Jump starter has one main purpose – to work when you need it. Stranded in the middle of the night, miles from the closest mechanic or even another car. You need something that won’t let you down and will work in all conditions when your battery got depleted or died entirely. Most batteries last for about two to five years. After that, your battery needs to be replaced. Failure to do so will lead to unwanted situations–you might not be able to start your car just when you need to leave badly. We have reviewed the best car battery jump starters to make sure you don’t end up buying junk that will leave you stranded. If you are after something small, we have also looked into the best portable jump boxes that fit in a glove compartment or a backpack.
Best jump starters
The higher the peak amps, the more power the jump starter battery can feed in a hurry to your low battery to boost it for starting.
Cranking Amps (CA)
Amount of power that a battery can discharge for 30 seconds at 32° F (0° C). It really is the amount of power you need to start your engine on any weather except winter.
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA)
Number of amps that a battery can push out for 30 seconds at 0° F without dropping under 7.2 Volts.
Be it for a truck, car, RV, motorbike or a boat, once in a while the battery just gives in and you need a reliable helper that gets you out of a potential trouble.
The Basics and Jumpstarter Buying Guide
If you’ve ever been stranded on the side of the road with a flat battery, you’ll already know what jump starters are as you probably looked into them. For anyone unfamiliar, let us introduce you to the jump starter. The concept is rather simple really. It’s like a normal car battery, except it’s portable, so you can carry it around everywhere. You won’t use it 99 percent of the time, but it will come more than handy when you actually do need to use it. As most flat batteries happen when you least expect them, for instance, a road trip or when in a rush, the only other alternative to the jump start battery are jumper cables. The problem with jumper cables is that you’re left at the mercy of a kind fellow motorist to lend you their battery so you can jump start your car. That’s not always possible, nor is it fast.
Jump starters are relatively small and they don’t occupy a lot of space, so you can carry them around with you all the time. What’s more, most of them have lots of other practical and functional uses and features, but choosing the right one can be overwhelming if you’re not too familiar with the subject.
To help you choose the right one, we’ve put together this buying guide.
1. Battery Type and Power
Most cars have a 12-volt battery, but older, classic vehicles use a 6-volt battery, and so do certain tractors. Check your battery’s voltage and buy a matching jump starter battery.
As far as power goes, the more the better. The battery needs to have sufficient peak amps, as well as cranking amps to start your car. Most cars require modest power to start, but vehicles equipped with bigger factory batteries such as luxury limos and off-roaders might need a more powerful jump starter. Try to go for a jump starter with 900 Peak Amps or even more, and 225 or more cranking amps. Again, make sure to pay attention to your own car battery and match the cranking amps.
2. Main Features
Although you use it to jump start your car, the jump starter needs to be recharged as well. Obviously, it will keep its charge much better than your phone for instance, but it does have its limits. Things like colder temperatures affect how well the battery holds its charge as well. Most jump starters have an AC cord for charging, but consult your jump starter manual to ensure you always keep it fully charged. The last thing you want is a flat car battery AND a flat jump starter.
Jump starters are usually safe, and wouldn’t kill you even if you were to really mess things up, but for your sake, choose one which has heavy duty insulated clamps. Often, you’ll be jump starting the car in less than ideal conditions (rain, dirt, dust inside the engine bay), and a well-insulated clamp protects you from unwanted shocks. It’s not something a lot of people think about, but it definitely makes sense.
The cable length is not an issue in most cases, especially when your car battery is located right at the front of the engine bay, but for added flexibility as well as safety, try to find one with a three-foot cable at the minimum. You also won’t get dirty by resting on the car, as you won’t have to stretch as much to adjust and set up everything.
Weight isn’t as important as the above features, but it does make a difference in certain cases. If you’re not using the jump starter often, choose a lighter unit with fewer accessories. Of course, that way you won’t have them should you need them, but as with everything, you have to compromise here too.
3. Optional features
Not a lot of people know this, but most jump starters have a power outlet for added convenience. As it’s a portable device with the capability of easy recharging, a jump starter is an excellent travel companion. You can use it to temporarily power all of your electronic devices. Video players, laptops, mobile phones, MP3 players… you name it. If you’re planning on using it as a power source, get one with both an AC and a DC outlet, so you cover the lot.
