Imagine going for a mountain trip with your car and staying in a nice cozy cabin overnight. Then, on the next day you go to your vehicle and it wouldn’t start because you left the lights on for the night. Instead of calling emergency services there is a way easier and portable solutions to such issues – a jump starter. These devices are relatively new to the car industry and what is so great about them is that in recent years they have become smaller and smaller, and therefore far more portable and easy to store. What they do is give your car’s dead battery enough cranking electricity for it to spin up the engine and fire it up. In other words, this is the perfect backup plan for older cars. Some models even come with the option to charge your mobile devices so having one near you could always prove useful in a variety of ways. Finding the best jump starter can be a challenge though, and this is why we’ve created this Buyer’s Guide in which we discuss everything around this invention and give you tons of useful tips on how to use it, what exactly does it do, and what safety precautions to take while using it.
Before we head over to all that information, we want to give you a list we’ve compiled of the five top-selling jump starters and see why they are ruling over today’s automotive market. First, let’s start with a brief comparison chart between them:
Top Portable Jump Starters Comparison Chart
|Clore JNC660||1700||18 lbs.||$$$$||5/5|
|DBPOWER Auto Battery Booster||500||1.32 lbs.||$$||4.5/5|
|STANLEY J5C09||1000||18 lbs.||$$$||4.5/5|
|TrekPow G22||1500||1.6 lbs.||$$||4.5/5|
|NOCO GB40||1000||2.4 lbs.||$$$||5/5|
Clore Automotive Jump-N-Carry JNC660
Clore’s newest model has pushed the jump starters market forward in a lot of aspects. It packs a high amount of peak amps, higher than almost any other previous model while keeping the cold cranking amps at the adequate 425 CCA. The Jump-N-Carry has been designed to withstand anything nature can throw at it and is entirely sealed making it waterproof. The body, despite being sturdy weighs 18 pounds and has a comfortable handle making it easy to carry around. The small footprint allows you to easily store it in your trunk. There is a 12V socket which makes it a good addition to your camping trip. The cables are thick and almost 50 inches long which is slightly above the industry average. If you want to be able to jumpstart alone from your car, you might want to consider longer cables. There are few downsides starting with the 1 year warranty period and ending at the fact that there is no on-switch, rendering the cables a safety hazard when not used. To learn more about its features and see why its one of the best selling portable jump starters on today’s market, visit our full review about it.
DBPOWER 500A Peak 12000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter Auto Battery Booster
There isn’t much competition to DBPower when it comes to small jump starters. Their latest model packs a lot of power for such a small form factor. At 250 starting amps and 500 peak amps it is potent enough to crank up a small car or even a 3L petrol engine. Still, the number of cranks is dictated by the small size and is going to max out at around 10-12. Between cranks you might have to wait a few minutes but that is where the bad things end with this model. It has tons of extra features such as USB slots, flashlight, an LCD display, compass, and more. Those create a product which is versatile enough to be taken out when camping or on a road trip. The small size and little weight make it an easy item to carry in your travelling luggage. When it comes to its other selling point – charging devices, it has a 12000 mAh battery to back this feature up. You can fill up a few new iPhones or Samsung smartphones, as well as a tablet or a chunk of a laptop’s battery. There is a quick charge and smart charge features which monitor the charging status of your device and prevent overcharging and overheating. If you want to find out more curious quirks and features about this little jump starter, head over to our full review about it.
Trekpow G22 Car Jump Starter Auto Battery Booster
The Trekpow G22 car jump starter is so much more than your average battery booster. Not only can it handle powering up trucks, cars, snowmobiles, and even yachts, but it also comes loaded with extra ports that can be used to charge important smart electronics and medium-sized electronics. Affordable, compact, easy to use, and equipped with built-in lights for nighttime safety, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a model this powerful at a price that’s affordable.
