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Car battery jumper cables are a useful member of your emergency driving kit. They take up very little space in your trunk and they could get you out of a very difficult situation. They are safe and easy to use as long as you adhere to some basic safety precautions. Of course, they are reliant on you finding someone who is willing for you to use the battery of their vehicle. Most motorists are very obliging, provided you seem to know what you are doing!
When buying car battery jumper cables you will want a product that is robust, with strong clamps and that is able to transmit the electrical current that your vehicle will need to get is started. Here’s our comprehensive guide to the best jump cables.
The Best Jumper Cables
A reliable and heavy-duty set of booster cables that will safely start a wide range of vehicles using a 12/24-volt auto battery and are resistant to rain, motor oil and chemicals. These 4 gauge cables are easy-to-use and won’t tangle up. Thanks to the T-Prene coating, they are superbly flexible even in temperatures as low as -13F and will store easily. The clamps have color-coded triple-polarity identification and are UL indent stamped. You’ll have no problems using the ergonomic, twice-grip clamps that are designed for better conductivity and tension.
To make them easier to use on cars, cargo vans, pick-up trucks and even trucks, these portable jumper cables are either top or side post fitting. With 20 feet of available cable, you will easily reach from one vehicle to another.
Heavy duty 4-gauge cable
20 feet length
Colour-coded triple-polarity clamps
Top-post and side-terminal
- Weight5.3 pounds
A reliable set of 4 gauge jumper cables manufactured from copper coated aluminum to efficiently conduct electricity and power. The PVC coating will stay flexible in temperatures from -40F to 167F. The copper-plated clamp jaws are sturdy and will fit to the side and top post of batteries with no danger of them falling off.
The self jumper cables are tangle-free with a high-resistance insulator for maximum protection to prevent corrosion and rust. There’s a step by step guide on how to use the 20 ft cables on vehicles ranging from motorcycles through to trucks and vans.
Copper plated clamp jaws
20 ft cable
Suitable for cars, SUVs and trucks
- Weight5 pounds
With these 4 gauge jumper cables (400 amp) you’ll be able to jump start a monster truck with a dead flat battery. They are light-weight (only 4.5 pounds) and easy to use but come with easy-to-understand instructions for the complete novice.
The clamps are easy to open but firmly grip any type of battery connection and will not slip off. The 20-foot long self jumper cables will reach from one vehicle to another even in the most awkward locations. The 10-year warranty will give you complete peace of mind about your purchase.
Lightweight but heavy duty
Firm grip clamps
- BrandAlways Prepared
- Weight5 Pounds
If you need extra long jumper cables, this is the product for you. At 25 feet long, these will reach from one vehicle to another even in challenging locations when one vehicle is parked behind the other. They will start a weak or completely dead battery on a car, van or truck.
The copper clad aluminum, single gauge cables are 800 amp and coated in red and black PVC insulation which makes them both tangle-free and flexible down to temperatures of -40°C. This product comes with a travel bag and a two-year warranty.
Extra-long 25-foot cables
Tangle-free PVC coating
Operate at freezing temperatures
- Weight10.95 pounds
Another set of extra long jumper cables that are perfect for emergency situations where you cannot pull-up the donor vehicle next to the vehicle with a flat battery. At 25 feet, these will stretch from one vehicle parked behind any car, van, truck or tractor.
The single gauge, 800 amp cables can transmit enough power to start up even a dead 12 V or 24 V battery. The red and black thermoplastic insulation gives additional safety and will not tangle up during use or storage and is highly resistant to corrosion. They remain flexible even at freezing temperatures. The double connection parrot clamps transfer the maximum power and are ergonomically designed for ease of use. The kit includes a case and recovery flashlight.
Double parrot clamps for safety
Recovery flashlight included
- Weight10.55 pounds
A useful set of jumper cables that come with a pair of safety gloves and a carry bag for easy storage. The cables themselves are single gauge copper clad aluminum and are 25 feet long.
They transmit 800 amps of power through red and black coated cables. The clamps are also colour coded for safety but are standard clamps not parrot-fitting.
Copper clad aluminium
Carry case and safety gloves
- Weight11.35 pounds
For car owners on a limited budget, this is the ideal option. The 10-gauge cables will start a sluggish or dead battery but they are only powerful enough for a smaller car.
The alligator clamps provided with the cables are rated at 100 amps and are color-coded with a tight grip for secure and safe attachment. At only 12 feet long, these cables are only suitable for use when the cars are parked facing each other but they are compact and easy to store. They come with a one-year warranty.
12 feet in length
- Weight2.2 pounds
A professional set of 20 foot, 1200 amp jumper cables are exactly what you need for jump starting a family car but are also powerful enough to cope with large agricultural and commercial vehicles. In fact, they can be used on any petrol and diesel engines up to 9500cc and on 6V, 12V and 24V batteries. The clamps are fully insulated and will fit top and side post batteries
The heavy-duty cables are thicker than many similar products (12 mm). The PVC coating makes them tangle-free and resistant to acid, heat and oil. You can rely on them to remain flexible even when the ambient temperature drops below freezing. They come with a zipped carry case for easy storage.
