Best jumper pack for jump starting your car
Lots of companies make jumper packs. Some use older lead acid batteries while others rely on lithium ion or lithium polymer technology. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but it’s clear the market is moving away from lead acid and leaping into lithium ion jumper pack technology. Rather than discuss the pros and cons of older lead acid jumper packs, let’s talk about what the new technology offers.
Lithium-ion jumper packs are where it’s at
Lithium-ion jumper packs are much smaller and lighter than lead acid jumper packs. They also hold their charge longer than lead-acid batteries, but the charge length is often nowhere near what the manufacturers claim. The longer charge retention time can be an important advantage when you consider that lead-acid jump packs must be charged at least once every 30-days, even more often in bitterly cold weather. But don’t get sucked in by the unrealistic claims made by some jumper pack manufacturers—more on that later
The early lithium-ion jumper packs were expensive, had barely enough power to start your engine, and had short lifespans. But costs have come down and power has gone up. Plus, the latest generation is much more reliable.
How to shop for a lithium-ion jumper pack
Peak amps is a meaningless rating
There is no industry standard for peak amps. So one jumper pack manufacturer can short-circuit a battery through a meter for 0.5-seconds and record the ammeter reading, while a different manufacturer can short the battery for 10-seconds and get a much different reading. One manufacturer can test their battery at 70°F while another tests their battery at 0°F. With no standard time length, no standard temperature and no standard for maintaining a minimum voltage, peak amps are totally worthless as a battery rating. It means nothing and should not even be considered when buying a jumper pack.
Two jumper pack batteries with the exact same peak amp reading can perform differently in terms of delivering power to your car battery. The bottom line here is:
DON’T BUY A JUMPER PACK BASED ON ITS PEAK AMP RATING. It is a totally meaningless number and doesn’t bear any resemblance to the battery’s ability to start your car!
But is there is a battery rating you can rely on? Well kinda. There is an industry-standard for lead-acid battery testing:
Cranking Amps (CA) and Cold Cranking Amps
What are Cranking amps?
Cranking amps (CA) refers to the number of amps a lead-acid battery can deliver when the battery temperature is 32°F (0°C). It’s the maximum number of amps the battery can deliver for 30-seconds while still maintaining at least 7.2 volts.
Aside from being a recognized standard, cranking amps are important because people usually use a jumper pack to start their car in cold weather. Batteries produce power through chemical reaction and that chemical reaction slows when it’s cold. So you want a rating that actually tests the battery’s output when it’s cold.
In addition to temperature, you also want to know how long a battery can output the specified number of amps. Think about it, what good is a battery that puts out high amps but for such a short period of time that it can’t start your engine.
Finally, when a jumper pack’s battery voltage drops below a certain point, it can no longer operate the starter motor. That’s why cranking amps covers total amp output at a set temperature, for a set period of time, all while maintaining a voltage above a set minimum.
Cold cranking amps (CCA) is like CA except that the rating is based on amperage output at 0°F (-17.8°C).
Lithium jumper packs use different CA and CCA standards
Lithium batteries have a different chemistry than lead-acid batteries and aren’t designed to deliver high amps for long periods, especially not for 30-seconds. Here’s why. When a lead-acid battery is stressed during a CA or CCA test, the high current draw heats the plates and that high heat can boil the liquid electrolyte. When subjected to high current discharge rates, the electrolyte in lithium batteries also boils. The boiling electrolyte pressurizes the case and damages it, and the venting gas is highly flammable. That’s why lithium batteries have temperature cut off switches in them to stop current flow when the battery reaches a dangerous temperature.
Not a single lithium jumper pack can meet the lead-acid CA or CCA test standard for 30-seconds. So lithium battery packs are tested to these standards
- Cranking Assist Amps (li-ion): the measure of current a battery can sustain at 72*F for 3 seconds while maintaining a minimum voltage of 7.2-volts
- Starting Amps (li-ion): the measure of current a battery can sustain at 72*F for 30 seconds
Lithium Jumper packs have limited cranking times
Based on what you’ve read above, it’s important to know that if you use a lithium jumper pack, you can only crank the engine for a maximum of 6-seconds. If the engine doesn’t start in 6-seconds, you must stop and let the battery cool for at least three minutes. Then you can try again for another 6-seconds. You can repeat this process only four times.
If you crank longer than 6-seconds or more than four tries, you will destroy the battery!
Lithium batteries can be dangerous
Due to their chemical composition, lithium batteries can be very dangerous. In fact, Boeing discovered just how dangerous lithium batteries can be when, on January 7, 2013, a lithium battery started a fire on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner while it was parked at Boston’s Logan Airport.
Investigators later discovered that lithium batteries can develop microscopic structures called “dendrites” that can short out two cells and start a raging fire. In addition to dendrite formation, jumper packs with lithium batteries can start on fire if they:
• overheat while charging
• overheat while discharging
• are connected with reverse polarity
• are left connected to the dead vehicle’s battery after the vehicle starts
• are charged at too high a voltage or at too high an amperage.
