Portable jump starters can prove vital in getting you home safely when car trouble hits. The ability to jump start a car without needing another vehicle is extremely valuable and should not be overlooked. Simply charge up your jump starter and you can feel safe in the knowledge that you have the ability to get your vehicle moving again if its battery goes flat. In addition, jump starters can be used to charge smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices as well as performing other incredibly useful tasks like signaling with lights and even inflating tires with built-in compressors. Here’s our guide to nine of the best jump starters on the market, ranging from extremely compact and lightweight up to heavy-duty professional-grade.
Best Rated Jump Starters in 2018:
Jump-N-Carry JNC660 1700 Peak
Clore Automotive’s JNC660 provides reliable high output power for jump starting engines in difficult conditions. Built for automotive applications with PROFORMER battery technology, the JNC660 promises a long service life and comes with 46 inch heavy duty copper insulated jumper cables. Clore recommends charging the JNC660’s battery every 30 days to keep it in its best possible condition so that you can rely on it in times of need.
1700 Peak amps, 425 cranking amps
Built in voltmeter shows battery charge level
DC outlet to power 12 volt accessories
- BrandClore Automotive
- Weight18 lbs
Reliable jump starter
Professional-grade construction and performance
Excellent battery technology
Very easy to use
A little bit heavy
Some issues about durability
DBPOWER 600A 18000 mAh Jump Starter
DBPOWER’s DJS50 comes ready for any and all charging/jump starting duties with 600 amps of peak storage packed into a compact and lightweight casing. The DJS50 is capable of jump starting engines up to 6.5L (gasoline) or 5.3L (diesel) and comes with heavy duty terminal clamps and cables. In addition to its USB charging capabilities the DJS50 comes equipped with a compass to assist in navigation during stressful situations. Protection against short circuits, overloads and overcharging comes as standard.
Up to 30 jump starts on one charge
USB charging and LCD battery charge display
Compact enough to store in a glove box
- Weight1.1 lbs
Compact and lightweight yet powerful
Array of electrical safety features
Easy-to-use and easy-to-read LCD
Some concerns about durability
Beatit 800A Peak 18000 mAh Jump Starter
The Beatit BT-D11 comes with the grunt to jump start engines up to 7.0L (gasoline) and 5.5L (diesel) in a compact package. Much like the DJS50, Beatit’s offering is small and light enough to fit inside an average glove box and comes with a raft of short-circuit, overload, and overcharge protections. Featuring twin USB fast chargers, the BT-D11 is capable of charging smartphones and other electronic devices twice as fast as other common power banks. A 2-year warranty rounds out the list of features.
800 amps peak current, 18,000 mAh battery capacity
Up to 30 jump starts on a single charge
Dual USB charging ports, built-in flashlight
Recharges in 5.5 hours with the included charger
- Weight1.19 lbs
Portable and lightweight
Safe and easy to use
Can be used on a variety of devices
Useful emergency roadside features
Some users claim it doesn’t work
Issues with dependability and durability
NOCO Genius Boost Plus Jump Starter
Safety is the name of the game for NOCO’s Genius Boost Plus GB40. The 1000 amps capacity jump starter is designed to be mistake proof, eliminating sparking to provide a safe start every time. Packing enough juice for its USB charging port to fill up four smartphones on a single charge, it is also capable of jump starting gasoline engines up to 6 litres and diesel engines up to 3 litres. As an added safety feature, the GB40 features a bright 100 lumen LED flashlight with 7 modes including SOS and emergency strobe.
Up to 20 jump starts on a single charge
Spark-proof design and polarity protection make connecting to any battery safe
12v output, USB charging capability
- Weight2.4 lbs
Ingenious pocket size design
Multiple device applications
Secure electrical safety features
Great value for its price
Some units came defective out of the box
No manufacturer’s warranty
STANLEY FATMAX J7CS Jump Starter
Stanley’s FatMax J7CS takes the jump starter game to the next level by incorporating an onboard air compressor which allows you to inflate flat tyres by the side of the road. In addition to its triple USB charging outlets, the J7CS comes equipped with a reverse polarity warning system featuring an LED indicator light and an audible alarm to advise you when your connections are round the wrong way. A built-in high-powered 270 degree pivoting flashlight means you’ll be able to see what you’re doing when jump starting or inflating a tire at night.
350 instant/700 peak battery amps
120 psi onboard compressor with backlit pressure gauge
Triple 3.1 amp USB outlets
12v power outlet
- Weight10.6 lbs
Brand image dependability and trustworthiness
Powerful air compressor
Electrical safety features
Robust build quality
Lead acid batteries require maintenance
Peak current may not be sufficient for multiple uses
May easily tip over
GOOLOO 450A Peak Car Jump Starter
GOOLOO’s E-Power 03 comes ready to jump start gasoline engines up to 4 litres and diesel engines up to 2.5 litres with its 450 amps of peak current and heavy duty cables and connectors. Featuring 10,000 mAh battery capacity it can charge smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices with up to 2 amps of power. The E-Power 03 comes with a built-in LED flashlight and is backed up by an 18 month extended warranty. Also included is a 30 day money-back guarantee and 24/7 friendly and helpful customer service.
High-rate Lithium Ion polymer battery cell
450 amps of peak current
Short-circuit protection, overload protection, overcharge and over voltage protection
Functions from -20c to 60c
- ModelE-POWER 03
- Weight12.8 ounces
Clean, modern, compact, and lightweight design
Very safe to handle and operate
Can be used to power other devices
Multiple electrical safety protections
Jumper cables are ‘thinner’ than others
A few issues with product reliability
TENKER 500A 10800 mAh Jump Starter
TENKER’s A11 packs large charging and jump starting power into a tiny package, with dimensions of 5.7 by 3.23 by 0.98 inches. The A11 also comes with dual quick charging ports in the form of QC3.0 and Type-C outputs. Featuring a wide range of safety protections, the A11 can be relied upon to help you out of unfortunate situations while keeping you and your vehicle in good condition. Its built-in multifunctional LED flashlight ensures you’ll be able to see what you’re doing and be seen by others once the sun goes down.
