Best battery Upgrades For Your Subaru
Don't skimp on your car's most important power component
One of the most important, and yet overlooked aspects of car builds is the battery. Many folks will go to the parts store, select whatever battery is cheapest and then forget about it until it fails again. If you’re just daily driving your Subaru and have a budget to stick to, you may find it best to just grab whatever the cheapest option is. However, if you are like me and need to be able to rely on your car no matter where you’re at, investing in a premium battery is the way to go. If you value reliability and peace of mind, researching higher grade battery options is something that needs to happen before you head out into the wilderness.
I spent several foolish years not taking my battery setup seriously. In the past, I would just use whatever basic option was available for my car at the local parts store. However, after being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a failed battery, I realized that I needed to upgrade my power source. I thought upgraded batteries were only for race cars and rich people. But after doing some simple research, I found that even “non car people” can benefit from using a better quality battery. In fact, they can even save you money in the long run.
Whether you drive a lifted Subaru on the trails, or you just use yours for a daily driver, we’ll go over some of the best possible battery options.
Table of Contents
Do Research And Get Direction Before You Begin Battery Shopping
Before you shell out your hard earned money, determine why you’re looking for a new battery. Do you just want an upgrade, or does your car need a new one because yours just died? If you’re replacing your battery because of a recent failure, determining why it failed is important before you continue with your buying decision. Was it just old and finally gave out? Was it deeply discharged too many times? Was it too underpowered for your car in the first place? Sometimes a previous owner will install a smaller battery or one with insufficient cranking amps. Simply replacing what was already in the car isn’t always the way to go. Asking these questions will help guide you as you choose your next battery.
Don’t Skimp On Battery Power
Installing an underpowered battery in your Subaru as a daily driver or an off-road rig should be avoided. It will put strain on all of your starting and charging components. After a short time of below par service, it will fail prematurely leaving you stuck on the side of the road – or worse, in the middle of nowhere. Today’s vehicles have countless electrical and computer systems on board. Your battery needs to be able to handle these demands while still powering the engine’s ignition system.
One of the quickest ways to make sure your battery has enough power for your car is to look up the CCA rating (cold cranking amps) recommended for your vehicle. CCA’s refer to the number of amps the battery can put out at 0 degrees for 30 seconds. Your owner’s manual should have a section on battery specifications. Look here first to find the recommended CCA’s. You’ll want to make sure you meet or exceed cold cranking amps when you install a replacement. If your manual doesn’t have that information, or you don’t have your manual anymore, a website like autobatteries.com can be used to get close to the OEM specs for your car. As a general rule, most Subaru batteries have at least a 360 CCA rating. You probably won’t want to go less than this. But if you like the extra security of not having your battery fail at the worst time, you might select a battery with even more than that. Also, If you have a premium sound system, off-road accessories like a winch, or a bunch of auxiliary lights, you will want to exceed the stock specifications. Personally, I chose a battery with nearly double the CCA’s than the OEM specs in my Subaru and have had zero problems using all of my accessories regardless of the temperature.
Determine If Your Current Battery Was Powerful Enough
While CCA’s aren’t the only factor in understanding a battery’s capability, it’s a great place to start. To find the cold cranking amps on almost any battery, look on the label and you’ll find “CCA” associated with a 3 digit number (usually between 300-800 in most passenger vehicles, but larger trucks can be above 1000.) For example, the Full Throttle AGM battery in one of my rigs says “CCA 750” right on the side of the battery. You can look on the side or top of your current battery and see if the CCA’s are visible. It’s not uncommon for them to wear off if there is a lot of corrosion or dirt. If that’s the case, you can look up your battery by the part number and see if you can determine how much power it had. Once you have that info, cross-reference it with the OEM requirements for your car. If it met or exceeded the OEM specs, you can replace your battery with something similar or upgrade to your liking. If it was underpowered, make sure you don’t replace it with the same battery or it could fail prematurely and place extra strain on your starter. It’s not uncommon for private sellers and dealerships to install the cheapest possible parts during the reconditioning process before listing a vehicle for sale. This process isn’t 100% necessary, but it can help give you some insight as to what direction you need to go.
Decide What Type Of Battery Is Best For Your Next Upgrade
Once your power specs are sorted out, the next decision to make is how much of an upgrade do you want to invest in? There are a few things to consider as you approach this: the number of accessories on the car, extreme weather conditions, off-road usage, and long periods of inactivity. If you have a winch wired up to your Subaru and a bunch of lighting, it’s best to get something overpowered and to upgrade to something manufactured by a reputable performance company. Constant power demand can shorten battery life if it’s not properly equipped to handle it. If your Subaru is a fun car and is going to be stored for weeks on end, you’ll want something that can hold a charge while in storage. High quality AGM and lithium batteries are the best option for this.