STANLEY J5C09 Jump Starter
What the engineers over at Stanley USA have done with this year’s model is great. The J5C09 is rigid and has a solid construction which not only is waterproof but also shock resistant and relatively easy to carry around for its size. With a weight of just under 20 pounds it isn’t the heaviest jump starter out there while it packs amps and raw power typical to much bigger models. With 1000 peak amps, it is potent enough to crank up most big diesel engines and is suitable for all sorts of automotive uses including marine. One feature which is great to have and lacks in most other portable jump starters is the 120PSI air compressor. It is always great to have this in your trunk in case of a flat tire even if it is on your bike when you are out mountain biking. The USB port and 12V DC ports help with charging items like mobile devices, tablets, laptops and much more. All in all, the J5C09 does a lot of things right at the right price for the end consumer which is you. If you want to learn more about its features and see whether its flaws are serious enough to make you reconsider buying it, check our full review about it.
The Best Lithium Ion Jump Starter – NOCO Genius Boost Plus GB40
Lithium Ion batteries are known for having better properties than their lead-acid counterparts. They handle bad weather better and also do not lose their charge over time as fast as the lead-acid ones. This all means that you won’t have to pay some special attention to maintenance every month, like you’d do if you buy a normal jump starter.
What NOCO has done with its Genius Boost Line is nothing short of incredible. Those jump starters are all super strong for their categories and pack a lot of extra cool features such as 7-mode LED flashlights, visible light indicators on top and a solid construction which can withstand anything you throw at it. The GB40 model in particular one of their smallest models and can act both as a jump starter and as a portable mobile device charger. It has the safety features typical to the NOCO products and a slightly higher price tag for that and many other reasons. People prefer it since having a Genius Boost product with you ensures peace of mind and allows you to worry for one thing less. The GB40 can jump start all petrol engines and some diesel engines (up to 3-liter models) for about 15-20 times before its battery gets drained. It has reverse-polarity detection as well as a spark-proof system in place. If you want to learn more about its interesting features and see why it should be your next jump starter, check out our full detailed review about it.
Portable Jump starters Buyer’s Guide
Everybody has at least once seen a car being boosted or jump started but always wondered what exactly is going on during this process and what do people use for it, so to kick things off, let’s start with the most important question:
What Does “To Jump Start A Car” Mean?
Boosting your car, or as people call it “jump starting” is the act of starting your car when the battery is dead or low enough to not be able to give a crank to the engine. You do this by connecting your car’s battery to another vehicle’s one or to an external power source. Then, that external power source provides the needed power to crank the car’s engine.
Once your vehicle is up and running the alternator will take over the power supply and the external power source can be safely removed. Car drivers should always carry jump cables or jump starters with them in case of an accidental battery discharge, for example when the headlights are left on after you leave your car.
Every car brand and model has its own safety procedure of going through these steps and it is usually best described in the owner’s manual.
Now, let’s head to the second most important question – What exactly is a jump starter?
The Anatomy Of A Jump Starter
Jump starters in their essense are portable batteries with cables made to be able to hook to your vehicle power ports. When your car’s battery dies, the engine’s spark plugs won’t have enough electricity to be able to ignite the fuel/air mixture and therefore there can’t be any ignition.
The jump starter acts as a temporary battery when plugged into your car and gives enough cranking amps of electricity to get the engine going. Once the engine starts it activates a chain which involves an internal generator, called the alternator, which then powers everything inside the drivetrain and chassis of the car.
The alternator gets its power from a belt connected directly to the engine. This all means that the sole purpose of a battery, or in this case – a jump starter, is to get things going under the hood and from then onward the car is fully capable of maintaining its momentum. In fact, once started up, the alternator will not only charge the car but recharge the battery over time therefore your dead battery will receive electricity from the car once you start driving.
You might have seen the red and black cables either in real life scenarios or at least in a movie. Those are the + and – cables used to connect car batteries. Before jump starters were invented, the only possible way of starting a car with a dead battery was to hook up another car battery to it. As you might have already guessed, you can’t always rely on people being nearby. For example, if you’re in the mountains and wake up to a dead battery it might take hours for people with other cars to come and that could be a serious problem. The jump starter needs no external power source as it actually is the power source. So once again, you can think of jump starters as portable car batteries capable of reviving your vehicle (just like a defibrillator would).
