less than a feed of McDonald's, of course.

Pros

  • Beyond dirt cheap

Cons

  • Rudimentary display

Bottom Line

  • It might be all you need

Good for any 12V charging system, this cheap-as-chips (less than 7 dollars!) battery tester has an extremely basic display - but if all you need is a yes/no on the health of a car's battery, it might just do the trick. It'll apparently show if there's an unnamed 'fault' along with state of charge.

Just don't expect any fancy TFT screens or specific percentages. Customers describe it as "not a professional grade tool by any means" yet one that can "get the job done". Hey, one doesn't always need overkill in their toolbox. Manage your expectations about wiring quality in a unit costing less than a feed of McDonald's, of course.

8. Konnwei KW600 Car Battery Load Tester

We’ll round out this list with a battery tester is able to effectively analyze and read key car system data such as voltage, resistance, cold cranking amp and AH capacity, plus battery health and charge status. CCA reads up to 2000, by the way.

Displaying test results in text and graphing, this unit provides some of the most detailed information of anything on this list, making it great for the semi-serious mechanic or at least one who likes to give off the appearance they know what they’re doing. The LCD screen measures 2.4 inches, nearly as big as your author’s first TV and more vast than some OEMs first forays into digital infotainment systems.

Pros

  • Very detailed readouts

Cons

  • Getting spendy

Bottom Line

  • Impress yer friends

We’ll round out this list with a battery tester is able to effectively analyze and read key car system data such as voltage, resistance, cold cranking amp and AH capacity, plus battery health and charge status. CCA reads up to 2000, by the way.

Displaying test results in text and graphing, this unit provides some of the most detailed information of anything on this list, making it great for the semi-serious mechanic or at least one who likes to give off the appearance they know what they’re doing. The LCD screen measures 2.4 inches, nearly as big as your author’s first TV and more vast than some OEMs first forays into digital infotainment systems.

FAQs

What is the best battery tester on the market?

Depending on your preference of the brand and the battery your car has, you may find one tester better than the other. Nevertheless, some devices that are enjoying a decent number of positive reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing are listed below:

Midtronics PBT200 ( Buy here!)

One of the most recommended brands by many professionals, Midtronics produces some of the best battery testers. As for this particular model, it shows CCAs (available power), can detect if the condition of a cell is acceptable or has deteriorated to the ‘below average’ category, comprises voltmeter to test the starting system and the charger, and much more.

KONNWEI KW208 ( Buy here!)

With more than 1500 positive reviews, this battery tester is listed under the category of Amazon’s Choice. The gadget can test all types of 100 to 2000 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) 12V batteries including AGM spiral, gel, AGM flat plate, and regular flooded.

Schumacher BT-100 ( Buy here!)

This one can test up to 1000 CCA and can perform 50 amps and 100 amps load tests for 6V and 12V batteries respectively. The tester has more than 3000 positive reviews on Amazon and therefore can be counted on.

Is a battery tester worth it?

If you are a DIY person and an automotive enthusiast, having a battery tester would certainly be an asset for your garage, especially when you want to check the cranking capacity of several batteries. However, you must ensure that the tester you wish to buy is from a reliable brand so it can show the results accurately. If it doesn’t, the entire purpose of having one would go in vain whatsoever.

What are the 2 types of battery testers?

Generally speaking, 3 types of battery testers are available in the market, namely:

Carbon Pile Tester

This one puts a huge amount of load on the battery and shows how it was handled under a certain temperature.

Voltmeter

This device checks the volts of a fully charged battery but doesn’t show the condition of its internal parts, which might be depreciated or deteriorated.

Conductance Tester

This type of tester is the latest and is capable of testing almost all types of batteries, except for those that are used in remote controls, cameras, etc. The advantage of having a conductance tester is that in addition to testing the volts of a battery, it can also check its internal condition and shows you the results on its LCD screen.

How do you test a car battery to see if it is bad?

Honestly, it depends on the type of tester you are using. There are three types of automotive testers available in the market, namely:

Carbon Pile Tester

A Carbon Pile Tester is sometimes also referred to as a ‘Load Tester’. This tester type is the oldest among all and comprises two analog meters to show D.C. Amperes and D.C. Volts, and a knob to put the cold cranking amps (CCA) load on the battery.

To test a car battery using a load tester:

Make sure that the needles for both volts are ampere meters are resting at 0

Connect the negative and positive cables of the tester to the corresponding points on the car battery

Notice if the needle for the D.C. Volts meter goes up to around 12. 6V and stays there

Rotate the knob to put half of the mentioned cold-cranking amp load on the battery (E.g., If the battery says 800 cold-cranking amps, use the knob to put 400 cold-cranking amps of the load from the carbon pile tester)

Check if the needle on the D.C. Volts meter remains on 10V or above under normal temperature, i.e., around 21oC or 70oF (If it doesn’t, and the load tester starts making a beep sound, the battery needs to be recharged or replaced)

Volts Meter

This is a regular meter that checks the amount of voltage the battery holds.

To test a car battery using a voltmeter:

Switch the meter to D.C. Volts

Set the meter range anywhere above 15V

Touch the pins of the negative and positive cables to the corresponding points on the battery

Notice if the voltage remains around 12.6V or so under normal temperature

Next, start the car

Notice if the voltage remains above 10V (If the voltage drops below 10V, this means there’s some problem with the battery, and it needs to be recharged or replaced)

Conductance Tester

Sometimes also referred to as a Digital Battery Analyzer, these types of testers can check the voltage, cold-cranking amps, resistance, and the condition of the battery. Such testers have a broad LCD screen to display the values.

To test a car battery with a conductance tester:

Connect the negative and positive cables of the tester to the corresponding points on the car battery

Turn on the tester

Optionally set the cold-cranking amps

Check the values displayed on the LCD

Additional Info

If it’s a new battery, the resistance should not exceed 2mΩ to 3mΩ.

What should I look for in a car battery tester?

Nowadays, most people prefer Digital Battery Analyzer over the old-school Carbon Pile Load Tester. While the former gives an overall idea of the condition of the battery, the latter uses the real load to check if the battery is in a good state, and can be used. In any case, the voltmeter (multimeter) is a simple tester that only checks the amount of voltage the car battery holds.

Are car battery testers accurate?

Although it depends of the type of tester you are using, the quality of the tester matters as well. Assuming that you have a tester from a reputed brand, the factors that determine the accuracy level include:

How well the tester can check the cold-cranking amps

How well the tester can check the battery voltage under normal temperature

How well the tester can assess the resistance in milliohms (mΩ)

Keeping all these points in mind, it would be a good idea to go for a carbon pile load tester so you can be sure of the values you get and assess if the car battery needs to be recharged or replaced.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘[s]90s sedan shopping habits[/s] operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: oatzpenz studio / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Comments
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2 of 6 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Mar 17, 2022

    Regurgitating old sales articles.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Mar 18, 2022

    "Who left those devices plugged into the always-on 12V socket again?" Updating my earlier comment, my Toyotas and Kias still don't have always-on power ports, and adding those would require mods to the wiring (which can be done). Also, that battery monitor on Amazon that I liked? It disappeared from their site. I don't understand why the automakers don't add a battery health monitor to cars - it's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. And I still lean toward an old school tester like the Schumacher (they use coils of resistance wire, like coil springs, to test load), although the Topdon tester looks interesting.

  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?
  • Master Baiter As I approach retirement, and watch my IRA and 401K account balances dwindle, I have less and less interest in $150K vehicles.
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