Battery Basics & Upgrade Options

 In 5th Gen Mods, Off-Road, Reviews

Battery Overview & Upgrade Options for 5th Gen

Battery Upgrade & Replacement 5th Gen 4Runner

Battery basics and a few good upgrade options for the 5th gen 4Runner

While most batteries have a lifespan of about 5 years, we are getting close for an upgrade on our 2014 4Runner. If you are looking for a battery upgrade on your 4Runner because you are running some aftermarket accessories, then this post should serve you as well. Whether you are looking to replace an old battery or looking to increase the performance of your current battery, we’re going to talk about a few options.

There are a few things to consider before replacing your battery. The most important is the size and location of the terminals. If you buy the wrong size battery or a battery with terminals in an awkward location, you’re going to be pretty upset. Weight is also a pretty big consideration as some car batteries push close to 100lbs. If you buy a battery that weighs too much, you risk having a lean, and at that point, you better hope you have adjustable coilovers to make up for the difference.

After installing a few aftermarket accessories, the 4Runner was starting to struggle when starting. We also have a Smittybuilt Winch, a Baja 30″ lightbar, and a few other accessories going on the 4Runner soon. So, it is about time we swap out the OEM battery with a fresh battery that can handle all these additional power-consuming accessories.

There have also been multiple occasions of the battery dying on me with just the headlights and foglights running. If we leave the keys in the ignition with the headlights on, and the engine not running, it drains the battery incredibly fast. And by fast, I mean under 10 minutes.

I always carry a set of jumper cables and I can’t count how many times I have used them. This was also what led me to buy a new battery and an upgraded jump starter just in case I was alone somewhere. Even in a parking lot, it’s hard to find someone to give you a hand these days.

Battery Basics: Terminals, Battery Size, Weight, CCAs, Amps, Tray and J Hooks

Buying a Battery (what to consider before buying):

  1. Different Brands
  2. Size
  3. Freshness
  4. Reserve Capacity
  5. CCAs (Cold Cranking Amps), and CAs (Cranking Amps)
  6. Ampere Hour (Ah)
  7. Type and Position of Terminals
  8. Weight

1. 5th Gen Battery Options

Battery Upgrade & Replacement 5th Gen 4Runner

There are many more options out there, do your research. We are using these three batteries as they are commonly installed. There is no “best” battery option out there for everyone. It really comes down to how you plan on using your truck, where you live and how many accessories you plan on running to your battery.

A Few Options

NorthStar Ultra High-Performance Group 31 AGM 

  • CCAs (Cold Cranking Amps): 1150
  • RC (Reserve Capacity): 220
  • Ah (Ampere Hours): 103
  • Weight: 76lbs

Odyssey 31-PC2150S Heavy Duty Commercial

  • CCAs (Cold Cranking Amps): 1150
  • RC (Reserve Capacity): 205
  • Ah (Ampere Hours): 102
  • Weight: 77lbs

Odyssey 34R-PC1500T Truck and Van

  • CCAs (Cold Cranking Amps): 850
  • RC (Reserve Capacity): 135
  • Ah (Ampere Hours): 67.5
  • Weight: 51.5lbs

There are quite a few more options than these selections, but these are the most popular in terms of many people have these installed.

2. Battery Size

The stock battery on our 5th gen 4Runners is a Panasonic. The stock battery is rated at 530 CCA, and a reserve capacity of 20hrs at 65ah, BCI Group 24F, and comes in at about 60lbs. For an upgraded solution, there are a wide variety of options out there. No battery is going to be your “best” option because best is all relative in this world. Depending on how many accessories you have and will need to power will determine the size of the battery you choose.

3. Battery Freshness

Batteries are marked with a letter and number to indicate freshness. Batteries are marked with a letter and number to determine age. If a battery is marked A8, that would stand for January 2018. B7 would stand for February 2017. The letter correlates to the month and the number correlates to the year. A8 could also stand for January of 1998 but you would be able to tell if a battery was over 10 years old just by looking at it. Hopefully, that makes sense.

4. Reserve Capacity

Reserve Capacity (RC), not to be confused with Ampere Hours (Ah). RC is the amount of time a battery can run on its own power without the engine and before discharge. High RC batteries are great for our 4Runners considering most of power multiple accessories.

Higher RC batteries help in situations like accidentally leaving your headlights on among other things. We will take the Odyssey 34R for example. The Odyssey 34R has an RC of 135 minutes. To get your Amp Hours (Ah), you divide your Reserve Capacity (RC) in by 2.