500 amps peak power
10,800 mAh capacity
Short-circuit, overload, over charge, over voltage protections built in
Extremely compact, lightweight and portable
- Weight1.66 lbs
Sleek, lightweight, and compact design
Delivers ample current in a slim package
Capable of charging other gadgets and devices
Useful emergency LED flashlight
Various electrical safety mechanisms
Jumper cables and clamps feel very flimsy
Quite expensive for its technical specs
Schumacher PSJ-2212 Jump Starter
Schumacher’s PSJ-2212 brings professional-grade capability to the jump starter market. There are no restrictions on engine capacity here; the PSJ-2212 packs the power to start them all with its 330 amp cranking capacity and 22 Ah industrial-strength power pack. It’s been built to last too. Heavy duty clamps feature replaceable copper jaws so that they PSJ-2212 can continue to soldier on long after they wear out. Features and foresight like that indicate the excellent quality of the rest of the product.
2200 peak amps
High output AGM battery
12 volt DC power outlet
Universal capability, can be used on all vehicles
- Weight27 lbs
Exceptional cranking power
Professional-grade performance and construction
Stable and sturdy base
High-output AGM battery technology
Automatic charging system for easier recharging
Heavier than most portable jump starters
A few units with reliability issues
DBPOWER 500A Jump Starter
The DJS60-2 blends heavy duty materials with lightweight construction to provide reliable charging and jump starting whenever you need it. Backed up by a 3-year warranty, the DJS60-2 can be stored in a glove box and has the capability to jump start gasoline engines up to 3.0 litres and diesel engines up to a displacement of 2.5 litres 20 times on a single charge. You needn’t worry about your smartphone going flat with the DJS60-2 around as it features a smart USB port which will have you topped up on power as quickly as possible. Features include a variety of safety precautions and an LCD screen displaying the remaining battery charge.
400 amps of peak current
Smart charging and USB ports with 12,000 mAh capacity
Spray gold clamps with built in short-circuit, overload, over-voltage and over-charge protection
Heavy duty cables and clamps
- Weight1.32 pounds
Sleek, ultra-modern, compact design
Powerful charging mechanism
Can charge other gadgets
Good overall electrical protection
Jumper cables are a bit flimsy
Reliability issues in some units
JACO BoostPro Car Battery Jump Starter
More than a simple jump starter for any kind of vehicle, the BoostPro comes in as a reliable source of power for any device that either runs on a 12-volt battery or has USB mechanism. This makes the BoostPro an admirable compact product that one can depend on whether it is for outdoor or indoor use. Its 16500mAh battery should provide enough juice to power up one’s multitude of devices at home, work, or out in the field while giving you that kind of roadside emergency backup should your car’s battery stops your vehicle dead on its track.
The emergency LED light is a good addition to boost the under-the-hood assessment in low light conditions. It’s rugged and should last the lifetime of your vehicle, too.
Combination jump starter and power bank
600A peak current with 16500 mAh battery capacity
Multiple applications; not only for vehicles
Powers gas and diesel vehicles up to 25-30 times
- BrandJACO Superior Products
- Weight3.02 lbs
Portable, lightweight, and compact design
Multipurpose power supply
Multiple road emergency features
A few issues about durability
CAT CJ3000 Professional Jump Starter
Known for its excellence in heavy machinery one can always rely on the engineering ingenuity of CAT builders especially with the CJ3000. It’s not really light, coming in at about 23.5 pounds. But, its bulk more than underscores its ability to get your car re-started after stopping dead on the road.
Emergency light features should also help augment your emergency roadside early warning device so oncoming motorists can also be forewarned of a stalled vehicle on the curb. Inside its tough shell is an AGM technology that delivers peak amperage of 2000, while guaranteeing instant amps of 1000; perfect when you need to bring your car’s battery back to life. At the very least, you’ll have that much current delivered into your car’s battery for an instant revival.
AGM internal battery
1000 instant amps; 2000 peak
Integrated power switch
12-volt accessory DC outlet
Reverse polarity alarm
- Weight23.5 lbs
Tough and rugged construction
High amperage rating
Easy to use with roadside safety features
A little bit on the heavier side
Issues with reliability
Imazing Portable Car Jump Starter
There’s plenty of reasons why folks consider the Imazing really amazing. While it is designed as a highly portable car jump starter that can easily bring your car’s battery back to life whether you’re driving a diesel or gas powered vehicle, the Imazing also comes in as a venerable power bank. It performs 6 different functions all packed into one neat device. For car owners, however, it’s the 1200 amps of peak current that they need to jump start their cars, complete with heavy-duty cables and clamps. Handling this much power can be dangerous.
Thankfully, the Imazing has integrated a bevy of electrical safety features that help guard against short circuits, overcharging, overheating, over discharging, and reverse charging. It’s got reverse polarity and revers connection protection, too. And if all else fails you can always reset everything with its dedicated reset button.
1200A peak current
12000 mAh high-capacity battery
6-in-1 multifunction design
Smart charging and quick charging 3.0 system
Electrical safety protection mechanisms
Emergency LED flashlight
- Weight2.82 lbs
Powerful jump starter in a compact and lightweight design
Jump starter and power bank configuration
Advanced electrical safety features
Battery capacity not as high-capacity as other products
Bolt Power NO2 1200 Amp Pear 12-Volt Car Battery Jump Starter
Weighing in at a measly 1.3 pounds, the Bolt Power Beast comes in as a portable solution to your car jump starting needs. It possesses enough power to bring your car’s battery back to life or any other 12V battery for that matter. The heavy-duty jumper cables have been strengthened to make sure you get the best oomph for your power needs while also doubling as a handy pocket power bank your USB powered devices can rely on. And when you find yourself in the middle of the road at night with your battery dead on its tracks, you’ll find the LED flashlight of the Beast to be especially handy.
