Three best jump starters
Imagine being stranded at night in a remote area. Your car battery is dead. You can't get a signal on your phone. You're alone.
It's a chilling scenario. But what if there was a tool compact enough to fit in your glovebox that could get you out of this jam in a few minutes?
Today, there's no need to wait for AAA or a Good Samaritan to give you a jump start. Affordable portable jump starters can get your car running again fast, and many are loaded with other important safety features. Read on to find out what you need to know before buying a jump starter.
Considerations when choosing jump starters
Portable jump starters can prove vital in getting you home safely -- or to work on time in the dead of winter. Not needing another vehicle to juice up a battery saves you a lot of anxiety and time.
There's never been a better time to protect yourself or your loved ones from a common form of car trouble. Models range from compact and lightweight to heavy-duty professional grade. They're simple and safe to use.
Besides giving you the emergency cranking power you need, many portable jump starters offer much more at an affordable price. Typical add-ons include the following.
Emergency flashlight: A flashlight can help you see clearly under the hood in dim lighting conditions or signal approaching motorists if additional help is needed.
Built-in compressor: This may prove handy for those times when a tire is nearly flat and needs a quick shot of air.
Power bank with USB port: Many jump starters double as charging stations that can handle your phone, tablet, or other devices -- at the same time they're powering your dead car battery.
With so many models available, it's easy to get a little overwhelmed. There are sleek, ultra-compact models that weigh less than a pound that are slim enough to fit in a glovebox or under a seat. And there are super-powerful units loaded with features that can charge just about any vehicle.
How do you choose?
The best way to decide which jump starter is right for you is to consult the owner's manual of your vehicle. On those pages, you will find the specifications for jump-starting cranking power and other important information about your battery. (Some modern vehicles with fully automatic ignition systems cannot be jump-started.)
The bigger the engine on your vehicle, the more cranking power -- usually noted by manufacturers as "peak amperage" -- you'll need. Jump starters generally offer between 400 amps (good enough for most sedans) and 4,000 amps (capable of starting large trucks). Remember that if you live in a region with harsh winters, you'll need extra power.
Once you've decided how much power you need, the next major consideration is the quality of the clamps and cables you'll be using to connect the portable starter to your battery. Both should be heavy-duty for durability and safety.
The gauge of the wire inside the cables is important. The wider the wire, the more current it can handle. Simply put, thicker cables mean faster jump-starting. Look for cables with at least eight- or six-gauge wire (the lower the number, the better). Ten-gauge is too thin and flimsy; it's not recommended. Also take note of the length of the cables. They should be long enough to allow the jump starter to be placed securely on the ground.
Most top-quality jump starters have excellent safety features that guard against sparking, over-charging, and reverse charging that could damage your vehicle. Some have an audible alarm that advises you when your connections are wrong.
Jump starter prices
Excellent jump starters sell for as little as $50 and are capable of handling most cars. Heavy-duty jump starters can cost a few hundred dollars but sacrifice convenience with added weight and bulk.
Take basic precautions when charging a battery. To reduce the risk of shock, wear thick rubber gloves, and remove any dangling jewelry or loose clothing. Safety goggles should be worn to avoid eye injury in the event of sparking. And, as always, read the operating manual carefully before use.
Jump starters we recommend
Best of the best: Clore Automotive, 1,700 peak amps
Our take: Extremely powerful and versatile, this jump starter can do it all.
What we like: Rugged and reliable. Generates enough power to handle all cars and small trucks. Heavy-duty cables with two-gauge wire. Can charge other devices.
What we dislike: Relatively expensive, and power may be overkill.
Best bang for your buck: Clore Automotive, 900 peak amps
Our take: Simple to use and inexpensive, this lightweight jump starter is good for most vehicles.
What we like: Heavy-duty clamps and cables. Includes detachable emergency flashlight. Can charge other devices.
What we dislike: Cables are only 27 inches long.
Third choice: DBPOWER 600A Peak Portable Jump Starter
Our take: This affordable, compact jump starter is packed with extra adapters for your added convenience.
What we like: LCD screen indicates the power status. Includes three levels of LED lighting as well as a red emergency light.
What we dislike: Although there are extra adapters for charging devices, you cannot charge a MacBook with this jump starter.
William Miller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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