That’s why you should look at the safety features in a lithium jumper pack
As you shop for a lithium battery pack, make sure the pack has these safety features:
Overcharge protection. Reverse polarity protection. Short circuit protection. Temperature protection.
Also, because of the wide variations in lithium jumper pack construction, Underwriters Laboratories has come out with a new standard for jumper packs. The larger manufacturers are spending the money to have their packs tested to get the UL seal. Look for a pack that says UL 2743.
Other jumper pack features
In addition to safety and ratings, look for these jumper pack features
Jumper pack Pre-heat function
Some jumper packs incorporate a small heater to heat up the internal cells. That results in higher battery output. Of course it uses some power to heat the cells, but the boost in the chemical reaction provides more total output than a comparable battery without a heater.
Jumper pack cable length
To use a longer cable, the manufacturer must increase the wire gauge and that costs money. So the less expensive units have very short leads on their cables. Generally speaking, you want the longest leads possible so the jumper pack doesn’t fall into the engine compartment while in use.
Jumper pack USB ports
Many jumper packs include USB ports to recharge your cell phone. Double-check the unit’s specs to make sure the USB will output enough amps for your particular phone or tablet. Some Apple products will not start the recharge if the USB only outputs 2.0 amps.
Jumper Pack Flashlight
A built-in LED flashlight is nice. Some units have a built-in S.O.S flash sequence. That flash sequence may get you noticed if you’re in a ditch.
Jumper pack storage temperatures
Most of you want to store the unit in your vehicle so you can have it on hand if your car or truck doesn’t start. Well Bucco, many units can’t be stored in cold temperatures. So look at the unit’s storage temps before buying. You may have to keep it in your house, bring it out the car in the morning, take it into work with you and then take it inside again when you get home.
With that in mind, lets look at some lithium ion jumper packs
Jump N Carry JNC318
This jumper pack is made by Clore/Solar automotive. They’ve been in the jumper pack, battery charger business for decades. Their products are used by pros.
The Jump N Carry JNC318 is a professional grade lithium unit. Here are the specs:
12 Volt Peak Amps : 700
12 Volt Start Assist Amps : 330
Cable Length : 17″
Cable Gauge : #10 AWG
Charge Type : Automatic
Reverse Polarity Protection : Yes
Backfeed Protection : Yes
Over-Voltage Protection : Yes
Overheat Protection : Yes
Indicator Display : LCD Display
USB Outlet : Yes (2)
12VDC Outlet : Yes (10A)
Weight : 3.8 lbs.
UPC : 010271025824
Warranty : 1 Year Limited
Buy it online for around $100.
Wagan Tech lithium ion jumper packs
Wagan Tech offer three models, starting at $75 and up to $170.
The Wagan iONBOOST™ SLIM (#7504) sells for $75 and the Lithium-ion Polymer battery provides 200 cranking amps. The 8-in. 10-AWG cables have reverse polarity protection with an alarm to let you know if you’re connecting them backward. The unit has built-in overcharge protection, overheat protection and overload protection.
It has one USB output port for recharging your smartphone or tablet (2-amp maximum), a built-in flashlight and a battery status indicator. The unit weighs just 1.3-lbs and comes with an AC charger. Recharging takes about 2-hrs.
Just so you know, the recommended storage temperatures are 32°F to 140°F. So you can’t leave this in your car or trunk when temps dip below freezing. Plan on storing taking the unit indoors at home or work.
The Wagan iONBOOST™ V8 TORQUE (#7505) sells for $150 and the Lithium cobalt oxide battery provides 400 cranking amps. The 10-AWG cables have reverse polarity protection with an alarm to let you know if you’re connecting them backward. The unit has built-in overcharge protection, overheat protection and overload protection.
It has two USB output ports for recharging your smartphone or tablet (one with QC3.o and 1-2-amp maximum), a built-in flashlight and a battery status indicator. The unit weighs just 1.7-lbs and charges through a USB C port.
Just so you know, the recommended storage temperatures are -4°F to 176°F. So you can’t leave this in your car or trunk when temps dip below -4°F. Plan on taking the unit indoors at home or work when it gets that cold.
The Wagan iONBOOST™ V10 (#7505) sells for $170 and the Lithium cobalt oxide battery provides 400 cranking amps. The 8-in. 10-AWG cables have reverse polarity protection with an alarm to let you know if you’re connecting them backward. The unit has built-in overcharge protection, overheat protection and overload protection.
It has two USB output ports for recharging your smartphone or tablet (2-amp maximum), a built-in flashlight and a battery status indicator. The V8 unit also has one DC accessory outlet: 12-volt 10-amp. The unit weighs just 2.5-lbs and comes with both an AC and DC charger. Recharging takes about 2-4-hrs with the AC charger and 4-5 hours from your car’s power port (engine running).
What’s different about this unit, in addition to the higher CA rating is that it has much better storage ratings, so it be stored in your car in temps down to -4°F or up to 185°F. If you anticipate temps colder or warmer, take the unit inside.
©, 2019 Rick MuscoplatPosted on by Rick Muscoplat
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