There’s a bevy of protections against electrical problems, too so you’ll feel a lot safer handling the Beast. The large LCD display should keep you abreast of the Beast’s overall performance.
1200A peak current
Cold cranking amps: 600
Start cranking amps: 800
Quick charge 3.0 power bank
Built-in LED flashlight with 3 modes
Electrical safety mechanisms
- BrandBolt Power
- Weight1.3 lbs
Lightweight, compact, and portable
Powerful jump starter
Secure electrical safety features
A few issues with reliability
Some complaints about mediocre customer service
Arteck Car Jump Starter
If you’ve got a vehicle that has a maximum engine displacement of 2.5 liters you don’t really need to spend that much to get your car up and running again if ever its battery has gone dead. This portable car jump starter will only cost you about ten Big Macs from McDonalds and you’ll already have a more worry-free travel. One thing that is quite surprising with the Arteck is just how compact, slim, and light it is.
Unlike similar products that come in at several pounds, this jump starter weighs in at a measly 8.5 ounces or half a pound. There’s always a downside, of course. Since the Arteck only comes with 8000 mAh of battery power, its output only maxes out at 300 amperes. It should still be enough to power your batteries, though, but don’t expect it to power an entire fleet.
300A peak current
8000 mAh capacity battery
Built-in LED flashlight with 3 modes
Dual USB charging functionality
- Weight8.5 oz
Lightweight, portable, and compact design
Dual functionality as a jump starter and USB power bank
Fast charging times
Electrical safety features
Very friendly price
300A peak current may not be considered by some as sufficient
Maximum engine support displacement a bit lower than other brands
Clore Automotive Truck PAC ES1224 Jump Starter
If you don’t mind its hefty price tag you’d definitely want the Clore to be the sole provider of bring-battery-back-to-life services on your vehicle. Its heavy-duty construction is just one of its amazing highlights, although its selectable voltage features should never be messed with. One can easily deliver electrical current of up to 3000 amperes to vehicles running on 12 volt batteries. And if you happen to have one of those rigs that run on 24-volt systems, the Clore can provide max amps at 1500.
The heavy-duty cables and industrial-grade jumper clamps are also noteworthy. Regardless of the environment your vehicle is in, whether it’s freezing cold or blistering hot, the Clore can get your wheels started in no time. At its core are two ES-Series batteries that are designed specifically for jump starting heavy vehicles and equipment. The Clore truly is one of the best vehicle jump starters you can ever buy.
3000A peak current at 12V
1500A peak current at 24V
ES Series vehicle jump starting batteries
60-inch 2-Gauge jumper cables
Hot jaw, industrial-grade clamps
Advanced Warning System
Automatic recharging mechanism
- BrandClore Automotive
- Weight40 lbs
Powerful jump starting mechanism
Selectable voltage jump starting system
Designed specifically for jump starting any kind of vehicle
Heavy-duty and extra-safe cables and clamps
Stable and durable design
Exceptionally heavy at 40 pounds
POTEK Portable Power Source
This is one car jump starter that is as useful in your home as it is in your vehicle. With a power inverter technology embedded into its design, the POTEK can easily power up your 115-volt home appliances while still giving enough energy to your 12-volt devices. And when your battery simply has given up on you, you can still bring it back to life with the POTEK’s instant current amperage of 750; although you can easily crank it up to 1500 amperes. The jumper cables and clamps are made of heavy-duty materials making sure you get the most efficient jump start for your car.
One of the things that folks love about the POTEK is its built-in air compressor that can deliver compressed air to your tires in the event that you’ve run flat. It can get noisy, though. The good news is that it can inflate your tires up to 150 PSI. Recharging the POTEK is also made simpler whether you decide to plug it into your electrical outlet or right through your car’s cigarette adaptor. The POTEK Portable Power Source is the kind of emergency solution that all car owners simply have to have inside their trunk.
750A instant current
1500A peak current
150 PSI air compressor
18AH lead acid battery
AC / DC charging capability
- Weight18.08 lbs
Powerful car jump starter
Power inverter capabilities
Multiple emergency tools in one kit
Stable, rugged, and heavy-duty construction
Multiple electrical safety features
Air pressure gauge may not be large enough for some people
Air compressor can be very noisy
Jump Starter Buying Guide & FAQ
What is a Jump Starter?
A jump starter is essentially a large battery that takes the place of another running vehicle when your vehicle’s battery goes flat and needs to be restarted. When a car’s engine is running normally a small electrical generator mounted on the engine (known as an alternator) charges the battery and provides electricity to run accessories like the lights, heating/cooling systems, and radio. It also provides the power for the engine’s spark plugs to fire which in turn ignites the fuel/air mixture within the cylinders and allows the engine to turn over. When a car’s battery goes flat or runs out of electricity none of these processes can take place and the car cannot start.
Before the advent of jump starters restarting the vehicle would require electrical power from the battery of another running vehicle whose battery was not flat. Jump starters remove the need for this other vehicle as they provide the necessary electricity to get the car started again and therefore generating electricity from the alternator.
Portability is a major benefit of jump starters and they often perform other functions that are useful to a stranded motorist. Many jump starters come equipped with flashlights that can be used to see clearly at night and, if necessary, a signal for help from other motorists. In addition, many jump starters serve as portable charging stations for smartphones and other electronics. Some jump starters even contain onboard air compressors to reinflate tires that are low on air. A good jump starter is a brilliant item to keep in your car just in case you ever find yourself stranded with nobody else around.