The Odyssey 34R is rated at 135 minutes divided by two = 67.5 Amp Hours (Ah). I have also heard that you can do this division and then add 16 to get your Ah. I am not a battery expert by any means, so if you know the best method, please comment below. There are many accessories that give you specs based on Amps, so it is important to know the amount of Amps your battery has.

5. Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and Cranking Amps (CA) – Starting Power

Every battery has a CCA rating. CCA rating is used to determine a batteries ability to start your 4Runner in cold temperature (hence, cold cranking). It is generally harder for a battery to start under extreme cold as opposed to warmer-moderate weather climates. If you reside in northern Canada as opposed to sunny San Diego, that should come into consideration when buying a battery. If you live in a colder climate or go on frequent trips to cold weather climates, you want a battery with a higher CCA rating.

CCA is measured by the number of amps a 12-volt battery can deliver at 0°F for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts. Cranking Amps (CA) is used to determine the number of amps a 12-volt battery can deliver at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (normal to moderate temperatures). 

For example, the Odyssey 34R is rated at 850 CCAs. So, the Odyssey 34R is rated to deliver 850 CCAs at 0°F for 30 seconds (give or take).

Your cold cranking amps (CCAs) is the initial jolt of power it takes to start your 4Runner. The Amp Hours (Ah) is the power that runs your 4Runner and powers your accessories. Your cold cranking amps CCAs is kinda like your 4Runner climbing a short steep hill very fast (fast and aggressive) and your Amp Hours (Ah) is like your 4Runner racing in the Baja 1000 (consistency for distance).

6. Ampere Hour (Ah)

Ampere Hour (Ah) is how much electricity your 4Runners battery can store. The higher the Ampere Hour (Ah) capacity, the longer your battery can power accessories while your 4Runner is not running.

We mentioned the equation above to find out what your Ampere Hour (Ah) is if your battery does not have an Ampere Hour (Ah) rating on the label. Again, to get your Amp Hours (Ah), you divide your Reserve Capacity (RC) in by 2. The Odyssey 34R is rated at 135 minutes divided by two = 67.5 Amp Hours (Ah).

7. Type and Position of Terminals

One of the reasons why we went with an Odyssey 34 over the Odyssey 31 was the terminal location. The terminal location on the Odyssey 31 is towards the middle of the battery which requires terminal extensions.

This is great until you need a battery replacement on your 4Runner. When you need a spur of the moment replacement and the terminals are in a different location, you are screwed, unless that place has a specific battery for your set-up.

I like that there are no modifications that need to be done to the stock battery terminal cables, like the terminal extensions needed on the NorthStar Group 31 AGM Battery or the Odyssey 31. There are certain benefits about these batteries that outperform the group 34 as well, though so that’s something to consider.

When you buy a battery for your 5th Gen, just make sure the terminals are in the right location and depending on what you are looking for (easy install option), make sure they do not require additional terminal extensions.

8. Weight

Weight was also a consideration for me when buying a battery. As we start adding more and more stuff to the 4Runner, it starts to set a little lower. There is a big difference between the group 31 batteries at 77 pounds and the group 34 battery at 50 pounds.

I personally decided to go with a group 34 battery for a few reasons and weight was one of the determining factors. It was also cheaper and that was nice.

If you are really looking for a light-weight option, you can go with a LiFePO4 battery, which is typically about one-fifth the weight and two to four times the service life of a traditional battery. These batteries are more expensive compared to a traditional battery, though.

But instead of 50-80lbs, you can have a battery that weighs 20-30lbs. If I had $800-$1000 to spend on a battery, I would absolutely buy a LiFePO4 battery.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Gus
    Reply

    Great post and thanks for the information! I set up a 2nd battery in my 2015 4Runner and went with the Odyssey. Great battery!!

    Did you do anything special to charge the AGM battery? I ask because on my setup I added a Ctek Dual 2505 DC-to-DC charger to isolate the batteries and get a higher charging voltage that I thought was required for the battery. Is the standard alternator enough?

    thanks again for your details.

    • Brenan - Trail4R
      Reply

      Gus,
      If the battery comes charged at 12.65 or higher, you can just drop it in. I am not quite sure about a dual battery set-up although I am guessing it is similar. If the battery is below 12.6, you will need to charge it up to that point, or higher 12.8 (recommended), before you swap it in. Our Odyssey arrived at 12.9 so we dropped it in. How is the Ctek? I was looking into one of those and some power for the back next.
      Thanks!

      • Gus
        Reply

        Thanks! I understand the drop in voltage required. I thought AGM batteries need 14.7v to get fully charged so I wanted to know if you had any issues with just the T4R alternator< Do you use a separate wall charger ?

