You can think of a portable jump starter as a power bank for your dead car battery.
Like a power bank recharges your phone battery, the jump starter revives an empty car battery.
But why does a car battery gets empty in the first place?
For that, we’ll have to learn how a car battery works.
When we turn the ignition key, the battery sends a large amount of electric power to the starter motor. The starter motor uses this power to start the combustion engine and the alternator. The alternator then powers the electrical components of the vehicle and recharges the battery to make up for that initial power loss.
The alternator continues to provide electricity to the vehicle until the demand exceeds its capacity. At this point, the battery provides additional power to cover this deficit.
But once you turn off the engine, the alternator stops working. And full power to your car system is provided by the battery until it’s empty.
If that happens, you can get into serious trouble since the battery won’t have any juice left to turn off the starter motor the next time you turn the ignition key.
To revive the battery, you need to jump-start your car via jumper cables or jump starters.
While jump starters are relatively safe and easier to operate, many people complain about their large footprint. It makes them difficult to fit inside a smaller vehicle.
That’s why today we’ll discuss some of the best portable jump starters for 2023.
NEXPOW T11F – Best budget Portable Jump Starter 2023
The NEXPOW T11F is an above-average portable jump starter that costs less than 50 bucks – making it perfect for motorcycles, dirt bikes, and regular cars.
With 5.98 x 3.15 x 1.18-inch dimensions and less than 1 lbs weight, this is probably the most compact jump starter I’ve ever seen.
On the top, you get one input and two output connections – plus an LED light. You can use the output connections to charge your other USB devices, such as smartphones, tablets, etc. at 2.1 Amps.
The LED light has three modes: Flashlight, emergency strobe, and SOS mode.
To use the T11F, you need to connect the jumper cables to the booster. Then connect the red clamp to the +ve battery terminal and the -ve clamp to the bare metal surface of the vehicle. Now start the engine. Once the engine successfully starts, remove the clamps.
According to NEXPOW, the T11F comes with 1000 Peak Amps that should be good enough for 7L Gas and 5.5L Diesel engines. I could only get close to 400A during the testing, however. But that’s still good for an entry-level jump starter and can start most cars and SUVs unless the battery is 100% dead.
This, and the short-length wires are the only two minor downsides I could think of in T11F. But the latter is subjective and only applies if the mounting spot in your vehicle (where you’ll connect the black clamp) is too far apart.
As far as the safety mechanisms go, you get spark protection, overload protection, over-voltage protection, etc.
The NEXPOW has also given instructions regarding how to use this jump starter for optimal performance. In essence, you should not use it when its battery is less than 25%, charge it after every 2-3 months, and keep it between -10°C to 60°C temperature.
STANLEY J5C09 – Best Portable Jump Starter with Air Compressor
Many jump starter’ manufacturers are trying hard these days to brand their products as multi-purpose devices with additional functionalities of an air compressor.
One such jump starter is the STANLEY’s J5C09.
With 11.25 x 8 x 13.5-inch dimensions and 18 lbs weight, it is the opposite of NEXPOW T11F. And you cannot accommodate it at any other place than the trunk.
If you’ve previously used any other jump starters from STANLEY, you’ll immediately recognize this one by the same black/grey design and yellow accents.
All controls and ports can be found on the front side, while the backside only has an air compressor hose and a small pouch for the 12V cable.
The J5C09 works slightly differently than other portable jump starters as you have to manually turn the knob on the front side (from off to on).
One good thing about these clamps is that their smaller size allows them to make a stable connection with battery terminals – even if they’re located in narrow areas.
As far as the specs go, it has 1000 peak amps, 500 ‘instant’ amps, 19,000mAh capacity, and a 120 PSI air compressor. While it performs as well as expected, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrations.
Yes, other jump starters vibrate too. But the extra weight and size can cause the J5C09 to slide/fall off the vehicle if the base is not stable.
If we talk about the compressor part, the hose could’ve been a little longer, and the pressure gauge is less visible in the dark.
On the other hand, I’m pretty satisfied with the reasonable price since it’s a multi-purpose device.
NOCO Boost HD GB70 – Best Heavy-Duty Portable Jump Starter 2023
The two jump starters that we’ve discussed so far are good enough for regular vehicles.