Heavy-duty 12 mm thick cables
1200 amp – for engines up to 9500 cc
Flexible at low temperatures
Suitable for family cars and commercial vehicles
- Weight7.1 pounds
A robust heavy-duty set of jumper cables that can be used on any vehicle up to 12V passenger cars and 24V commercial trucks. The current is conducted through copper coated aluminum wires insulated with PVC. The cables will not tangle and are flexible at below-freezing temperatures.
The clamps have tough PVC insulation which gives you a secure and safe connection and an outstanding drop resistance. They can fit either top or side post batteries. As part of the kit you get a durable carry case for easy storage.
Suitable for up to 24V batteries
Anti-tangle PVC-coated wires
Tough clamps to fit top or side post batteries
Durable carry case
- Weight9.75 pounds
A durable 25 feet, 4-gauge booster cable that is also available in different lengths. The design is tangle free to make them easier to store and use and they come with a practical, circular carry case. It’s a useful product to store in your car or in your garage in case of emergency as there are step by step instructions given on the reverse of the carry case.
These cables are fully compatible with 12v batteries that you find in most cars, vans and SUVs. However, they would not be powerful enough for a large commercial truck.
25 feet long and available in different lengths
Compatible with 12v batteries
Carry case with instructions
- Weight6.4 pounds
Best Jumper Cables Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for in Booster Cables
There are a number of things for you to look out for when you are choosing the best jumper cables. Here are the main ones:
- Price. Obviously, you will have a budget but you will get what you pay for. A cheap product may not be robust enough for your needs. Think of it as an investment because, in theory, a set of booster cables should last you for many years.
- Length. Booster cables should be at least 12 foot in length some are much longer. The extra long jumper cables allow you to connect cars that are not parked facing each other. This can be useful on busy streets.
- Gauge. This is given as a numerical value in the product description and is used to describe how thick the wire is inside the cable. It can be a good indicator of the overall quality. A low gauge number gives you a thicker wire. So, if you are going to be jump starting a truck, you need around a 4 gauge. To jump start a normal car, a 6 or 8 will be fine. A 10 is probably best avoided as it will transmit little electricity.
- Thickness. Thicker cables are better because they are more durable. The label ‘heavy duty jumper cables’ means very little unless a cable thickness is also given.
- Clamps: Clamps must have strong teeth to make sure that they stay attached to the battery. It is a good idea if the cable will fit both top and side port batteries. They need to be wrapped in rubber for safety and comfort.
- Insulation: Strong insulation made from a material such as PVC will be resistant to damage by chemicals and oil. Some insulation materials will prevent the cable from tangling and will keep it flexible at low temperatures which is important.
How Do Jumper Cables Work?
When a car or other vehicle will not start because it has a flat battery, it is possible to use the charge from the battery of another vehicle instead. You do not have to fit the other battery in the car that will not start. You simply have to use special leads called jump leads, or boost leads, to transfer the charge from the battery across to the other vehicle.
This method can be used for both a weak or dead battery. The power from the live battery recharges the dead battery a little and provides enough power to start the engine. Then, the vehicle’s normal charging system should take over and the connection to the external battery can be removed.
Jumper leads are essentially a pair of wires that can conduct electricity and are insulated. They have clips or clamps at each end which are made of copper or steel. They are usually red or black and red and the clips may be labelled with a black or red color or with a plus or minus sign to indicate polarity and where to fix them to the battery.
Many vehicle owners choose to carry jumper cables in the trunk of their cars in case they accidentally drain their own battery. It’s easy to do this by leaving the lights on for too long when the engine is not running. It is vital that safe procedures are followed to avoid electrocution and these are usually provided with the jump cables.
How to Use Jumper Cables?
Knowing how to jump start your car if the battery fails is a key skill that could come in very handy one day. Most jump leads will provide you with step by step instructions on how to use them correctly and safely. Here is a quick guide on how to use jumper cables.
- Are the vehicles suitable? Make sure that both the donor car and the recipient are suitable for a jump start. Modern cars have very complicated and delicate electronic systems. A jump start can cause huge voltage surges which can cause damage to both the donor and recipient car. Also, it’s best to avoid jump starting a hybrid or electric car. The donor car must have a fully charged battery and be of the same voltage as the recipient battery.
- Safety precautions. Check for signs of physical damage to either of the batteries and to the jump cables. Make sure that no one is smoking and that there are no naked flames in the vicinity. Take off jewelry (metal jewelry can cause sparks) and loose clothing and put on safety goggles.
- Park the vehicles close to each other. Park the vehicles as close as you safely can. On a busy highway, they may have to be one behind the other. Both vehicles should have the ignitions turned off and be in ‘Park’ or ‘Neutral’.
- Attach one red clamp. Start by attaching one of the red (positive) clips of the jump start cable to the positive terminal of your recipient battery. The terminal will have a “POS” or “+” written on it and will be bigger than the negative terminal.