You also want to consider how much physical abuse will be placed on the battery. The vibration caused by bumpy roads or racing applications can actually damage the internal workings of a regular wet cell lead acid battery. Extreme heat and cold can also accelerate the aging process of your battery. If you drive off-road a lot and/or live in a harsh climate, an AGM or Lithium battery will typically last longer. I chose a Full Throttle FT560R for my Subaru to handle my light bar, air compressor, and my winch. The AGM technology also allows it to be more resistant against bumps and vibration.
Another reason I really wanted to upgrade to AGM was due to the fact that they can be mounted anywhere in any orientation. You can literally mount them upside down without worrying about leakage problems. Speaking of lead-acid leakage, traditional stock batteries can actually leak sulfuric acid and create a serious rust and corrosion issue on the frame of your vehicle. If this happens in your car, it can create big problems down the road since the battery usually sits right over the unibody frame rails. Not to mention, it’s just irritating to look under the hood and see rust on a car that you paid $40k for.
AGM batteries can improve performance since the internals don’t allow the electrolyte solution to slosh around within the casing of the battery. AGM stands for absorbed glass mat which means that instead of the cells being open with the conductive liquid splashing around them, the acid is actually absorbed into a separator (typically fiberglass or some type of “fabric”) that is housed against the plates. Having the electrolyte tightly against the plates at all times ensures proper internal operation. When applying the vibration, gravity, and G forces involved in things like off-roading or racing, an AGM battery is able to continue functioning properly since the electrolyte solution is not splashing around on bumpy rides or collected against one side during high speed turns.
Understand Which Type Of Battery Technology Is Right For You
Although there are some decent wet cell, or “flooded” lead-acid batteries, I simply do not put anything in my cars unless it’s AGM at minimum. I plan to try a lithium battery at some point. But for now, glass mat batteries are very affordable and have done really well for me. I simply haven’t needed to replace one. However, if I was in need of a new battery, I would explore the options out there for lithium because I really like trying new technology and lithium batteries simply cannot be matched in power and weight savings.
In the world of consumer car batteries, you have a hierarchy that looks something like this: wet cell > AGM > lithium. There are technically some other options sprinkled in there, but these are the three most common. I don’t have the technical expertise to educate most people on the differences in a technical manner. However, I will say that for the average consumer, once you get past wet cell batteries it comes down to two things: do you want to pay more now, or later? And how much do you value using premium products on your vehicles?
While AGM and lithium batteries both share the ability to be mounted in any orientation and deliver great power, lithium units are exponentially lighter and recharge very quickly. I’ve seen some lithium options up to 70% lighter than a wet cell acid battery. If you’re searching for lightweight components for your build that can last for years, a lithium battery is going to be the right choice. People have reported using lithium car batteries for a decade – and the technology is even BETTER now than it was when those units were produced. The downside of lithium batteries is that they cost more. But when you run the numbers out, they cost almost the same as replacing several cheaper units in that same time period.
With all of that said, I’m going to share a list of some of my favorite battery brands for your Subaru in no particular order. I’ve selected each of these batteries based on personal experience and on the experiences I’ve seen during my time in the commercial auto parts industry. This list explores more of the mid to high level batteries available. I personally do not use generic battery products and don’t trust them to keep me powered up when I’m a 3 hour drive from civilization. I really hope this helps as you begin the process of choosing your next battery.
Mount Your Battery Properly
Properly mounting batteries is a hugely overlooked aspect of motorsports. Even the slightest instability in your battery’s mount can cause internal damage over time and can eventually lead to the battery being physically damaged. We have heard stories of folks losing a battery during a race because it moved enough in a hard corner to damage one of the cables. We’ve heard about people’s batteries bouncing enough to cause a short and starting a fire; completely destroying years of hard work and countless dollars. Dollars that were likely not covered by insurance due to off-road or track use.
The ONLY way we’ve found to mount batteries that is worth upgrading to is the MeLe battery mount. They produce mounts for each of the batteries listed in this article and they are handmade in the USA. MeLe mounts not only hold your battery perfectly tight, but they softly pad the battery within a protective enclosure to eliminate pressure points. They can also help prevent battery damage in the event of an accident. We saw on their website that the owner of a fully-built STI managed to avoid having their car totaled after an accident because a MeLe mount helped prevent a catastrophic failure of the electrical system. If your vehicle is involved even in a minor collision and the battery grounds out and sparks, it can ignite various things like brake fluid and cause a deadly fire. The more I work on cars, the more I realize that proper battery installation and maintenance is a must.