Features to Look for when Buying a Jump Starter
When buying a jump starter it’s important to make sure that the one you choose has the strength to get your car or truck started again. Bigger engines naturally require more power to turn over so it’s vital to ensure that the starter that you choose is up to the task of getting you moving again. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that you buy a quality jump starter that will hold its charge for a long period of time. After all, it would be terrible to have one with you in a time of need only to have it fail to work because its battery has gone flat. Many jump starters also come with built-in safety protections to make sure that you don’t inadvertently damage your vehicle when trying to get it going again. Automotive electronics can be delicate and damaging them can lead to a bigger problem than just having a flat battery.
Picking the right jump starter entails understanding a few features that you simply need to be looking for. While these are not necessarily absolute, you’d have a much greater chance of buying the correct one for your vehicle. With any luck, you might even get a jump starter that you can use for many other purposes.
- Power Output
Whenever choosing the right jump starter, one of the things you really need to look for is its power output. The power output of a jump starter can be quite tricky because different folks actually have different interpretations on what they need to look for. For most folks, however, the power output is best typified by the peak amperage or current delivered by the device. For some it is equivalent to the watts.
The peak amperage of a jump starter illustrates the maximum amount of power that a jump starter can discharge or give to a dead battery. Many jump starter manufacturers put their peak amp ratings in their labels. Even online resources treat the peak amp rating of a device to be the single most important predictor of a jump starter’s power output. As such, the higher the peak amp rating the more powerful it is.
Now why would you want a jump starter that has a higher peak amp rating?
Like any other battery system, your car’s battery is what provides the initial power to get your engine running. There are a number of electrical systems that need to be activated in this initial start. That is why a powerful battery is important to get everything starter. If your battery stops dead on its tracks, then the jump starter should be able to provide the necessary power to your battery and to the rest of the initiating mechanisms of your car – crankshaft, engine, and all – so that you can continue on your way.
If the power output of the jump starter is not sufficient to initiate all of these mechanical processes, then you clearly will not be able to jump start your car. It is important to realize that the jump starter essentially has two functions.
First, it supplies power to your car’s battery to get it recharged fast enough to continue with the rest of its work. Second, it also provides power to the crankshaft so that it starts rotating and firing up your engine. The power needed by the car’s battery and the power needed by the engine should, thus be sufficiently high enough to sustain the delivery of energy until such time that your engine is running and that it can recharge the battery on its own.
The amp rating of the jump starter is just one aspect of its true power output. You will also need to check its voltage so you’ll have an idea of its overall wattage. The point here is that in any electrical system, the electrical power is generally measured in watts. This is equivalent to the current in amps multiplied by the voltage.
To put it simply, if you want more electrical power you’d have to increase either the current or the voltage. But since voltage is relatively constant at either 12 volts or 24 volts depending on which system is currently in your vehicle, then you’re technically left with the electrical current or the amperes.
Given two 12-volt jump starters one with 500A and the other 1000A; you’ll know that the jump starter with the 1000A rating will have more electrical power compared to the one with a 500A.
So how do you know the right power output for your car? Well, you’ve got to check your owner’s manual. Check on its electrical section to get an idea of just how much power you need to deliver to the engine to get it started. You will also need to check the specifications in your battery.
- Cranking Amp Rating
Most manufacturers of jump starters typically create a hype over the so-called performance of their products by putting in their labels and product manuals terms like ‘peak amps’, ‘cranking amps’, ‘cold cranking amps’, and even ‘joules’. Sadly, for the novice automobile owner, these terms are quite confusing.
As described above, majority of newbie car owners would readily look at the peak amps of a jump starter since this is generally equated with the maximum amount of power that the battery inside the jump starter can provide to a ‘dead battery’.
For vehicle experts, ‘peak amp’ ratings are nothing more than icing on the cake designed specifically to impress and to play to the common man’s knowledge that the higher the numerical rating of the amp the better and more powerful it is.
Sadly, jump starter manufacturers are capitalizing on the ignorance of some vehicle owners (pardon the term). What you should be looking for is the ‘cranking amp’ rating of the jump starter or, if it is listed, the ‘cold cranking amp’ rating.
The cranking amp rating of a jump starter is a reflection of the amount of power that it can generate for about 30 seconds at a temperature of 32-degrees Fahrenheit or 0-degree Celsius while maintaining the minimum 1.2 volts per cell required on a standard 6-cell 12-volt battery. In layman’s terms, this is the amount of power that you will need to crank and start your car’s engine on almost any weather except during the cold days of winter.
We described above the role of the battery in starting the engine. Since you’ve got a variety of mechanisms requiring tremendous energy, a high discharge rate is a fundamental requirement. This is where a higher ‘cranking amp’ rating will prove very useful as it gives you an idea of its ability to start your engine across a variety of environmental conditions.
Now, if you live in an area where it’s like winter all year long you’ll need the ‘cold cranking amp’ rating. It’s like the ‘cranking amp’ except that it’s specifically rated for colder temperatures specifically at 0-degree Fahrenheit or minus-17.8 degree Celsius. Again it should be able to maintain the minimum 7.2 volts for a standard 6-cell 12-volt battery.
The ‘cold cranking amp’ rating is very important since colder temperatures will require greater energy to get your crankshaft and your engine up to speed. The oil in your engine is usually thicker in the winter so it takes more energy to warm it up.
As such, when choosing a portable jump starter for your vehicle, make sure to check the ‘cranking amp’ rating or even its ‘cold cranking amp’ rating as this will give you a better idea of its capacity to start your engine.
The voltage of the jump starter is another feature you have to consider. As we have noted above, it actually refers to the energy potential stored in an electrical system. When taken in the light of the closed circuit water-flow analogy, it actually reflects the pressure within the system. And since we’re talking about pressure it has the capacity to move.
Electricians define voltage as the expression of readily available energy. This is what moves the electric current throughout the electrical circuit. When translated into a jump starter it is what actually drives the electric current on the device towards the dead battery in your car.
Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds since you also have to talk about resistance as measured by Ohms. The greater the value of the Ohms, the greater is the resistance. The greater the resistance, the greater is the pressure or voltage needed to push the same amount of current or amperes throughout the electrical circuit. Otherwise, if there is no change in the voltage, then the electrical current or the amperes will decrease.
Choosing the right voltage should be fairly easy since you only need to check you existing battery. Most light vehicles come with 12-volt batteries while heavy-duty ones like trucks, trailers, buses, and the like will usually have 24-volt batteries.
- Cable Length
Everything actually depends on your personal preferences. Some vehicle owners would like their jump starter to be placed squarely on the ground surface. That being said you will need a lengthy cable that will reach the battery terminals on your car’s battery. There should also be enough slack on the cables for such an arrangement. There are also those who would like to place the jump starter on a flat surface on the engine bay closer to the battery terminals. In such cases you may want to opt for cables with shorter length.
The whole point is that when it comes to the length of the jumper cables, you would want something longer. Most automotive experts recommend going for at least 12 feet.
Perhaps a more important consideration than the actual length of the cable is the gauge of the wires inside the cable. As we have discussed above where electrical power is dependent on both voltage and amperes which, in turn, can also be affected by resistance, the thinner the wire the longer it would take you to deliver the power to your battery. This is because there is only so much electric current (amperes) passing from the jump starter to your car’s battery terminals because the wires are thinner.
As a rule, you should get a jump starter with jumper cables that are at least 8-Gauge. Scrap the 10-Gauge off of your list. If you can get a 6-Gauge, better. Having 2-Gauge is ideal although it will be very pricey. Don’t get confused with the gauging system. The numerical indicator of the gauge is inversely proportional to its diameter. The lower the number, the wider is the diameter of the wire. The wider the diameter of the cable, the faster will you be able to jump start your car.
- Price & Functionality
Good quality jumper cables alone can already set you back by as much as $60. And this is just the cable and clamp. We’re not yet talking about the actual jump starter device. There are, of course, newer and more portable car jump starters that are so compact they can easily slip into one’s pocket. Many of these can be had for about $50 or less. However, you do have to make sure that they can deliver the right levels of power needed by your car.
Professional grade units can cost you a few hundred dollars. Many of these come with high-capacitance jumper cables, batteries, and state-of-the-art power management modules complete with sophisticated electrical safety protections. These may not really be your idea of a compact and portable device as they can weigh up to 20 to 30 pounds. They do look like mini power generators.
You may also want to look at the functionality of the jump starter. Many portable devices today come with multipurpose functionality, fully capable of jump starting a car while also serving as a mobile power bank. This can be an exceptional feature to look for especially if you’re the kind of individual who has plenty of gadgets inside his backpack or the glove box. You can actually power up a variety of USB-enabled devices. Some jump starters even have inverters that will allow you to plug in your electronic appliance into an appropriate port in the device.
Other features that you may want to look for include an air compressor unit, LED flashlight, and other similar functions that can prove useful in roadside emergencies. There are actually a growing number of portable jump starters today that come with built-in air compressors. This is perfect in situations where you have an underinflated tire and the next gasoline station is still a few hours away. Running flat should no longer cause you any worries.
What Specification Do I Need?
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will tell you everything you need to know about jump starting your vehicle. As most people don’t have an advanced knowledge of electronics it’s important to match the jump starter that you’re going to purchase to the requirements of your vehicle. Be sure that you’re buying a jump starter with enough grunt to turn your car’s engine over as purchasing one that doesn’t have this capability will get you nowhere. Many automotive electrical systems are similar but this is definitely an area where it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consult your owner’s manual, online forums, and even stop by one of your vehicle manufacturer’s dealerships to get the correct information straight from the horse’s mouth. You’ll be glad you did when you find yourself in trouble and have the tools that you need to get out of it.
Safety Tips When Using a Jump Starter
Jump starters will come with specific safety instructions based on the manufacturer and the model but some truths are universal when jump-starting a car. Make sure that the battery terminals and the connection clamps on your jump starter are in good condition, free of dirt and contaminants which could complicate the process of getting your vehicle moving again. If possible avoid jump starting a car in the rain. As with any electronic equipment, keeping water away from your car’s battery, wiring, and the jump starter itself is a good practice. Water conducts electricity and can make the jump starting process more dangerous than it needs to be.
You should also try to keep a pair of thick gloves in your car in case you find yourself needing to jump start it at any point. Separating yourself from a potentially nasty electric shock will make the process safer and easier.
If you want to be really cautious you could also wear safety glasses. In the event of sparking when connecting the jump starter to the dead battery, you’ll want to protect your eyes as much as possible. Some jump starters come with built-in anti-sparking systems but as always, better safe than sorry. You should avoid wearing loose clothing and dangling jewelry, and make sure that any long hair is tied up and away from the battery and jump starter clamps. Basically, it’s wise to separate yourself from the process as much as possible. The last thing you need when stranded by the side of the road with a dead battery is an electric shock to complicate matters. Follow these guidelines and the process should go as smoothly as possible, getting you back on the road quickly and safely.
Safety should always be in the mind of anyone who is attempting to jump start his or her car. While the 12 volt electrical system in our cars pale in comparison to what we have at home, the risk for harm is ever present. Additionally, doing it the wrong way can damage our cars. Here are a few tips you need to keep in mind when jump starting your car.
- Always read your vehicle owner’s manual. Some modern vehicles with fully automatic ignition systems cannot and should not be jump started at all. Others may have specific jump start lugs where jumper cables can be attached and not on the battery terminals. Other cars may require you to remove a certain fuse.
- If you’re going to perform a donor-recipient jump start, always check the electrical power capacity or voltage capacity of the donor battery. It should match that of the recipient battery; lest, you risk overloading and damage both cars.