Modern jump starters pack a variety of other useful features such as having flashlights built into them for times when it’s dark outside. Some even have power outlets for you to charge your mobile devices from. One amazing feature in some portable models is that they have an actual air compressor capable of re inflating your tires if something happens to them. All this make a portable jump starter a must-have tool for any driver.
Apart from the ones we just listed, there are other important features you must look out for when buying your jump starter. Let’s take a deeper look at them:
Features That Define A Good Jump Starter
One thing that we must say from the get-go is that there is one simple rule with jump starters: the bigger the car’s engine, the more power it will require, and therefore the bigger jump starter you will need. Additionally, a good model must hold its charge over a longer period of time and not lose it in just a few months. That way you can rely on your back-up plan instead of having a dead battery and a dead jump starter when things go downhill.
One more thing you definitely need to have on your desired model is a built-in protection system that will prevent any harm done to your vehicle’s electronics which are delicate and can easily cause far bigger damage if not cared for. Now, let’s start with the first important aspect of a jump starter:
The Power Output
Many people mistakenly take the Watts of a jump starter for its power output metrics. This isn’t correct and you shouldn’t get confused. The power is measured by the peak amperage of the model. In other words, this is the maximum amount of electricity the jump starter can deliver to your dead battery on start-up. This is the single most important aspect of the tool’s power. If the peak amperage isn’t high enough for your car, it won’t be able to crank the engine and get it moving. So, just remember that – the higher the peak amperage, the stronger the jump starter.
When it comes to electricity, the power is measured in Watts. This means that to get more power out of a tool you either need more current (amps) or higher voltage. Usually, models come either as a 12V or 24V variations, therefore the higher the amps the more power is generated. This is why you need to know the voltage of your jump starter but also know that amps are the most important, and after them comes everything else.
As we pointed out earlier, to know the power necessities of your car, you need to consult the owner’s manual or simply check it online if possible.
The Cranking Amps
Often the peak amperage of jump starters is used for marketing reasons and high numbers there not always mean a better jump starter. What matters the most besides power is the cranking amps of your model. This translates to the ability of the jumpstarter to maintain an electrical current to your car for half a minute at temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 celsius) while keeping a minimum of 1.2 volts per each of your 6 battery cells (7.2 Volts minimum). In simpler terms, this is the amount of power needed to crank the engine at any weather conditions except the sub-zero winter days. For climates with mostly sub-zero temperatures, you need to check the cold cranking amps of the jump starter. Those indicate the same thing as the cranking amps but at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or -17.8 Celsius).
The reason engines need more energy during winter or colder temperatures is that oil gets thicker during freezing temperatures and it takes more power to get things moving inside the engine bay.
Higher cranking amps prove useful in many ways mostly due to the fact that the car’s start-up systems are very power-hungry and a higher energy outburst is far more desirable.
In physics terms, voltage defines the readiness of the electrical current within your jump starter, or in other words – available energy. It is the force that drives electricity from the jump starter to your car’s battery.
It is an important factor but not the most important one as most models come in two variations:
- 12-Volt Models
- 24-Volt Models
Choosing one of these two depends mainly on the existing battery in your vehicle. Most cars come with 12-Volt batteries. Heavy-duty trucks and buses, on the other hand, come equipped with 24-Volt ones.
Additional Features That Are Important
As we already pointed out, there are jump starters which come with additional features which could be considered gimmicky by some but can also be useful in the right moment. All you have to be careful with is not to bump up the price too much with features you won’t necessarily need. So, let’s see which might those be:
- Flashlights- This has become an industry standard but it wasn’t just a few years ago. The issue with flashlights is that, unless removable, you will have to carry a 30 pound battery jump starter at the direction which you want illuminated. Still, if something goes wrong during the dark hours of the day, this might prove useful.
- Air Compressors- This is a feature that people often overlook. If you find a good jump starter which has a compressor and won’t dig a hole in your pocket we say go for it. Even if your car’s battery is fine you might run into something and deflate your tire. Having a compressor in these cases is an absolute godsent.