        I have an Odyssey installed as my house battery in my dual set up and I use a cute Dual to charge it. as for your question, the Ctek has been doing exactly what it advertised to do. It isolates the batteries and pumps out 14.7 volts until I turn off the motor. So far, I've had no issues with it. However, Ctek had a 250SA dual out there that's a newer model. Hard to find in the US, but I would go with that one at this point.

        • Brenan - Trail4R
          Reply

          I read all 5 pages of the Odyssey manual, the group 34 AGM needed to show a charge of at least 12.6 and if you were to charge, you only needed to charge to 12.8, which is what the battery arrived with. I will test again with the alternator running and do a few more tests. We will see what the alternator is pushing out on the new AGM.

  • Gus
    Reply

    Thanks Brenan. I understand the battery should be above 12.65 to drop in. But my question is does the Stock 4Runner alternator fully charge the AGM battery under normal driving conditions from your experience? Or do you have to top it off with a wall charger?

    I have the ctek installed to charge my 2nd battery which is a group 34 Odyssey and it just works as advertised. The ctek isolates the batteries until it’s safe to charge the house side and then it stages the charge through various cycles. I installed dual voltmeters and cut off switches to manage the dual batteries and I’m happy with the performance of the ctek.

    • Brenan - Trail4R
      Reply

      Gus,
      It has a been a couple weeks, and no need for an additional charge. Alternator seems to be doing its job in keeping the AGM fully charged. Nice, I need to grab one of those.

      • Gus
        Reply

        sorry about the extra reply – for some reason my reply didn’t appear. and thanks for your reply too!

  • Michael
    Reply

    Has anyone had any experience with Optima YellowTop battery?

  • brian
    Reply

    These LifePo batteries – are these just a straight swap? Or is there any other modifications necessary to the charging systems so you don’t damage the cells?

  • Ross Slayton
    Reply

    Just wondering where Gus put his 2nd battery?

  • Dan
    Reply

    Thanks for the great write-up. Loving the site too! I have a 2008 T4R Limited V8, and I’m at the end of my rope with replacing the battery. I get about 4-5 years out of my batteries that are supposedly rated for 7-10. I’ve done a few mods and gear additions to the car, but I’m almost convinced at this point that these are just not very solid batteries. (They’re whatever the prevailing reasonably priced brand was at the Napa Auto Parts stores at which I bought them…one in the middle of the highway out to Lake Tahoe when my OEM battery was failing miles and miles from any other place that would sell a battery, and the other at a Napa near my house). So unimpressive I can’t even recall the brand off hand.

    So I’m thinking it’s time to put in an actual upgrade. Hey quick question… I don’t have $900 for a LifePo battery either. But hell, for the sake of argument since I want to consider benefits as well as cost, if I did decide to spend that, what’s the practical upside to a battery that only weighs 20-30 pounds vice the usual 50-80 lbs? Obviously less weight is always advantageous, but what does that translate to in practical terms? Does a 30 pound difference really make a meaningful impact on mileage? Towing capacity? Something else? Or is it one of those cases where it’s just that every little bit helps?

    • Brenan - Trail4R
      Reply

      Yeah, every little bit helps and having another 70lbs directly over the suspension might have caused some sag. That’s a stretch but you never know. I don’t think an extra 30lbs is going to be the problem. I guess you might want to think about what you are powering as well. Are you running a fridge, winch, compressor, lightbar, powerful fog lights (Baja squadrons), aftermarket headlights, etc? If so, you may want to look at the group 31 batteries. The Li-Ion batteries are designed to push more cycles, among other benefits. You might want to check out their website for more information.

      • Dan
        Reply

        @Brenan, thanks for the quick reply. I’ll be powering a lightbar being installed on Monday (Baja), a winch I’ll be putting in a few weeks (I haven’t decided which), and hopefully by December I’ll have Baja fogs and new headlights. I have no plans for a fridge or any heavy duty appliances. Quite the contrary, I’d rather have cargo space. But I do have several AC sockets going in the car on Thursday next week — one by the front passenger, two in the back seat, and two in the cargo area. And also USB ports at every seat. The AC sockets won’t be used to power anything more powerful than a 15″ laptop and photography gear (battery chargers etc), but it’s quite conceivable I could have a few of such devices plugged in and drawing power simultaneously. They’re more for convenience than an intended heavy draw. That said, I’m debating whether or not I need to install a 2nd battery (I’d really, really prefer not doing so), or if I can get away with just putting in a much better battery than the crap one already installed. And if I only do an upgrade vice a 2nd battery, if I need to go with the Northstar 31 or if the Odyssey 34 will be sufficient for the uses outlined here. If you have any thoughts, I’d be most grateful.

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