- Attach the other red clamp. Then clip the other red clamp jump start cable to the positive terminal of the donor car.
- Attach one black clamp. Attach one of the black clamps to the negative terminal of the donor battery.
- Attach the other black clamp. Then attach the other black clamp to some area of unpainted metal on the engine block or chassis of the recipient car. It must be well away from the flat battery and fuel system. It is acting as an earthing point.
- Wait. Wait for three minutes.
- Start up the donor. Start up the donor vehicle and let it run for a while.
- Start up the recipient car. It should start up immediately. If it doesn’t, check that all the cables are attached and then try again.
If this does not work, stop trying as there is probably another fault. If the recipient car does start, you need to let both cars idle for around 10 minutes. Then, you need to turn off both engines before you disconnect the jump cables. Do this in the reverse order to the above steps. Never let the leads touch because they will spark. Now restart the recipient car and drive it around for 15 minutes. If it will not restart, it means there is a more serious problem.
Jumper Cables vs Jump Starters
You do have another option for jump starting a car with a flat battery these days. You could decide to invest in one of the jump starters. Originally these were lead-acid batteries in a portable pack. Now, the packs use a portable lithium-ion battery as the power source. There are pros and cons to both methods.
Booster cables can be purchased cheaply and don’t take up much room but have a few disadvantages. Should your battery run flat, you are completely reliant on a kind motorist to come to your rescue. Furthermore, that motorist must have a car that is of a similar voltage to yours and they must be willing to take the risk that their car could get damaged. It is getting harder and harder to find cars that do not have delicate electronic systems. The newer the vehicle, the greater the risk.
Jump starters are more expensive to purchase. The lead-acid jump starters contained a lead-acid battery and these were both bulky and heavy compared to jump leads. However, this is not true for the modern lithium jump starters which are very light and compact. There are also no fiddly leads to contend with.
Best Jumper Cables FAQ:
Q: What is a Jumper Cable?
A: Jumper cables are a set of two insulated wires which can conduct electricity from one car battery to another. They are insulated with a material such as PVC for safety and durability. They have clamps on each end for attaching them to the car batteries. They are often coloured black and red to signify positive and negative.
The best booster cables are available in various lengths and in various gauges. You may also see a value for amps and volts specified. This indicates how much power the cable can transmit.
Q: Is the clamp style on the jumper cables important?
A: Yes, it is important to choose portable jumper cables that have clamps that will attach firmly to both batteries. The best jumper cables attach quickly without you having to struggle with them and they grip well so that they won’t slip off. Many jump leads have alligator clips with teeth that have a strong grip. The best heavy duty jumper cables have a parrot clamp which has a double connection for optimal power transfer and are fully insulated for extra safety.
They need to be durable for repeated use and should not heat up when they are being used. Solid copper is a good option for efficient electrical transfer. The cheaper clamps often have copper plates on the end but the rest of the clamp is made from another material. These are not as effective.
The clamps should be wrapped in a rubber-like material to make them comfortable to grip when you are putting them on and taking them off.
Q: Why would I buy short jumper cables instead of long jumper cables?
A: Many brands of heavy duty jumper cables are available in various lengths. Some are available in 12-foot lengths but others can be as long as 25 feet. The advantage of the very long jumper cables is that the two vehicles do not have to be that close together to carry out a jump start. Sometimes, it is not possible to park the vehicles nose to nose. This can happen on a busy city street or on the freeway. With a long jump cable, you can park one vehicle behind the other and still have enough length to carry out a jump start.
However, this might not be the best buy for you. Obviously, the shorter leads (around 12 foot) are easier to store in the trunk of your car because they take up less room. They are also more likely to get tangled and can be trickier to use. If you do not feel that you could use the long jumper cables safely, it would be best to get a shorter set.
Q: If I have to jump-start my car, does that mean I need to replace the battery?
A: Batteries can run down for many reasons. Perhaps some lights were left on inside the car by mistake? If there is an obvious cause for the flat battery, it is unlikely that you will need to replace it and you should get several more years of motoring out of it.
However, if you are finding that you are continually having to use car jumper cables and there is no obvious cause, it indicates that something is going wrong. It could be that the battery is old. All batteries have a certain life expectancy and after that has expired they can become unreliable. In that case, it is time to get another battery.
It is important to note that there could be other mechanical issues with your vehicle which mean that the battery is failing to charge. These need to be checked out by a mechanic.
Our Top Pick
CARTMAN Booster Cable 4 Gauge x 20Ft in Carry Bag (4AWG x 20Ft) UL-Listed
An all-round reliable and robust car jumper cables suitable for 12/24-volt batteries. The 4 gauge cables are well-insulated and don’t tangle. They are suitable for use in very cold conditions and have ergonomic, twice-grip clamps for excellent conductivity and tension.
The cables will fit to both top or side post fittings and can be used on a wide variety of vehicles.
- How to Use Jumper Cables - HowStuffWorks