Getting into your car and finding out the battery’s dead can really throw a wrench in your day. If you believe jumper cables are the only solution to that problem, think again. Portable jump starters will get your car going without needing another vehicle for a jump, making them a lot more convenient to use than jumper cables. These devices are compact enough to fit inside your glove box and give you a solution to jump start your vehicle in the case of an emergency.
Portable jump starters have become more popular in recent years, and many of them can also serve as a battery bank for your devices. That means it can serve as a portable charger to keep your phone or tablet fully charged on the go. In other words, they aren’t just there to jump start your car, they can serve another purpose.
There are plenty of options out there, and some of their specifications may look like a mix of random numbers and letters to you. We’re here to give you all the details you need to know about the best portable jump starters, so you can add this valuable tool to your car emergency kit.
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Purchasing a jump starter requires a lot of research. Take a look at the factors you need to look into before buying one.
Power output is how much current the jump starter supplies. You’ll want your starter to have enough power to restart your battery and get the engine to take over the recharging. The owner’s manuals of your car and battery will tell you how much power is needed.
Depending on the jump starter, power output is expressed in one of three ways.
Cranking amps (CA) is the jump starter’s starting power at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold Cranking Amps
Cold cranking amps (CCA) measures its power at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This measurement is more important if you live in the North, where you may have to jump your car in cold weather.
Peak amps is the maximum amount of power the battery inside the jump starter can supply to the battery inside your car. This number is less helpful than CA or CCA, but some jump starter manufacturers only give you this number. A general rule of thumb is that a higher peak amps is better.
You’ll want a jump starter that matches the voltage of your car battery. The average car takes a battery with 12 volts. However, if you drive a truck or larger vehicle, your battery might be 24 volts.
Jump starters can range from 20-30 pounds to 1-2 pounds. If you drive a sedan and don’t have much room for a jump starter, you may want a smaller one. However, if you drive a heavy duty vehicle and need a jump starter with more power, opt for the larger one.
The battery in your jump starter will either be lead-acid or lithium, which will affect the size of the starter.
Lead-acid batteries have been around for years and are more durable and powerful than lithium batteries. However, they are bulky, making for a larger jump starter.
This type of battery is found in more compact jump starters that only weigh a few pounds. Because of their small size, they are easy to store in your car. They can also be used as a portable charger for phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronics. The downside to this type is that they are usually less powerful. Manufacturers are starting to come out with more powerful ones, but they are more expensive than lead-acid ones with the same power output.
Like we mentioned in the previous section, new jump starters that have lithium batteries typically offer more functions than just restarting a dead car battery. They typically have USB ports that act as portable chargers for electronics. If this sounds like a feature you want, look into a lithium jump starter.
Your jump starter will come with cables that you attach to the battery terminals to send electricity from the starter to the battery. Most experts recommend getting cables that are 12 feet long. However, you may want shorter or longer ones depending on if you want to place the jump starter on the ground or keep it in the engine bay while jumping.
Each jump starter battery will have a different mode of charging. The most common modes include an electrical outlet, a USB port, and solar panels. Before purchasing a jump starter, you’ll want to decide which mode works best for you and your car.
As you can tell, portable jump starters have a variety of specifications that could make it tricky to determine the right one for your vehicle. What you need to know is that jump starter power is typically noted in cold cranking amps (CCA) or peak amps (PA). To measure CCA, a fully charged battery is put in a cold environment—0°F—and determining how many amps it discharges for 30 seconds. This value explains what to expect from a battery in the worst starting conditions.
It’s true that the more amps a jump starter offers, the more powerful it is. But does that mean you should just purchase the most powerful product? Not necessarily.
What’s important is determining just how much power you need for your vehicle. Compact cars or even small sedans can be jump started with as little as 150 CCA, while full-size trucks and SUVs need around 450 CCA. But there are other things to consider, such as engine size and how old the vehicle is. Larger engines and older vehicles will require more amps to jump start, which is why you will typically see powerful jump starters advertised as being capable of starting engines as large as 8.0L. Generally however, 400-500 CCA is adequate to start most vehicles.
Keep in mind there may be times you have to help jump start someone else’s vehicle. Most of the products on this list will cover any passenger vehicle on the road today, but it never hurts to have something more powerful at your disposal, if you’re willing to spend the extra money.
Every person should know how to jump-start a dead car battery — it’s just a useful life skill to have. Knowing how to jump a car will save you time and money so you don’t have to call a tow truck. While most people will wave down a passerby or call a friend to help with the jump, drivers can save even more time and do it themselves if they have a portable jump starter in their trunk at all times.
But if that’s not an option, here is a step-by-step illustrated and easy-to-follow guide on safely jump starting your car the traditional way. Bookmark this page on your phone so you have it handy in case of an emergency.
How to Tell If the Car Battery is Dead
Before you equip yourself with jump-starting skills, it’s critical to establish that the battery is the actual reason the automobile won’t start. If you turn on the ignition and the engine makes a cranking noise, a dead battery is not the problem and jump-starting it will be a futile exercise. Conversely, if the car is totally dead upon turning the key and there’s no noise, then it’s highly likely that you have a dead battery in your vehicle and jump-starting it is perhaps the only option.
How to Jump a Car Battery
Can I use a jump starter on any vehicle?
As long as the jump starter’s power output and voltage meet the specifications of the car battery and engine, you can use the starter on any vehicle.
How long should you jump a car for?
This depends on the jump starter, your car battery, and the temperature. The lower the power output of your jump starter, the longer it will take to jump your car. The same is true of a battery that is closer to being dead. It may also take longer to jump your car in cold temperatures.
Can you jump start a car in the rain?
Yes. While it is unpleasant to jump a car in the rain, it is unlikely that you will be electrocuted. Your car’s electrical system is only on 12 volts. This is much lower than the 120 volts of electricity you get in your home that can electrocute you.
Can jump starting damage my car?
As long as you follow the instructions for jump starting your car and use a jump starter with a power output and voltage that meet your vehicle’s needs, you will not damage your car.
Even if you don’t know anything about car jump starter, you can still make a smart buying decision with the right information in hand. At US Expert Locks, we perform extensive research in every product category. To avoid bias, we always decline offers from manufacturers for “free” samples. We want to be your go-to source for honest, thorough product reviews you can trust.