- USB Ports, Cigarette Lighter, And Regular Power Outlets- This feature is of great use if you go camping a lot. Then, the battery jump starter will be able to take a role of a generator of sort. Some have the capacity of charging mobile phones tens of times or even sustaining a light source for hours. In case your car’s battery is dead but so are the mobile devices used to call emergency services you will be able to quickly charge them up.
- Short Circuit Protection- This feature is important in case you forget the leads connected together. There are also various of other forms of protection such as overcharging protection which preserves the health of your battery jump starter over the course of its use. Always make sure that the jump starter at least has short circuit protection.
- The Length Of The Cables- How long your leads are only depends on the occasion. If you want to place your jump starter on the ground before using it, then longer cables are needed. Usually, most models come with 3ft. long cables but some might come with shorter. Make sure you keep an eye out for this feature. AN extra set of cables won’t be bad as well if it doesn’t raise the price too much.
Choosing The Right Model For You
Getting a jump starter isn’t rocket science and, in fact, there are just a few things you have to consider in order to land on the perfect model for you. The main things you need to focus your attention at are:
- Cranking Amps and Peak Amps
- The size of the portable battery jump starter you need
- The dimensions and weight
- What extra features would you like having
- Should it be Lead Acid vs. Lithium Ion one?
So, let’s take a look at each of those aspects into greater detail now.
Cranking vs. Peak Amps
We already discussed what those are a little higher in this guide but to put it short, you shouldn’t solely look for higher peak amps, as these can be misleading. See, having higher peak amps doesn’t necessarily mean having higher jump starting capacity. Those peak amps can fade away quite fast or simply put – they represent the burst of energy your jump starter will be capable of. What should be playing a bigger role in your purchase decision is the next aspect:
Choosing The Right Cranking Amps
This, as explained, is the sustainability of the electrical current by the jump starter. If a starting burst takes longer than 2 seconds the cranking amps of the model kick in. Basically, anything between 2 and 10 seconds is measured by the cranking amps. The first instance (1-2 seconds) is the peak amps.
This is why in colder climates, or with engines which need a lot of cranking, this parameter is paramount. Imagine your engine needs some good 6-7 seconds of cranking before the camshaft spins the engine properly. Jump starters with high peak amp and low cranking amps will fail in this task.
The Size Of The Portable Jump Starter
This aspect is simple to account to. The larger and more powerful the engine, the more power will it need to start up. This means that you will need a bigger portable jump starter. When it comes to engines, there are a few aspects to keep in mind that always indicate a need of more power. Diesel engines, engines with more cylinders, and older engines need more initial power (peak amps) and sometimes more cranking amps, depending on some other conditions.
Generally speaking, gas cars need roughly 200-250 amps, while diesel machines need more than 500. A typical 6-cylinder BMW will need around 600 amps to be able to start properly with a dead battery and a jump starter.
Size can be taken into its other meaning as well. A bigger and heavier jump starter will also be harder to transport and will take up more space. If you have a small car it wouldn’t be the brightest idea to fill up half your trunk with that. We suggest getting as much as you’d ever need and find the most “ergonomic” and practical model that will nicely fit with the rest of your emergency gear in the trunk.
One thing that people often overlook too is:
As batteries die in colder weather (most of them), jump starters can suffer the same faith if not powerful enough. If you live in an area where temperatures often drop below freezing point, you might want to consider a model which has double the cranking amps listed on your vehicle’s manual. In rough climates 700 amp jump starters behave like 350 amp ones so always remember that.
During the cold months, always keep your car’s battery and your portable jump starter charged at least once per month. If you think it’s far too cold outside, charge them fully more than once. Keeping your battery in a warm dry place when you’re not traveling will help prolong its life as well. Keeping a battery charged prolongs its life in general. Draining it dry constantly reduces its life expectancy drastically. During the warmer months you can do this one per every few months.
This is the last thing you need to consider when buying your first jump starter. And by last, we really mean it. A good jump starter can save your day and car and saving a few bucks might prove a really bad decision further down the line. Good models aren’t that expensive nowadays as well. We suggest taking a look at out top 5 picks. They are all chosen having the budget-oriented drivers in mind.
