Imagine you’re on a road trip, hundreds of miles away from home. You pull over to take a break, but when you get back to your vehicle, you find that it won’t start. The battery is completely drained and there’s not a soul around to offer you help. What can you do? Normally you’d have to wait until eventually someone came along and ask them for help out of desperation. With a portable jump-starter or battery charger, you would have nothing to worry about.
Having a portable car battery charger that doubles as a jump starter can be a lifesaver, not only for yourself, but for anyone in need whose battery dies. Whether it’s a problem with the alternator, the battery is just really old, or something else, manually charging it with a car battery charger should get you back on the road and on your way to where you need to go, at least temporarily. The most important thing is getting the car somewhere safe so you or whoever owns it can properly have it looked at and diagnose the problem.
A portable battery charger and starter kit is much more convenient than getting a jump from someone else’s vehicle. First of all, you can do it all by yourself with no one’s help. If you have one, you never have to rely on anyone else to help you out if your battery suddenly dies. Not all vehicle battery chargers offer the ability to jumpstart though.
In fact, many require access to an electrical outlet to function. This is quite useful to have around the garage, but obviously wouldn’t help much if you had it with you but were parked nowhere near an electrical outlet. An extension cord could help, but if you need something that can also offer emergency aid, a jump starter/battery charger combo would obviously better suit your needs.
How Even New Car Batteries Can Accidentally Get Drained
There are many different ways you can run your battery down without even knowing it. Ignition systems are so efficient in modern vehicles that you may not even get any kind of tell or sign that it’s low. You should watch to see if it starts cranking slowly, but it can be difficult to detect unless you actually measure how much juice you have left.
It’s not such a big deal if your battery does get drained, because your alternator will inevitably recharge it after you get your engine running again. But if you’re in the wrong place, it could be a major safety concern. Something as passive as extremely cold weather can drain your vehicle. But things to be mindful of are leaving the radio on without the engine running, the interior light being left on overnight, and leaving the headlights on with the car off.
Should I Just Rely on a AAA Membership Instead?
AAA is good to have if you don’t mind paying for it annually for obvious reasons, but it is much cheaper to simply own your own equipment than it is to keep renewing a AAA membership that you don’t often need. If you don’t mind paying for extra services, it’s not a bad idea, but if your car battery gets depleted, which is by far the most common mishap that might result in being stranded, a jumpstart or charger kit is much faster.
AAA can take hours to arrive at your location as they have often have only one truck on duty that is responsible for an entire area, city, or multiple towns. By the time the AAA truck arrives, you could have jumped yourself and already been at home.
Jumpstart Kit vs Car Battery Charger
Jumpstart kits function by way of their own battery. They need to be charged before use, but can retain a charge for weeks or even months depending on the unit’s capacity. Aside from the ability to function without being plugged in, starter kits work the same as plug-in-only chargers.
Regardless of the unit you have, trickle charge or the slowest charge setting will give you the most thorough results. It takes roughly 6-10 hours to do this, but once you do, you should be good for many starts after that. A trickle charger for car battery is easy to find. Most chargers include a trickle function. A 12 volt car battery charger is the most common as most batteries in vehicles today are 12 volt. Unless otherwise noted, each one of the options in this review is a 12v car battery charger.
Jump-starters are only intended for quick-starting a dead battery, not for charging a battery that rarely gets used. If you have an RV, boat, or some other vehicle that you don’t use regularly, a car battery charger comes in handy for refilling the battery after it’s been sitting without use for too long.
If you really only need something to top up the vehicles that you don’t use often, then you might not need your charger to include jump-start capabilities. It would, of course, be really good to have in case your vehicle breaks down. They are standalone replacements for jumper cables, so having the extra ability to jump-start your vehicle is always an advantage.
How to Use Car Battery Charger
It doesn’t take long to learn how to charge car battery with charger kits. The process is quite similar to starting a vehicle with jumper cables. You should consult your car battery charger instructions to understand any settings or features it may have before attempting to use it.
Clear the area of children, pets, or anything that could interfere with the process. Make sure that slack from the cables or anything else is not dangled down into the engine area. Every step should be taken carefully to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. You also want to be sure to do it properly to avoid damaging your vehicle. If you connect it wrong you could negatively affect the electrical system or even fry the vehicle’s computer system.
Once you’re ready, connect the red lead from the charger to the positive terminal of your depleted battery. Connect the black lead to a piece of unpainted metal somewhere else. This is called grounding and it’s essential to the process, so make sure you don’t connect it to the other terminal instead of grounding it properly.
Apply safety glasses to protect yourself from any possible sparks that could emit from the clamps when they make contact with the post. Plug the unit into a household electrical socket if necessary. You may need an extension cord. For a cordless jumper kit, the process is virtually the same but without having to plug it in.