- Always unplug any electrical car accessories like mobile phone chargers and the like as the jump start process will send a power surge which can shorten these gadgets or accessories.
- Turn off everything in the car that runs on electricity such as the hazard lights, headlights, radios, and so on.
- Always use safety goggles as well as rubber gloves whenever you attempt to jump start your car.
- Always park both cars in either Neutral or Park. Also make sure that you engage both cars’ parking brakes. They should also be facing each other and as close as possible to each other to allow for the jumper cables to create the bridge. However, make sure that they don’t touch.
- Always connect the positive (red) clamp first before the negative (black). If using a jump starter, this means clamping the red onto the positive terminal and the black onto the chassis of the car or the negative battery terminal. If using the donor-recipient method, it means clamping the red onto the recipient’s positive terminal and clamping the other end of the red jumper cable to the donor battery. Next is to clamp the black cable onto the donor negative terminal before clamping the other end onto your car’s chassis.
- Always clamp the black jumper cable onto an unpainted and clean metallic part of your car, but far from the battery. This is to help minimize the risk of explosion in the event that sparks develop and that there is hydrogen gas leaking from the battery. The good news is that many batteries today have safety mechanisms to prevent giving off hydrogen gas. But it’s still safer to clamp the negative jumper into the chassis.
Jump Starter Terminology
In the previous section we’ve been talking about a variety of technical stuff. And while we already did cover ‘amperes’, ‘cranking amps’, and ‘peak current’ we’ll try to cover them again as well as a few other terms you might encounter in your quest for choosing the best jump starter for your car.
You’ve probably heard this over and over again especially among sailors. If pilots radio the tower because they have a problem by hailing “Mayday”, sailors will usually send an SOS for “Save Our Ship”. It is technically an international code signal that signifies someone is in extreme distress. In other words, when someone sends out an SOS, he or she is actually sending out an urgent appeal for assistance or help.
Most of the car jump starters we have today come with built-in LED lights that have 3 different lighting modes. One of these modes is called the SOS mode. It sends out a steady stream of blinks or flashes to get the attention of anyone within visual range. It’s like a lighthouse by the bay, guiding ships towards the shore on a stormy night. The difference, of course, is that the flashing SOS light is going to attract other motorists or emergency responders to your exact location.
- Cranking Amps
Cranking amps is the amount of power discharged by the jump starter in 30 seconds at a temperature of 32-degrees Fahrenheit, enough to sustain a minimum of 7.2 volts in a standard 6-cell 12-volt battery or a minimum of 1.2 volts per cell. In layman’s terms, cranking amps is the power you need to start your car’s engine on any day except winter days.
There is also cold cranking amp which is technically the same with cranking amps except that, this time, you have a much lower working temperature at 0-degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, if you live in a really cold place, you will need more power from the jump starter to make the oil in your engine warm enough to crank the engine.
If you live in places where the environmental temperature never falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should always check the cranking amps of the jump starter. If you live in areas where the temperatures are lower than 32 degrees, then the cold cranking amps rating should be considered.
- Peak Current
As the term implies, this is the maximum amount of electrical energy present inside a battery system. Current is measured in terms of amperes. So if you have a jump starter that says it has 1000 peak amps, then you know that it can only deliver a maximum of 1000 amperes.
- Lithium-ion Battery
Many of today’s home appliances are powered by lithium-ion batteries. This is a kind of rechargeable battery that is known for its many advantages over other types of batteries.
Lithium ion batteries can store higher densities of energy in a more compact packaging. When compared to a nickel metal hydride battery Li-ion can store about 150 watt-hours of electrical energy for every kilogram of battery whereas Ni-MH can only muster about 100 watt-hours. A lead acid battery, on the other hand, can only pack in 25 watt-hours of electrical energy per kilogram.
Li-ion batteries also last longer, fully capable of holding its charge for a much longer time than other batteries. A typical Li-ion battery can lose about 5% of its charge on a monthly basis while a Ni-MH battery can experience as much as 20% monthly loss.
You also don’t need to completely discharge a lithium-ion battery before you can recharge it, allowing you faster recharging times. The battery is also capable of handling more charge-discharge cycles.
However, it does come with a number of disadvantages such as they will only last about 2 to 3 years after being manufactured. This is whether they have been used or not at all. The rate of degradation is also hastened by higher temperatures. If the lithium-ion battery gets fully or completely discharged, it’s already considered a loss. Lastly, and this one you may already be familiar with, if a Li-ion battery fails there’s a slim chance that it might simply explode.
Joule is a unit of work or energy that is needed to generate a single watt of power every second. As such, 1 joule is equivalent to 1 watt-second. Translated into simple terms, you will need 1 joule to light up a 1-watt LED bulb for about 1 second.
Ampere or amp is the rate of energy flowing through an electrical system. More specifically, it is the electrical current present in your jump starter. It’s the rate of flow of current.
Imagine water flowing through a closed-loop system. The rate of water flow is determined by how fast it moves. This is directly proportional to voltage and inversely proportional to resistance. Increasing the voltage will also increase the current while increasing the resistance will decrease the current.
Light-emitting diodes or LEDs are semiconductor devices that produce light when electricity is passed through the system. Electrons and holes in the electric current combine within the semiconductor itself to generate light. This is different from heated filaments such as those found in halogen and incandescent lamps and from gas-discharge lighting like fluorescent.
One of the most positive things about LEDs is that manufacturers can create different colors by manipulating the gap between energy bands which typically defines the energy emitted by the photons of light particles. It is the varying photon energy that defines the color of the LED by creating different light wavelengths. The color of the LED light can be determined by manipulating the composition of the active or the light-emitting region.
