The 10 Best Jump Starters
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in March of 2015. No need to rely on a Good Samaritan to help you out if your battery dies when you have one of these jump starters in your vehicle. They have powerful cranking capabilities, and some can even serve as a power source for devices like smartphones and tablets, too. We've included some heavy-duty models suitable for the biggest of trucks, as well as small, compact models that can fit in the glove box. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best jump starter on Amazon.
Why You Need A Jump Starter
Jump starters are portable, charged devices that contain enough power to start a car.
To perform a jump start, a temporary connection is made between the dead battery and a live battery, or some other external device, like a jump starter or battery charger.
Jump starting a car, sometimes referred to as boost starting a car, is a simple method of starting a vehicle which does not have enough remaining power in its own battery to crank the engine. To perform a jump start, a temporary connection is made between the dead battery and a live battery, or some other external device, like a jump starter or battery charger.
This external power supply recharges the dead battery enough to crank the engine and start the car. Once the car has been started, the external power source can be disconnected and the car's internal charging system should recharge the battery on its own. If there is a problem with the alternator, or some other component of the car's charging system, it will not be able to recharge the battery and most likely the car will quickly stop running.
Because dead batteries are one of the most common causes of a car not starting, many motorists carry a set of jumper cables in their trunk, or under a seat. While this can be incredibly helpful, it requires the use of another car with a live battery. If stranded at home with multiple cars, this may not be much of a problem as one can just use the other car at the home. If stranded on the side of a highway or road, this becomes more problematic as one is relying on the kindness of a passing motorist to stop and help them out. If stranded on a deserted road with little to no traffic, one may have to wait for hours before another car comes along to help them out.
Instead of relying on the kindness of strangers, many have taken to keeping a jump starter in their trunk at all times. Jump starters are portable, charged devices that contain enough power to start a car. This allows you to be completely self sufficient and get back on the road quicker.
Choosing A Jump Starter
The most important feature to consider when choosing a jump starter is the size. Jump starters come in a range of sizes and different size engines will require a particular size jump starter. The size of a jump starter doesn't refer to the actual physical size, but rather its amp rating. The amp rating will usually be quoted in peak amps and cranking amps, which are wildly different.
Six cylinder cars require models with 200 to 250 amps of cranking power, and eight cylinder cars require from 250 to 300 amps of cranking power.
The peak amps relates to the amount of power a jump starter can provide in a quick burst when you crank the engine, but peak amps decline quickly. If your car doesn't start at the first crank or two, you will be left with the cranking amp power. Many cars with a dead battery don't start on the first crank or two. This is why it's important to take both ratings into account when choosing a jump starter.
Most jump starters will have 1000 to 2000 peak amps, which is sufficient for most any size car engine, but the cranking amps will be significantly lower and need to be analyzed before making a purchase. Four cylinder cars will require a jump starter with 150 to 200 amps of cranking power. Six cylinder cars require models with 200 to 250 amps of cranking power, and eight cylinder cars require from 250 to 300 amps of cranking power. Diesel engines require more power, and therefor require bigger jump starters. A four cylinder diesel engine needs a jump starter with 300 to 400 cranking amps, while a six cylinder engine needs from 400 to 500 amps, and an eight cylinder engine needs 600 to 700 cranking amps.
Other considerations for a jump starter include its physical size, it should be small enough to store easily, additional features like a flashlight or AC plug, and safety features like over voltage and short circuit protection.
Signs Your Car Battery Is Going Bad
In an ideal world, we would always have warning signs before our car battery dies so we can run to the store to buy a new one, but unfortunately this isn't always the case. Other times, we do have signs, but most don't know what to look for and don't notice them. This is where a little bit of knowledge can save us from a lot hassle just a few days or hours down the line.
One of the easiest to notice indications that a battery is nearing the end of its lifespan is dimmer headlights. If you turn your headlights on at night and it seems they are dimmer than normal, there is a good chance your battery is on its last leg. This also applies to interior lights. Sluggish opening and closing of the windows is another indication of a dying battery. If only one window is opening and closing slowly, but the rest work fine, then it indicates a window problem.
Another easily noticed symptom of a battery going bad is when an engine struggles to turn over. If you notice your car is taking longer to turn over, or the engine sounds slower when it cranks, your battery might be about to die. Other less obvious signs include an A/C making strange noises, less airflow coming out of the vents, and the radio volume not working.
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