Are Jump Starter Packs Worth Buying?


One of the most soul-destroying things that can happen to you as a car driver is when you turn the key in the ignition and hear the unmistakable sounds of the battery struggling and failing to start the vehicle. Whether it’s a dying battery giving up its final, inadequate remnants of charge or that distinctive click that means the battery is completely dead, it means you’re going nowhere anytime soon.

Of course, there are several ways you can get your vehicle going and your journey underway when your car battery lets you down, but most of them require the help of someone else. However, if you have a jump starter pack close at hand you might not have to rely on anyone else and that means you could be on your way in minutes.

Jump starter pack technology has been getting better and better in recent years and these handy units have become increasingly popular, but are jump starter packs really worth buying?

Jumper packs are an extremely useful addition to any vehicle emergency kit as they are a self-sufficient way of quickly getting a vehicle with a dead or dying battery underway, but they can also supply charge to any number of electronic devices too. Even if a jump pack can’t get your vehicle going, it could come in extremely useful for powering a mobile device that’s out of charge to call for help so you’re not left stranded.

Can you use a jump starter pack as a battery?

Portable jump starters – which can also be known as battery boosters, emergency boosters, battery jumpers, and jump boxes – cannot be used as a battery and they’re not the same as a charger either. Jumpstarters don’t need to be plugged into a power source but they don’t recharge the battery. Instead, a jump starter simply provides enough power to crank the engine and get the vehicle started.

Can a jump box charge a battery?

Even if a jumper pack is left connected to a battery for a length of time it will not recharge the battery. A jump box is specifically designed to provide a quick boost of power to a starter motor so it can turn an engine over and get it going.

Although you will connect the jump starter to the battery terminals you are effectively bypassing your vehicle battery and supplying that quick boost of power directly to the starter motor. However, a totally dead battery will take up some of the charge flowing through it from the jump pack to the starter motor and that could result in there not being enough charge to get the engine started.

Jump starter vs a charger

A battery charger supplies a relatively small electrical charge over a long period to recharge a depleted or dead battery, while a jump starter supplies a “quick hit” of a high voltage that’s enough to get the starter motor to crank the engine.

A charger has one job of recharging a battery, but modern jumper packs can perform a number of different tasks with additional features such as a flashlight, USB charging ports, and even an air compressor for inflating flat tires.

Will a jump pack start a completely dead battery?

Yes, a jump pack will start a vehicle with a completely dead battery as long as the jump box has a high enough crank amp (CA or CCA) rating for the vehicle it’s trying to start. A jump starter pack with a rating of 500 should be able to start just about any vehicle, but in general, the higher the rating the jump starter pack has the better it is.

Jump starter pack voltage

The vast majority of batteries for cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks are 12-volt, but RVs, commercial trucks and heavy machinery can be up to 24-volt. You must check the required voltage and use a suitable pack. A 12-volt jump pack will struggle to start a 24-volt system but it won’t do any harm. However, some old motorcycles run on 6-volt batteries and if you try to start one of those with a 12-volt pack you could do serious harm.

How do you use a jump starter pack?

A jump starter pack is used in the same way as jumper cables from one car to another and you should follow all the same safety precautions. The big advantage of a jump starter pack is it means you don’t need another vehicle present so it makes you completely self-reliant.

Jump packs get plugged into the mains electrical supply to recharge after they’ve been used and they can be used over and over again as long as they are kept charged up.

Who needs a jump starter pack?

Anyone who drives a car might need a jump starter pack at some point, but some people are more likely to need them than others. If you have a relatively new car and you live somewhere that doesn’t get freezing weather conditions in the winter you’re not as likely to need a jump pack as someone who does.

Then again, it doesn’t matter where you live or what you drive if you leave your lights or something else electrical on when you leave your vehicle for a length of time. Older vehicles are more likely to have issues with leaky electrics that can excessively drain the battery. Old batteries that are past their use-by date can lead you to need a jump pack, but even brand new cars with new batteries can end up needing jump-starting if they have a lot of electrical gadgets that are used when the alternator isn’t recharging the battery.

When I was in the retail auto business the dealership’s jump pack was my best friend. We were in a part of the country that got seriously cold during winter and used cars on the lot were often stood for days on end without being used. It certainly wasn’t uncommon to go to get a car for a customer test drive and find the battery was dead.

Getting another vehicle and connecting jumper cables between the two isn’t a good look when you’re trying to sell that car to a potential customer, so the jump box was a much quicker, easier and more discrete way of getting a vehicle with a dead battery up and running.

If you’re away from home in somewhere unfamiliar and you get in your car to head off and it won’t start because of a dead battery, the money you spent on a jump starter pack will feel like some of the best money you’ve ever spent in your life.

Even if you go to buy a used vehicle from somewhere and you’re driving it home on your home, it really is a good idea to have a portable jump starter with you. If you buy from an auction or a dealer they’ll be able to give you a jump start if the battery is flat when you get there.

But how do you know if the battery will start the vehicle if you have to stop on your way home or whether the alternator is recharging it while you’re driving at all? You could go to a government auction and buy yourself an ex-cop car or a vehicle confiscated from some bad guys and drive away in a genuine bargain, but how do you know that it’s going to start if you have to stop off on the way home?

If you stop for some reason and your used car won’t start again all you have to do is connect up the jump pack, get the car started, and try not to stop again until you get home or to a garage.

As I mentioned earlier, modern jump packs can now have many other functions and features as well so they really can be a one-stop-shop for the stranded driver. Are jump starter packs worth buying? You bet they are and you’ll thank me for saying so if you buy one and then one day find yourself in the middle of nowhere having to use it.  

 

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

Recent Posts