If you are using a manual charging device, make sure it’s set to the correct settings. If you want it to trickle, then the lowest setting will likely be 2 amps. A normal charge rate is usually 6, 10, or 12 amps. Jump starts are usually from 75 amps or higher. Once you’re all plugged in and hooked up, simply wait for it to finish and check the gauge.
Automatic vs Manual Car Battery Chargers
Automatic units stop automatically when they are done. Depending on the model, they may also maintain the battery by keeping it at a state of 100% full if they remain plugged in. If it’s a manual device, you’ll have to check the gauge reading to see when it’s done. If you don’t plan on using your device often, this may be okay, but most people prefer the convenience of an automatic. Especially if you need to do other things while the unit is in operation, auto comes in handy. You could even leave the house while it’s in use and it would be fine.
A microprocessor charger offers some nice additional settings. It can give readings like the percentage of life remaining and more. If you like to keep a close eye on the performance of your battery, this option will give you specific data that takes the guesswork out of the process.
A heavy duty manual charger is the most powerful and versatile. Shop owners and people who work with vehicles daily could get good use out of one, but they’re not for the average consumer. They’re very big and heavy, but can offer the fastest and most thorough results with often around 40 amp charging and 100 and 200 amp start capacities. Some include timers for manual operation that cut off after a certain point. This is a good alternative to automatic function although it may not be as precise.
How Long Does it Take to Charge a Car Battery with a 12 Volt Charger?
12 volts is the norm for most vehicles, and it will probably have a total of 45 to 80 amp hours of capacity. If it’s totally drained, it will take roughly 4.5 to 8 hours to recharge completely at a speed of 10 amps.
Chargers usually have more than one charge speed setting as mentioned earlier, so it can take many hours depending on which setting you choose and how depleted your battery is. On trickle mode, leaving it overnight may even be enough for full restoration. In this case, you can set your unit on a higher speed such as 10 or 12 amps at first, and then after a few hours set it to trickle mode and leave it overnight. With this method, an automatic unit will definitely makes things easier.
Some vehicles may take longer than others to fully charge. If yours takes longer than expected, just be patient. For quick starter kits, you might not be able to get your engine running on the first or even the second attempt. If this is the case, let it re-up longer before attempting again. Your battery may be completely depleted so it may take quite a bit more to get it going if it’s really drained.
Getting a Powerful Enough Unit for Your Vehicle
The most important thing for boost start kits is that you get something with enough power for your needs. You ought to buy something with more than enough peak and cranking amps to get your vehicle up and running in a dire situation. The higher the peak amp capacity, the more likely your vehicle is to revive and the faster it can happen. 900+ peak amps and at least 225 cranking amps is recommended as a minimum to ensure a reliable amount of power in any unfortunate situations. The cranking amps should coincide with the kind of battery you have, so be sure to check what your battery requires.
Hook it Up to an Outlet Every so Often to Ensure Best Results
It’s very important to keep your unit charged. Plugging it in once in a while will keep it ready to be used at any time. If you let the power drain from it gradually by neglecting to hook it up to an outlet on occasion, it might be completely dead when you really need it. Though it takes quite a long time for that to happen, you will always get the best results with you remember to top it off now and then.
Other Features to Consider
In case of emergencies, there are other features that some products include that could really be useful. A built-in air compressor would enable you to make sure you can refill your tire if it’s significantly deflated. If it’s leaking air, refilling it might only get you halfway to your destination before it deflates again, but it’s much better than grinding metal.
An attached light might also come in handy, especially if you don’t keep a flashlight in your car or if your flashlight’s batteries are dead. Some products have a built-in radio. This could really be a lifesaver in extreme situations. You’d be able to get updates on the weather or other adverse conditions and stay informed on how to keep as safe as possible.
Some models even have outlets built in for charging electronics and more. If your phone dies and you have the cable with you, you can simply plug it into your portable unit and refill it. It could be used for camping or outdoor uses as well.
Best Car Battery Charger and Jump Starter for Sale Online
If you’re looking to buy a portable battery charger for car emergency support or any other uses, online is always the way to go. You won’t have to pay taxes on it (depending on your state of residence) and it will get delivered straight to your doorstep, most likely with free shipping and a lower base price in the first place.
Here are the best car battery charger options on the internet sold from various online marketplaces. These are some of the most highly rated and all around best portable car battery charger kits money can buy. Choose one from the car battery charger reviews below and you will be set up with a dependable unit for as long as you may need it.
Stanley JC509 1000 Peak Amp Jump Starter with Compressor
This Stanley car battery charger doubles as a portable air compressor for tires or any other uses you may have for a 120 PSI compressor. It includes a built-in senor that automatically detects a mistaken connection, sounding an alarm if a clip gets attached to the wrong battery post. Its powerful 500-1,000 amp jump start capabilities should be enough for virtually any vehicle.