Now, let’s move to perhaps the most important aspect of having this tool in your trunk – the way it’s used:
How To Use A Jump Starter
In basic terms, jump starting a car is a process consisted of connecting two cables between your portable battery and the car’s battery. Still, there are some details which are better told than to be learned the hard way.
Before you jump start the car, make sure its parked flat and all electronics are turned off. Always check your jump starter whether it has enough power to provide the necessary cranking power for your engine. The only thing worse than one dead battery is two dead batteries.
The red cable and clamp go to the positive end of your vehicle. Logically, the black ones attach to the negative terminal of the car’s battery. An alternative for the black clamp is to attach it to the car’s chassis. This is practically the same as connecting it directly to the battery but avoids the risk of sparks and burning hydrogen gas.
Once everything is connected, turn on the jump starter and turn the ignition of your car. If the cranking power is enough your car will start without any hiccups. If it doesn’t work, give it a few minutes and then try again.
Pro Tip: Do not crank your engine for more than 5 seconds. The portable jump starter battery is designed to give its burst of energy between the second and fifth second. If you prolong that you will quickly heat up your jump starter and it will most likely fail or block itself until it cools down (if it has that sort of protection system in place).
If you manage to turn on the engine after, turn off your portable jump starter and remove the clamps. Always remove the black one first, followed by the red one.
Keep the engine running at all costs. The engine running for some time is actually going to give enough charge to your battery so that it can start the car on its own the next time the engine stalls.
Using Another Car As A Jump Starter
Now, we are well aware that this method isn’t exactly fitting of the words “portable” but it is what people did way before jump starters were invented.
Basically, all you have to do is use the other car’s energy source as a jump starter. Place the two cars with their fronts facing each other.
Both cars should be off when you start connecting their terminals. First, connect the red terminal of the dead battery then connect the red cable with its other end to the healthy battery’s positive terminal. It is really important to keep this order of connecting, and later the opposite way of disconnecting.
Then, connect the black cable to the negative terminal of the donor car and then to the one with the dead battery. That way we are done with the positive-positive and negative-negative connections.
Start up the donor car and let it run for a few minutes before you try cranking the recipient car. After starting up your car, disconnect the cables in the opposite order of connecting them. Again, let your car run for at least 10 minutes and then you are good to go. If you feel confident to drive, feel free to do so. Driving actually recharges the car’s battery slightly faster.
For this method something very important is that both batteries should have the same power capacity or voltage otherwise you might overheat, overcharge, or simply damage one of the batteries or worse – both of them.
It is important to talk about safety as it is with everything that involves electricity. Apart from always making sure you are following the right order of connecting the red and black clamps, you should always make sure that the terminals are clean, free of dirt, and in good condition. Avoid jump starting in rainy conditions, unless absolutely necessary.
If you don’t feel safe enough, rubber gloves are always welcomed. Keep a pair in your trunk in case you have to touch open power sources. Sparks are another issue which you might keep an eye out for. Most modern jump starters have anti-spark systems integrated into them, but safety goggles are always a good idea.
Before using your new portable jump starter make sure you’ve read the user manual, as well as the one of your car.
Before we conclude this guide, let’s briefly dive into a question which has been circulating the car community for a while now.
Lead Acid Vs. Lithium Ion Jump Starters
On today’s market there are mainly two options when it comes to portable jump starters:
- Lead acid powered
- Lithium Ion powered
Lead acid ones are older in terms of technology and are more traditional and affordable. Performance-wise they are inferior to the lithium ion models mainly due to a couple of reasons.
Lithium Ion batteries are often far more compact while packing marginally more raw power than their lead acid counterparts. When it comes to being portable, they definitely win the race. For cars with small trunk they are just ideal.
A downside for both variations is that they experience similar power loss during cold periods. That, for some people is a reason not to spend that extra cash on lithium batteries and just stick with lead acid ones.
All in all, it all narrows down to the dimensions of both, since the power difference won’t be felt unless you have a car with a bigger engine (ex. 6-cylinder 3 liter diesel).