Check out two of my MeLe mounts that house my AGM batteries securely in my car. You’ll notice that they’re tightly holding the batteries in place without applying direct pressure to any one area of the casing. This means that I’ll never have to worry about deforming the body of my battery the way I would with a traditional tie down. Both of these vehicles are used heavily for off-road trips that involve mud, rocks, snow, water, and heavy vibration. They are holding up perfectly.
Top Picks For Subaru Battery Replacements
These 6 batteries are all fantastic options. I’ve listed them in no particular order and tried to give some insight as to who they may be the best option for. If you randomly chose any of these batteries, you wouldn’t be able to make a bad decision. Check each one out and purchase the one that fits your needs the best. We promise you’ll be much better off than with a cheap parts store battery.
Great Overall Value & Lightweight AGM Battery
Braille touts themselves as the manufacturer of the lightest AGM batteries on the market. Their history in motorsports has given them a track record and reputation as a heavy hitter in the racing world. They are recognized as offering the most cranking amps per pound in the industry. Their batteries are wildly popular with hot rod owners and large displacement race car owners. With enough power to meet the demands of huge engines while still being small in size and extremely lightweight, they have become the exclusive choice for many enthusiasts.
The Braille B3121 weighs only 21 pounds and has more than enough cranking amps to get you started regardless of the temperature. It is very compact and will fit nicely in your Crosstrek, Outback, or Forester engine bay neatly. It will likely be much smaller than your current battery. A great way to mount these is with a MeLe 900 Series Rally Spec box. MeLe also sells these batteries so you can have them both arrive safely to your home at the same time.
While it’s not quite as light as a lithium battery, it is very impressive that Braille was able to create such an affordable AGM battery that’s so light. At less than $300, the B3121 is the perfect battery for anyone who values weight savings and the reliability of absorbed glass mat technology.
Braille uses extremely high-quality components and pure lead to produce their batteries. This means they can stand up to serious demand and last for years. If you plan to install additional lights and accessories, this battery should perform very well with the extra power demand.
Check out this video of an even smaller B2618 being installed in a Mustang race car. If that thing can power a 5.0 Mustang for daily driving, the B3121 will be more than enough to get you around in your Subaru!
XS Power D1200
Best Alternate Fit AGM Battery For Large Sound Systems & Racing Applications
XS Power has been around since 2005 and continues to push the standard of quality to new levels. With 100% virgin lead used in the production of their batteries, you can count on them to have the best possible energy storage when compared to recycled lead units. XSP has managed to create extremely efficient batteries that are smaller and weigh less than most flooded batteries while being even more powerful.
Their main market is racing and competition car audio. Batteries used in both of these applications need to be capable of delivering high bursts of power while resisting vibration. The abilities that make the D1200 perfect for racing and competition car audio makes it perfect for the demands of anyone planning to off-road their Subaru. If you’re wanting to make a little extra room in your engine bay without sacrificing power, the XS Power D1200 may be the right option for you and it costs under $299.
Full Throttle FT750-35
Great Pick For Overall Value And Good Fit
Full Throttle is the motorsports division of Full River Battery and they have quickly become one of my favorite manufacturers. While most battery brands out there are all the same and produced in one single factory with a different sticker placed on them, Full River manufactures and assembles all of their own batteries. Instead of dealing with cheaply cast plates and grids, Full Throttle batteries are made in-house with little room for error. I have experienced this first hand as each FT battery I’ve owned has delivered consistent results no matter the conditions.
The FT750-35 is great for Subarus since it matches in the stock battery size. Full Throttle also produces alternate sizes if your newer Subaru requires it. It delivers far more power than needed by your vehicle. This means you can confidently run all your accessories regardless of the conditions. My FT750 powers my winch and all of my accessories perfectly without issue.
If you want testament to the reliability of these batteries, consider this: they’re trusted by some of the biggest names in the side by side (UTV) community to keep their vehicles powered even in the middle of nowhere. Side by sides are regularly subjected to serious physical abuse and then long periods of storage.
The Full Throttle lineup has something perfect for most drivers. It’s very affordable, and will last longer than a mass-produced generic battery. For me, the long term savings of upgrading to an AGM Full Throttle was well worth the extra $100.
Antigravity Group-35 Lithium Battery
Great Value For Direct-Fit Lithium Battery
If money were no object, lithium batteries would be the ONLY battery I’d use. They’re roughly twice the price of a comparable AGM battery but deliver the same, if not more power while weighing a fraction of your average car battery. In fact, the Group 35 weighs only 16 lbs. And will fit perfectly within your Subaru’s battery tray.