Technically, indium gallium nitride can produce high-brightness green, blue, and ultraviolet LEDs while aluminum gallium indium phosphide are perfect for high-brightness yellow, red, and orange LEDs. Gallium phosphide, on the other hand, produces green and yellow LEDs while aluminum gallium arsenide is for red and infrared LED lights.
LEDs are typically embedded into the design of jump starters for a variety of purposes. It can provide illumination for the LCD screen to make it more readable. It can also be used for indicator lights such as power, charging, and status lights. In some products, LEDs are also used in integrated flashlight systems. As long as there is a lighting mechanism in a jump starter you can expect it to be made of LED technology.
How to Perform the Perfect Jump Start
Jump starting your car shouldn’t really be that difficult since you’re essentially connecting cables from one power source to another that doesn’t have any power at all. In this section, we’ll try to understand how to perform the perfect jump start using portable jump starters and doing it the old donor-recipient manner.
- Using jump starters
Performing the perfect jump start using a dedicated portable device is pretty straightforward regardless of the manufacturer of the device.
If possible, make sure that your car is parked on flat and stable ground. Engage the parking brakes and put the gear in the Neutral or Park position if driving an automatic. Turn off all electrical systems in your car.
Double check your jump starter that it is fully charged or that it has plenty of charge left to deliver power to your car. Now, turn it off.
Spread out the jumper cables and connect the red clamp to the positive end of your car’s battery. Take the black clamp and clamp it on the negative end or terminal of the car battery. This is crucial. Black always goes to the negative terminal. Red always goes to the positive terminal. Think of it this way. Red is blood which means life. Black is death. You won’t miss it.
Some automotive experts actually recommend connecting the black clamp to the car’s chassis. Technically, this is the same as clamping it on the negative battery terminal since the latter also functions as ground for the car’s battery. The good thing with connecting the clamp to the chassis is that it helps avoid the spark that may occur with leaking hydrogen gas.
Make sure the clamps are fully secure. Once done, you can turn on the jump starter and turn on the ignition of your car. This is where the cranking amps rating of the jump starter will come in handy. Because you have a readily available current there’s no need to wait several minutes just to get everything ‘warmed’ up. Your engine should start. If not, let it rest for about 2 to 3 minutes before attempting to crank it again.
It is important to be mindful of the length of time that you are cranking your engine. You should not crank it for more than 5 seconds. The cranking amp of the jump starter is actually delivering a large amount of energy into your car’s system. It’s specifically designed to do so in relatively short bursts. Cranking your engine for longer than 5 seconds may risk overheating.
Once your engine has turned over immediately turn off the jump starter. Remove first the black clamp before the red clamp. Keep your engine running to allow its battery to recharge.
- Donor-recipient system
The traditional method of jump starting a vehicle entails another vehicle or a donor vehicle. The same principle applies, except that you will be dependent on the power supply coming from the battery of another vehicle.
The two cars should be positioned in such a way that they are facing each other with their hoods fully open. Both cars should be parked safely, their parking brakes engaged, and their ignition systems turned off.
Now comes the tricky part. First clamp the red jumper cable into the positive terminal of the recipient or the dead battery. Next, clamp the other end of the red jumper cable onto the donor battery’s positive terminal. As such, the first order of business is to connect positive and positive, from the recipient to the donor in that order.
Next, clamp the black jumper cable onto the donor battery’s negative terminal. Clamp the other end of this black jumper cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface in the recipient car. In this sequence, you’re connecting negative to negative.
Turn on the ignition in the donor car and run the engine. Wait about 2 to 3 minutes before cranking the engine of the recipient car. Remove the jumper cables doing the exact reverse process of connecting it. Disconnect the black clamp on the recipient’s chassis. Disconnect the black clamp on the donor battery’s negative terminal. Disconnect the red clamp on the donor battery’s positive terminal. Lastly, disconnect the red clamp on the jump started vehicle.
Let your engine run for at least 15 minutes to allow the battery to recharge.
Q: How many amps do you need to start a car?
A: Some of the online forums suggest that 400 amps should be fairly sufficient to jumpstart your car. However, what you really need to look for is the cranking amp requirements of your vehicle. If your car requires 600 amps to really initiate and get the engine running, then 400 amps simply won’t cut it. Remember that the essence of jump starting a vehicle is the simultaneous revival of the battery and the cranking of the vehicle’s engine.
While 400 amps may seem fairly sufficient for most vehicles, we’d still strongly recommend checking your vehicle owner’s manual as well as your car’s battery specifications to determine the amount of current (amps) that you need to get everything started.
That being said, it is perfectly okay to get a jump starter with a higher peak or cranking amp rating for those just-in-case scenarios. The thing is that if you get a jump starter with lower amperage, then you clearly won’t be able to start your car.
Now, it’s an entirely different matter with voltage. If you have a 12-volt system you should always push the current using a similar 12-volt mechanism. Using a 24-volt can seriously damage your system.
Q: Can I use a jump starter on any vehicle?
A: As long as the jump starter meets the specifications required by the vehicle for jump starting, then you can use it on almost any other vehicle. Amperage and voltage are two of the most common factors that need to be considered when you’re deciding if you can choose a jump starter on any vehicle or not.
If the cranking amp requirements of the vehicle is well below the cranking amp rating of the jump starter (say, 200 CA for the vehicle and 300 CA for the jump starter), then you can use the jump starter. If the cranking amp required is greater than the one supplied (400 CA vs 300 CA), then you may have issues starting the vehicle.
A more important consideration is the voltage of the jump starter. If your car’s electrical system is running on 12 volts, by all means, use only a jump starter that is specifically designed for such a system. If the jump starter comes with both 12- and 24- volt functionality, then it is imperative that you switch the system to the 12-volt mode before attempting to jump start your vehicle.
Remember that voltage is actually equivalent to water pressure in a plumbing system. The higher the water pressure, the more forceful is the flow of water. The same is true with electrical systems. The higher the voltage, the more electrical current is pushed through the system. Using a 24-volt system to ‘push’ electric current to a 12-volt system can have catastrophic results.
