There are several items that you should carry with you in your vehicle, especially if you travel often. These include a flashlight, spare tire, first aid kit, water, and a portable car jump starter. There are several models of jump starters available, though, so how do you know which one is best for you?
In this article, we’ll look at six features to examine to make sure you choose the right one.
- Battery Size and Voltage
There is no point in buying a portable car jump starter if it won’t work with your car battery, should it die. Most vehicle batteries are either 6-volt, 12-volt, or 24-volt. Regular cars, small SUVs and trucks, and many other vehicles of average size almost always have 6-volt or 12-volt batteries. Larger trucks and vehicles have 24-volt batteries.
Whatever voltage your car battery takes, you have to buy a jump starter that is compatible. In addition, think about what other tasks you may want to use your jump starter to fulfill. For example, if you own other vehicles or large pieces of machinery, make sure that your jump starter is compatible with those as well.
- Type of Jump Starter
There are two major categories of car jump starters: lithium-ion and lead-acid. Lithium-ion batteries are deceptively small, but they pack a big punch. They also typically last longer than lead-acid models, depending on how often you have to use them.
Lead-acid batteries are much larger and can be quite heavy, up to 40 pounds, which makes them less portable. Many lead-acid jump starters are older models and some companies have stopped making them in favor of lithium-ions. They tend to be less expensive, though, and they can also be recharged and used again (although less effectively).
- The Type and Size of Your Engine
Now that we have covered the voltage of the batteries, it’s time to look at amps. The best way to determine the number of amps that you need for your vehicle is by looking at the number of cylinders in your engine.
Generally speaking, 4-cylinder gasoline engines require 150 to 250 amps; 6-cylinder gasoline engines require 250 to 350 amps; and 8-cylinder gasoline engines require 400 to 550 amps.
Diesel engines need even more power. Four-cylinder diesel engines require 300 to 450 amps; 6-cylinder diesel engines require 450 to 600 amps; and 8-cylinder diesel engines require 600 to 750 amps.
Keep in mind that you can sometimes use a smaller car jumper than is normally called for depending on whether the battery is completely dead or not. You won’t harm the battery by using a smaller, portable car jump starter on a larger vehicle.
The same is often true of larger jumpers on smaller cars. Even though it seems as though that may do more harm than good, most new car jumpers on the market are “smart” enough to know not to deliver too much of a charge.
- Quality of the Jumper Cables
Just as with most consumer goods, quality varies and some jump starters are better than others. Another aspect that you need to consider is the quality of the cables themselves.
The most important thing to look for with the cables is that they have a smart module, which we’ll discuss below in more detail under the safety features section. However, it is important to note right now because the presence of a smart module is important to the quality of the cables, as well.
As far as the clamps are concerned, the best ones are copper-coated with a dense metal base. These features help conduct the electricity properly, and they also help secure the connectivity.
Finally, it’s also important to be sure the cables are long enough, both to reach the car and each of the positive and negative battery terminals. Think about where you will put the jump starter while charging, and make sure that both cables will reach the terminals.
- Safety Features
Naturally, you want your jump starters to be as safe as possible; after all, you’re dealing with a powerful charge. There are five essential safety features to look for on whichever jump starter kit you purchase:
- Anti-spark technology
- Reverse polarity
- Short circuit protection
- Overcharge protection
- Back-feed protection
Having all five of these features guarantees that you and your loved ones will be safe while operating the jump starter, but it’s a lot to look for. There is a simpler way. If you buy a jump starter with a smart module, all of these protections will be wrapped up in one.
It is dangerous to operate a jump starter without at least some safety features. They can pose threats of fire, electrocution, or other accidents.
- Extra Features and Accessories
The last thing to consider is which (if any) additional features or accessories you want. That way, you get what you need without spending extra money unnecessarily. One popular feature of portable car jump starters especially is the ability to charge electronics with it. If you’re already carrying the battery kit with you in the car, you might as well be able to use it.
There are other optional features that would be very helpful to have in an accident or emergency, including a flashlight that can be powered with the battery, a compass, a hammer, and an air compressor.
Don’t be too distracted by these optional features, however. The most important things to look out for when choosing the right jump starter are key safety features and that it is compatible with your vehicle.
Buying the Best Portable Car Jump Starter
Let’s review the questions you should ask before buying a jump starter:
- What voltage is your battery?
- How many cylinders and what type of engine do you have?
- Lithium-ion or lead-acid?
- Will the cables work for you?
- Does it have a smart module, or at least most of the five key safety features?
- Do you want or need any extra features?
Storing a portable car jump starter in your vehicle can provide peace of mind for you and your family. It might also give you the opportunity to be a good samaritan and help others.