Frequently Asked Questions About Portable Jump Starters
What is a Jump Starter or Battery Booster?
A jump starter is an electrical device designed to “jump start” or boost a cars battery so that it can provide enough power to the vehicles starter motor and therefore start the engine. These devices are used when the vehicles own battery power output has dropped to the point where it will no longer provide enough current to start the engine. Jump starters range in size from larger wheeled ones that a repair shop might have to fully portable battery boosters that can fit in a glove box.
Do portable jump starters work for all types of vehicles and engines?
The answer is essentially yes. There are jump starters that will work for most, if not all, types of vehicles and battery types you may want to use them with. Most brands will have information about what types of batteries they work well with (most common being 12v lead acid batteries) and/or what size or type of vehicle you can use them on. The size of the jump starter usually correlates fairly well with the application as well (if you have a larger vehicle with a larger engine you will most likely need a larger jump starter).
Why is it a good idea to carry a portable Jump Starter in my vehicle?
If you’ve never experienced a dead battery, and being stuck somewhere in your car or truck because of it, then you are luckier than most people. The truth is it can happen with even newer cars because not all automobiles come with very good battery brands. Batteries also have a fairly short lifespan of 3-5 years. It’s recommended that you replace a battery after 3 years because at the 4 or 5 year and above mark they can really start to become unreliable.
How do portable jump starters work and do they work with a dead battery?
A portable jump starter acts much like an external power supply or battery that comes to the aid of your vehicles already weak or dead battery. More specifically, portable jump starters are designed to provide a high intensity boost of power, sometimes referred to as cranking amps or cold cranking amps (CCA),that can power the vehicles starter motor enough to crank the engine over and get it started. This is similar to when you get a “jump start” from another vehicle using jumper cables connected to both vehicle batteries. This situation uses the other vehicles battery for that boost of power to start your engine.
To stay running for long however the vehicle will need a battery that isn’t completely blown (and does accept a charge) as well as an alternator (or stator) that can charge the battery and maintaining the electrical system required for the engine to run. Without any of these your vehicle will not stay running even after you’ve jump started it.
What factors should I consider when choosing a jump starter?
It’s pretty important to consider what size jump starter you will need to get the job done. They come in a pretty wide range of sizes and are designed to be used with different size vehicles. The power rating (how many Amps) output of the starter is going to be key as well and largely goes up as the size of the starter goes up. It’s important to get a starter with enough peak amps but more importantly cranking amps. Too few cranking amps could leave you stranded if a smaller starter can’t crank your engine over. Peak amps usually only last a split second and since most vehicles take longer to start than that you are left with cranking amps to get the job done, so make sure this amount is sufficient. We recommend at least 200 cranking amps and 400 peak amps for even smaller engines. Be sure to check this rating before purchasing your starter.
What size jump starter do I need for my vehicle?
This can depend on a couple different factors but the biggest one is the size of your vehicles engine and also how portable you need it to be. The higher the power output the larger the portable starter is going to be so check the physical dimensions before buying (if for instance you want it to fit in your glove box). The bigger the engine the more cracking amps you will need to power the starter motor for that engine to get it started. Most portable jump starters have in the 400amp to 2000amp range but this does not usually mean actual cranking amps. The rating for most starters usually refers to the peak power output potential which can be misleading.
We recommend you either look up the specific cranking amps output before buying or play it safe and get a portable starter that is double what is rated for your vehicles engine. So for instance if you have a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder car, we recommend you buy a starter rated about 600-1000amps peak. Always get a higher power one if you can afford it.
How can I tell if my battery is starting to go bad?
This is a great question and one we are glad to answer because you can find yourself in a bad situation if you get stuck with a bad battery. One of the earlier signs of a battery approaching the end of its life is your vehicle lights will seem dimmer than usual. This is an important thing to pay attention to but can be a bit subtle. An even easier way to notice a bad battery is if your car or truck is having trouble (even slightly) starting up the first time of the day. This can often mean it is not capable of receiving a full charge or has other issues with its power output.
In the situation where you know your battery is acting up (of if your battery is more than 5 years old) we always recommend purchasing a new battery. Portable starters are recommended mainly for that situation where you really don’t expect to be in trouble with a vehicle that won’t start, like when leaving your lights on etc.
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.