Also included is an LED flashlight, a USB charging port for devices of all kinds, and a DC power outlet. Although the JC509 lacks a level testing feature, it does include a trickle setting as well as standard speed. It’s also specifically designed to operate in unusually low temperatures with a 500 CCA (cold cranking amps) rating. For its high power capacity and abundance of additional features, the Stanley JC509 is an ideal choice for reviving and replenishing drained vehicles.
Black & Decker BC15BD 15 Amp Bench Battery Charger with Engine Start Timer
The Black and Decker car battery charger model BC15BD is light, compact, and affordable. It’s the best battery charger for car batteries in the range of only 7 lbs. It includes three charging modes, trickle, standard, and a 40 amp engine start mode. It also includes an alternator check feature that measures and evaluates voltage during use to determine if the alternator is operating and maintaining properly.
The LCD screen on the BC15BD displays precise readings in real time and also warns you if you’ve connected one of the clips to the wrong terminal. The BC15BD’s fully automatic operation allows you to simply connect it and start charging. It may also be manually set. It takes roughly 8 minutes to start an engine. The Black and Decker BC15BD is a solid, highly portable option that can easily be stored in any trunk.
Jump-N-Carry JNC660 1700 Peak Amp 12-Volt Jump Starter
Schumacher SC-1200A-CA SpeedCharge 12Amp 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger
NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger
It’s one of the only options on the market specifically designed to work with micro-hybrid start-stop cars and vehicles with built-in CANBUS electrical systems. Unlike most others, it works with both lithium ion and lead-acid set ups. This state of the art unit is the top pick for those with a hybrid.
Duracell Powerpack Pro 300
The Duracell Powerpack Pro 300 offers 1,100 peak amps. It can jump just about any consumer vehicle. What makes it unique is its abundance of charging ports including two for USB and two 300W AC power outlets. It also has a 160 PSI air compressor, and a built-on LED light. It has a safety alarm for mistaken connections, but with 120 CCA, it’s not really designed for extraordinarily cold weather conditions. 120 amps is still enough to get a good number of vehicles running, but not all.
In normal temperature conditions, it performs far better. The Powerpack Pro 300 is basically a portable super battery. If you would like something that can also save your hide when your phone or other electronics die, this is a great choice, especially for family camping or long road trips.
Brightech – SCORPION Portable Car Battery Jump Starter with SmartJump Technology
As a super compact option, this highly portable, easy to carry unit can be used to jump a car and doubles as an external battery for electronics of all kinds. This is not a charger for reviving a completely depleted unit back to full capacity, but it is an extremely handy tool to have around in case you need a quick boost to get going.
Since it’s actually small enough to fit into your pocket, you can keep it in your glove box, center console, or even in a purse or hand bag. It might be tempting to use it with electronics often, but if you do, make sure you don’t use up all of the juice for when you might need it in an emergency.
Sunway Solar Car Battery Charger Portable Solar Power Trickle Charger Maintainer
This completely solar compatible unit can be fully refilled with direct sunlight only. For outdoorsmen, this is a particularly useful item. If you own an RV, boat, ATV, or any other type of vehicle in addition to your car or truck, this could prevent you from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Suction cups let you stick it onto your dash so you can leave it there and it will just about always be ready to use. It’s intended for regular topping up as opposed to boosting a drained battery back to life. So in extreme weather conditions, times when you think your battery might be getting low, or when you have left your vehicle unused for long periods of time, this will get it back to where it needs to be with a slow but effective, green energy re-up.
DBPOWER 600A Peak 18000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter (up to 6.5L Gas, 5.2L Diesel Engine)
This compact unit has the ability to revive even large vehicles. Its LCD screen gives you an accurate readout of how much power is being transferred and percentage of remaining juice. It also features a compass to assist in navigating or for emergencies, and a built-in light. It has USB ports for use with electronics and plenty of power to be used for both dire situations and casual refilling of smart phones, tablets, and more for road trips. Having a high capacity battery such as this that is small enough for a glove compartment is an asset for any vehicle.
Schumacher XP2260 1200 Peak Amp Instant Portable Power Source
The Schumacher XP2260 is a high capacity, all purpose power source that can also be used to revive a vehicle, as a portable outlet, a portable USB electronics charger, and an emergency light. It has an LCD screen to display how much electrical power is being used in real time.
Unlike some of the smaller, lithium ion products above, this is a large, lead acid unit, much like what’s already being used in your car. It has an on/off switch so that you can toggle between casual voltage and super power for battery boosting. For a diverse, dependable option with high capacity, this is a great choice.