Friday, August 12, 2022

Portable Car Jump Starter

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Last week I mentioned that I wasn't worried about my LED road flares losing a charge because I have a 20,000 mAh power bank in my car designed to jump start a dead automobile battery that also has USB outputs for charging other devices like a phone... or LED road flares.

There are many products similar to this on Amazon with company names that suggest only a passing familiarity with English -- this one is AVAPOW, mine is TACKlife -- which leads me to believe that products like these are all being made in China and perform more or less the same. I picked a unit with a low price ($60) and decent rating (4.5 stars and 1,617 reviews); by the time you read this you may find one with a lower price or better reviews or a higher amperage. Consider this post a generalized "Here's what these do" article and not a recommendation of a specific product.

These units are basically the following:
  • a large capacity battery bank
  • a set of jumper cables connected to a sensor module
  • a carrying/storage case
  • at least one USB cable
Because these are just large batteries, the manufacturers have added utility by giving them an LED flashlight and output ports to charge electronics. This is why I said I'm not worried about having rechargeable road flares in my car: if I can recharge a tablet twice or a phone six times with one of these, then I can recharge three LED flares without any problems.

This unit seems to recharge only by USB; the one I have has a 12 volt input with both a car charger (so I can, ironically enough, recharge this from my car's cigarette lighter power port) and a wall-mounted transformer. Mine also has a 12V output so that I can power things like lanterns, spotlights, and so forth. I really like the flexibility this gives me, but be aware that you'll pay extra for that.

The manufacturer claims that this model can start a vehicle 40 times before needing to recharge. While I cannot prove that, the honest answer is that I don't need to; it just needs to work once as far as I'm concerned.

Just like with the LED flares, I have not tested my unit under real conditions; at this moment I don't need a battery jumped and I understand that it's dangerous to jump a full car battery. That said, the process itself is very easy:
  1. Connect the sensor module (with cables) to the battery.
  2. Attach the clamps to the battery. Like always, red is positive and black is negative. Unlike with car-to-car jumpstarts, do not ground the black cable to your car frame. 
  3. Start your car. 
  4. The sensor module acts like it's another car and feeds power to your battery, which hopefully makes the engine turn over. 
  5. Remove the cables and put everything away.

Speaking as someone who has had to jump her car about a dozen or more times, I appreciate how much safer this feels than having to attach leads to a very live, and potentially dangerous, car battery. I especially like how the clamps are manufactured with extra plastic that bulks them up such that it's impossible to short anything out my having the teeth touch each other; I would have to deliberately circumvent the safety features to short-circuit these. I also appreciate how the sensor module has lights which tell me if I have the positive clamp attached to the positive terminal or not. 

In conclusion, whichever model you buy, if you use your car regularly and/or are planning a car trip, buy something like this. Not only is it cheaper and faster than AAA sending someone to help you, and safer than depending upon the kindness of strangers to jump your car instead of jumping you, but it's also a source of backup power for your cell phone, GPS unit, road flares, and other necessary devices. 

1 comment:

  1. Been considering getting one for the truck. Thanks for the review.


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