Should You Get a Jump Starter Instead of Jumper Cables?

In a previous article, we talked about jumper cable mistakes. Jump-starting a car seems pretty straightforward, so many people are surprised at the number of hidden dangers involved. For decades, jumper cables have been standard equipment for jump-starting dead batteries, but what about jump starters? Are there any advantages to getting a jump starter (a.k.a. a jump box) instead of, or in addition to, booster cables?

How a Jump Starter Beats Jumper Cables

The main advantage of a jump starter is that it is far more portable than a second battery (typically up to 22 kg) or a second vehicle (sometimes upwards of 2,000 kg). Thanks to advances in battery and electronics technology, portable jump starters tend to weigh no more than 10 kg, but they can pack enough energy to start a V8 engine. For example, this weighs just 4 kg but can deliver up to 900 amps to a weak starting system. Some jump starters are so small they can fit in your back pocket, though these provide less overall power. Here are a few more advantages to jump starters:

  • Safer for electronics – Most portable battery boosters feature polarity protection, warning you if you’ve crossed your connections. Jump-starting a vehicle backwards can do a lot of damage to the electrical system, but some jump starters won’t deliver power at all unless the polarity is correct.
  • Safer for users – Jump starters are usually clamped directly to the dead battery’s terminals, something you should never do with jumper cables. While jumper cable clamps tend to spark, jump starters don’t deliver power until they have a firm connection. Eliminating sparks means less chance of igniting hydrogen gas.
  • Multi-purpose device – It’s nice when one piece of equipment can tackle multiple tasks. Some jump starters are equipped with power sockets, USB charging sockets, air compressors, or emergency lighting. Of course, these functions use the internal battery, so be sure to fully charge the battery booster after using them.

Jump starter maintenance

Jump starters are more expensive then jumper cables, but their versatility makes them a good choice for many drivers. There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want your new jump box to last and deliver a charge when you need it. The most important is to keep it charged by topping it off every two or three months. Alternatively, if your ride has a convenient 12 V socket, you can charge up your jump starter in the car while you’re driving. Finally, store your jump starter in a dry place, because excess humidity or standing water can corrode the electronics inside. Check out “5 Tips for a Long Battery Jump Starter Life” for more information.

There are a lot of ways you can inadvertently drain your car battery. Maybe the door was left ajar or the vehicle’s been sitting a few weeks. Some electrical problems can also drain the battery without causing any obvious symptoms. If you find you’re often reaching for your jumper cables or jump starter, have your battery and charging system checked by a professional. If you’re having problems starting your car, remember that the battery is only one part of the system. Check out our next post, where we’ll discuss starting problems.

By Benjamin Jerew

5 Replies to “Should You Get a Jump Starter Instead of Jumper Cables?”

  1. Sandra Roberts says:

    I know this is stupid but I have to ask:

    Is there a device that can be left attached under the hood that would ensure a reliable start in cold weather every time?

    And:

    Is there a reliable block heater I can have installed in my 2005 Nissan Xtrail that will actually do a better than average job?

    As you can guess my older vehicle is just not starting properly with the -38°Celsius weather, even though it is always plugged in wham it is -15°Celsius or colder. This past week I cannot start it at all and I have a newer 5 year battery in it since last winter which was installed by AMA road assistance. Last year only boosting it could get it started, but at least it worked. I finally decided to get a new battery then… The fix last year is not working this year though, even with the newer battery.

    My vehicle is never ever EVER(!) warm enough to feel comfortable while driving but up until this latest cold snap I have always been able to start it without any issues. I need help and advice. Thanks to anyone who can assist.

    1. NAPA Canada says:

      Hi Sandra,
      I suggest you to read this article about block heaters: https://blog.napacanada.com/en/how-to-use-a-block-heater-to-survive-the-winter/
      Hope it’ll answer your question!

      Eloïse Dussault | NAPA Canada

    2. Alan says:

      When you say it occurred last year as well, was that during the colder weather as well? It MAY be a starter if it occurs fairly consistently. Possibly loose battery connection? Possible corrosion on battery terminal/clamps and/or inside battery cables?

      If it only occurs in colder temperatures, try switching to full synthetic engine oil first to see if that makes any difference. Also ensure your block heater is working. Having your block heater on for 3 hours prior to starting in cold weather should be sufficient. The block heater itself may be defective, the extension cord, the electrical receptacle or the breaker for that receptacle may be tripped. Last year I had to re-wire my electrical receptacle I use for my block heater so it was on it’s own circuit as it kept tripping the breaker due to the pad of the block heater. Weird though that that breaker had never tripped the previous 18 years I used it for the block heater.

      1. Alan says:

        Hi Sandra,

        I forgot to add. I do not think there is anything you can leave attached under the hood to ensure a more reliable cold start other than perhaps a battery blanket to cover your battery, assuming the battery is the issue here. A battery blanket sure wouldn’t hurt though either way.

    3. James R says:

      Yes, there is. NAPA sells a charger, part number MBC 90300A, that is designed to be mounted under hood, where there’s room, and can be plugged in at the same time as your block heater. I have used one for years, and it is far better than a block heater alone.

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