One thing that can be extremely overlooked in motorsports is weight savings. Those of us who take our Subarus off-road need to save every bit of weight that we possibly can. This is also true for anyone with a WRX, BRZ, or STi that tracks their car. If you need a lightweight battery, lithium is the way to go. You no longer have to relocate your battery or run something underpowered to shed a few pounds off your battery.
Lithium batteries also make it much easier to fit additional accessories under the hood. Since these batteries can be smaller and more powerful, you can utilize them to fit things like bigger intercooler piping, extra breaker boxes, and even secondary batteries under the hood. The Group 35 AG battery is regular size but they also offer some smaller casings with ample power if extra space under the hood is what you need.
We also can’t mention Antigravity without talking about the Re-Start technology. This AG battery holds a reserve of power regardless of how low you drain it so that if your battery dies, you can simply hit the re-start jump button and “boom” it jumpstarts your car. This is SO convenient if you’re someone that ventures out into the forest alone. We doubt you’d manage to drain one of these. But if you did, the Re-Start tech is just one more little feature that makes this battery a no-brainer if you want to outfit your Subaru with the best parts available.
Yes, this battery costs a tad under $800 on the MeLe Design Firm website. However, there have been reports of people using older Antigravity lithium batteries for over 10 years. Their quality has gotten even better and more affordable as the technology becomes more easy to produce at scale. We expect to see people using these for a decade plus. $800 for a reliable lightweight battery once every 10 years sounds great compared to $165 every 2 years.
Odyssey Extreme PC1200 (ODS-AGM42A)
Readily Available US-Made AGM Battery
Some of the performance batteries you might find are going to be more of a “boutique” item that can take a couple days to find. However, if you need something RIGHT now because your battery has failed, the Odyssey Extreme series can be found in many brick and mortar parts stores. The best prices are usually found online but if you need one today, most Autozone stores have them in stock or can get one for you within a day.
The 1200 has 540 CCA’s to keep you powered up regardless of the weather and a 78 minute reserve capacity to keep your accessories running in the backcountry. This battery should drop right in and fit your stock battery location. However, Odyssey also offers many group sizes if you need something very specific or are planning to relocate your battery to a different area. We recommend using a MeLe 1200 series rally spec battery mount for this battery.
Braille ML30C Lithium Battery
Best Money-No-Object Battery
We just discussed the Braille AGM batteries and spoke about how light they are. Their lithium batteries are even more lightweight and more powerful. The ML30C delivers an insane 1905 hot cranking amps and weighs less than your average house cat. At only 9 pounds and less than 7 inches tall, the ML30C can be neatly installed in your engine bay to power your car for years.
Old Braille lithium batteries have been known to last for over 10 years on customer vehicles. It’s no surprise that the engineers at Ford chose them as the stock battery for the Ford GT. Braille has also been the battery of choice for the Corvette Racing team for almost a decade. While you may end up spending a decent amount on this battery, it is sure to last and power every accessory you throw at it. Braille also ships these batteries with the proper charger to keep your lithium battery healthy (do not use your regular battery charger on a lithium car battery.)
If you prefer installing only the best parts and plan to modify your Subaru heavily, this is the battery for you. It can be mounted in your car however you like. But we suggest protecting this investment with a MeLe Design Firm battery mounting box. Their 900 series rally spec fits the ML30C perfectly and holds it snug to keep it safe regardless of the conditions. We run these mounts in all of our cars.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I have to use the same battery that came in my Subaru?
You don’t need to use the same exact battery as what came in your car. While you never want to go with less power than what your stock Subaru battery had, you can certainly upgrade to something with more power and cranking amps. A completely different group size can even be installed if you like as long as you verify that the new dimensions will fit in your desired battery location.
Can I use an AGM or Lithium battery if my Subaru came with a traditional wet cell battery?
As long as the AGM or Lithium battery of your choice has enough power to run your vehicle and all of the accessories, you can certainly install it in place of a regular flooded lead-acid battery. In fact, it will power your vehicle more efficiently. However, if your vehicle came from the factory with an AGM battery (many European manufacturers are using glass mat batteries for their models) you should not downgrade to a wet cell battery.
This article is not intended to be the be-all end-all of battery knowledge. But we hope it gives you some confidence as you select your next battery upgrade. You cannot make a poor choice with any of these batteries. These are brands and batteries that we would put in our own mom’s car without hesitation. Unless you are building your car for a specific high-demand motorsport, even the least powerful battery on this list will be leaps and bounds better than anything you would pick up at your local parts store.
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