Most modern vehicles don’t have lights under the hood. As nearly 50% of breakdowns happen during night time, it’s not a bad idea to consider a jump starter with a built-in light. This eliminates the necessity to carry a traditional light, saving you space, in addition to being all-round more versatile.
High-end, more expensive jump starters have a built-in air compressor, which although not a necessary feature, might save you frustration as well as money. If you happen to have a flat, and the spare isn’t there (or it’s flat too), the air compressor can inflate your tire with relative ease. When the leak is too big, an air compressor might not make a big difference, but in most cases you can inflate the tire and limp to the nearest shop or even home.
The last feature is more of a luxury, but it can come in handy none the less. You won’t find it on a lot of jump starters, but those equipped with a built-in radio do offer one extra feature. If we’re completely honest, you’ll hardly ever use the radio, if at all, simply because you only break out the jump starter for a quick bump start, but it has its uses. If you’re stuck with a mechanical problem on the side of the road, or an issue not related to the battery, you can use the radio to pass the time as well as keep track of events.
We hope this article helped you decide on a jump starter perfect for your needs. Keep this space on your radar as the next article will teach you how to properly use a jump starter.
Knowing how to use a jump starter when you need it is equally important as having one.
7 tips how to use a jump starter correctly.
1. Jump Starting
When jump starting a car battery that died, you often need to leave the jump starter attached for 10 seconds (or longer) to accumulate enough of a charge in your car’s battery. Wait 10 seconds between jump attempts as well. Just remember:
a) The jump starter usually needs over 50% charge to jump start.
b) Connect the jump starter directly to the battery terminals. Do not try to extend the cable length with a regular set of jumper cables.
c) DISCONNECT within 10 seconds of the car starting if at all possible. But don’t worry: the majority of jump starters have a built-in protection feature to shut it off if left connected too long after the car starts (see # 2 below).
2. After jump starting
After jumping a car battery, the jump starter’s safety features occasionally kick in, rendering it inoperative until reset. We highly suggest that AFTER any jump start you disconnect the Jump starter and then check its charge level. If the charge level is low, simply plug it into a house AC outlet, or use the car adapter (cigarette lighter). The jump starter should reset itself and become functional as soon as it has sufficient charge. When there is adequate charge you can then unplug and use it again immediately. If you have your DC adapter for the jump starter (fits the cigarette lighter), you may be able to perform this reset with the vehicle you just jump started! Just make sure the car is running.
3. Protective cover
In some cases, the protective cover (rubber flap) for the jump start cable connection may be very difficult to open when fully shut. You need a thin, pointed object to pry it open from the rounded end. Just be careful not to damage the connector inside. I suggest trimming a little off the end of this rubber cover so you can more quickly open the cover with a fingernail or car key. Be sure not to cut the rubber protrusions inside, because they are designed to protect the 12v connector.
4. LED light
With some jump starters you must HOLD the power button for 1-2 seconds to cycle through each of the LED torch modes (on, strobe, SOS, off).
5. USB charging
When attaching devices to the USB charging port( s), be sure to briefly press the Jump starter’s switch or your device may not be charged. The Jump starter’s charge lights will come on indicating its battery level, but one of them will show RED. This implies you are in USB charging mode. When all USB devices are completely charged, the Jump starter will cut power to the USB slots and go into standby mode. To resume charging, simply press the Jump starter’s button once again.
6. Recharging the jump starter
Recharging your jump starter is similar to any mobile phone or ipad: plug it into an AC outlet, or your car’s DC electrical outlet (cigarette lighter) and wait for it to be charged fully. In some cases, the Jump starter seems to get “stuck” at the last charging stage (last 1 or 2 bars still flashing). If you disconnect the Jump starter charging cord, then reconnect it and wait a minute, you might find the battery is fully charged.
7. READ the owner’s manual.
This describes how to correctly use the Jump Starter. It usually has recommended TEMPERATURES for use and storing. Do not store in direct sunlight inside a hot car!
Bear in mind that the jump starters are NOT designed to operate 12-volt devices and can not substitute your car battery. They are intended to provide charging power TO the BATTERY in your car or device. This is why a dead car battery may not crank the instant you connect the Jump starter. It needs a little bit of time to push energy to the battery.
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