What to look for in battery boost & jump starters

Written by steve montgomery
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Portable battery booster systems are a great tool to give your vehicle an emergency jump start if the battery dies. Booster systems can be anything from a simple model that lives in the glove compartment that boosts the battery power to a level where it can start the vehicle to a system that can inflate your tires and provide a work light at the same time.

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Cranking Power

Jump starter units work as if you had hooked your car up to another one with jump leads. You want to make sure the jump starter unit has enough power to crank the engine of your vehicle. A small subcompact car will not need the same sized unit as a full-sized pickup truck. Getting a unit with more power can make the starting process easier since it has power to spare. Battery boosters work like a battery charger for a cordless drill. They trickle in power to your car's battery so that it can be used to start the car. They are usually smaller units that can fit inside the glove compartment and work by plugging into a cigarette lighter or power port socket. Using a battery booster takes more time to get the car started, but you do not have to go under the hood.

Other Functions

Jump starter units frequently have extra functions built in to make them more useful. They can have a high-intensity light to make it easier to see what you are doing at night. Tire inflators are also commonly available. Some even have power inverters so they can provide 110-volt current. Another common feature is a 12-volt power port. The ability to recharge by household current makes it easier for some units to be brought back to full charge. Battery boosters do not usually have these extra features since they are designed to trickle charge the vehicle's battery then get recharged through the same port.

Cable Size and Length

Jump starters have the same type of cables and clamps as jump leads. The thicker the cable, the easier it is to transfer the power and the quicker the vehicle will start. Longer cables can let you set the unit on the ground for starting so you do not have to have someone hold it or keep it on the engine compartment. Battery boosters generally do not have cables since they plug into a 12-volt port inside the vehicle. The size of the wire does not matter as much since the amount of power transferred is less. Thicker wires will be more durable and be less likely to overheat.

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