Q: How do I charge my jump starter?
A: There are a number of ways in which a jump starter can be recharged, often depending on the brand of the device. These can include plugging in an electric outlet or your car’s AC adaptor or cigarette lighter socket. Some actually come with solar charging capabilities. Some really portable ones can also be charged using a USB interface. A critical point to remember here is to always check the manufacturer’s recommendations on specific charging modes and the charging times.
Q: Do larger jump starters have more power?
A: Not necessarily. The power output of a jump starter is determined by a variety of factors, but mostly its amperage and voltage. Generally a 24-volt system will be more powerful in pushing the electric current through your system.
However, one also needs to factor the electric current as defined by the amperes. You may be confused by some systems, though as they usually put milliampere-hours (mAh) in their systems. One milliampere is equivalent to 1/1000th of an ampere. As such, 1 mAh is equivalent to 0.001 Ah or ampere-hour. If you have a system with 8000 mAh, then you have 8 ampere-hours. This translates to 28800 ampere-second.
These two parameters are what determine the power of any electrical system such as a jump starter. It is the product of both voltage and current or amperes.
So, do larger jump starter have more power? If by ‘larger’ you mean more amperes and more voltage equating to more watts, then surely it is more powerful than a unit with less amps, volts, and watts. However, if your idea of ‘larger’ refers to the actual physical dimensions of the jump starter, power may not be easy to determine.
Q: How long should you jump a car for?
A: Different jump starters have different jump starting times, depending on the amperes delivered. It also depends on whether you have a weak battery or a totally dead one. If it’s the former, then you may only need to jump the system for several seconds. If it’s the latter a longer time may be needed. You also have to factor in the environmental temperatures you’re working on. Too cold and you will definitely need a longer time to jump the car.
In a conventional good car battery-bad car battery setup you’re supposed to wait about 2 minutes of running the good car battery before cranking the engine on the car with a dead battery. You will then have to wait another 2 minutes or so before removing the jumper cables from the bad car battery and let it running for a couple more minutes to put charge on the battery.
In portable jump starters, you can actually be up and running within a couple of minutes. You simply power on the device, connect the jumper clamps onto the appropriate battery terminals, connect the cable connector to the jump starter, and wait for the boost LED indicator light to tell you it’s ready to jump start the car.
Q: Can my jump starter charge other devices?
A: Some portable jump starters are actually designed as power banks. Technically, if you can see a USB port on the jump starter there’s a great chance it can actually provide power to your other devices such as smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, and other USB-enabled devices. There are also some jump starters that come with inverters allowing you to plug your ordinary home appliances running on 115 volts. Of course, everything depends on the power output and technical specifications of your jump starter. That’s why it pays to really read the technical specifications of a particular product before deciding to buy it.
Q: Can you jump start a car in the rain?
A: A straightforward answer is ‘yes’, you can jump start your car in the rain. If you don’t mind catching a cold or risk slipping and falling on the ground, then it is perfectly okay to jump start your car even when there’s downpour. If you’re worried about possible electrocution, your car’s electrical system only runs on 12 volts unlike the electricity that we have in our homes that run on either 110 or 220 volts depending on which part of the world you live in. We have seen quite a good number of motorists who happily jump start their cars even in a heavy downpour. As long as you take the necessary precautions and observe the proper way of jump starting a car you should be fine.
Q: Can jump starting damage my car?
A: There are a variety of ways in which jump starting can damage a car.
First, placing the jumper cables the wrong way can damage the different electrical components of your car such as the fuses and sensors. There is also the risk of damaging the alternator, the battery of the donor car, and the jumper cables themselves.
Second, if you use a 24-volt system on your car that’s running a 12-volt system you’re actually running the risk of overloading your car’s electrical system. If you have a more modern car that comes with overload protection and other similar electrical safety features, it shouldn’t really be an issue. The problem is with older cars which may not really have the luxury of such safety mechanisms.
Recalling that electrical power is the product of both electric current and voltage or amps and volts, respectively, your car’s electrical system is designed to push a certain number of amps throughout the system using a ‘force’ of 12 volts. Using a 24 volt system will push the current at a much faster rate producing more electrical power for which your car’s electrical system is not really designed to accommodate.
Third, if you use the more traditional donor car-recipient car setup you are also running the risk of damaging your car’s electronics and other components even if you do manage to get all the cables properly set. It all starts with a voltage drop. The donor car’s battery is generally fully charged. When it is connected to a dead battery on another car and its engine is cranked, there is a sudden drop of about 3 volts for a split second (roughly 15 milliseconds) before it climbs to 6 volts and then to 12 volts. This voltage drop is interpreted by the donor vehicle that current is insufficient so it boosts the field coil current.
However, as soon as the other vehicle’s engine has started or you stopped cranking it, the donor vehicle’s alternator will also sense that there is too much voltage in the system. Within the next 85 milliseconds, it dumps this load. The combination of voltage spike and load dump can damage the donor vehicle’s solid state electronics. Even newer cars are also vulnerable to such damage.
Fortunately, portable jump starters typically address such concerns making it relatively safe for you to jump start your car without really damaging it. Of course, you still run the risk of damaging your car if you place the cables incorrectly.
Our Top Pick
The JNC660 of Clore Automotive earns our top pick for car jump starters primarily because it has just the right level of cranking amps. As we have already explained in one of the sections of this post, the cranking amps is a much better indicator of a car jump starter’s ability to get your engine running and to put the much-needed juice into your car battery. The 2-Gauge jumper cables plus a host of other technical specs clearly underscore the JNC660’s overall performance. And when you factor in its price tag, you know that you’ve got a real winner.
- Safety Tips to Jump-Start a Car, National Safety Inc.