But what if your vehicle has a powerful engine? Or maybe your battery goes fully dead.
In those situations, you need a more powerful jump starter, such as the NOCO GB70.
The first change you’ll see in this jump starter is the location of the power ports. The power ports that include a 2.1A USB port, a 2.1A USB-mini port, and a 12-volt 15A port (for tire inflators, inverters, etc.) are on the right side, not on the front.
On the other side, you get a 7-mode LED light. I must say that this LED is very bright and can be handy in emergencies.
According to NOCO, the GB70 comes with 2000 peak amps and can do up to 40 jump starts on a single charge. And that it’s good enough for diesel engines up to 6.0L and gas engines up to 8.0L. They also advise storing and operating this device between -20°C to 50°C.
In my testing, I was able to jump-start 10 times with it only a single charge. Unlike other jump starters that only send a powerful jolt for 2-3 seconds, the GB70 provided that boost for 13 seconds. And I was able to get almost 600A peak amps ratings – just slightly below the Gooloo GP4000.
As far as the downsides go, it takes some extra time to get fully charged through the USB port. And like the NEXPOW T11F, the jumper cables are a little short. These cables and the bulky clamps can create compatibility issues with some vehicles. The user manual could have also been more detailed.
At roughly 200 bucks, the GB70 is quite expensive compared to other jump starters, such as Gooloo GP4000. And since they give more or less similar performances, I would have picked the latter if it was available on Amazon.
So, until it’s back on Amazon again, the NOCO Boost HD GB70 is the best portable jump starter for 2023.
Jump starter vs Jumper Cables vs Battery Charger
Since an empty battery can’t power the starter motor to start the engine, you’ll have to recharge it. There are two main methods to solve this issue.
The first one is jumper cables. Also known as jumper leads or booster cables, these are two high-tension red/black wires with thick alligator clips on each of their ends. These clips connect your car battery to another car with a healthy battery to lend some power juice.
The problem with this solution is that you’ll have to find a donor car first.
The second issue is the way jumper cables are connected. First, you’ll have to connect the first red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery and the second red clamp to the positive terminal of the healthy battery.
After this, you’ll connect one black clamp to the negative terminal of the healthy battery and the second black clamp to any bare metal surface of the dead-battery vehicle (such as the suspension mount).
Once the dead battery gets partially charged, you’ll have to disconnect these wires in the exact opposite order.
On the other hand, we have portable jump starters. They work similarly to jumper cables, except that they have their own battery. You just need to connect their positive clamp to the positive terminal of your battery and the negative clamp to the bare metal of the vehicle body.
In addition to this, jump starters have safety mechanisms that prevent damage in case you accidentally connected the wires incorrectly.
Lastly, we have the battery chargers. Unlike the other two methods, these charges allow you to refill the car battery 100%. But the downside is that they’re not portable and take a longer time period to charge the battery.
Why you Need a Jump Starter
Under normal circumstances, the alternator recharges the car battery to 100% so that it can easily power the starter motor when you start the car again the next morning.
But what if the battery is fully drained?
You can left the headlights on overnight. Or you can forget the turn off the car stereo while the engine is off. Or maybe it’s just an old alternator that’s not doing its job properly.
Whatever the reason is, now you have a big problem because to recharge the battery, you need to start your alternator. And to start your alternator, you need to power the starter motor with the battery. But you don’t have any power left in the battery!
This is where the jump start comes into the picture.
Things to look for in a portable jump starter
Below are some of the main factors you need to consider while looking for a jump starter.
Lithium-Ion or Lead-Acid Jump Starters
There are two types of jump starters in terms of technology.
Lead-Acid jump starters work exactly as jumper cables do with a donor vehicle. But instead of the whole vehicle, we just have the Lead-acid battery attached to these heavy-duty cables.
On the other hand, Lithium-Ion jump starters rely on a Lithium-ion battery (like the ones we have in our phones) to power your car battery.
The major advantages Li-ion jump starters have over their Lead-Acid counterparts are the size, weight, and maintenance.
The size and weight are important factors if you’re going for a portable jump starter. Many Lead-Acid can weigh up to 40lbs. I don’t know about you but this is too heavy for me to move around with.
On the other hand, Li-Ion jump starters usually weigh less than 5 lbs and you can carry them around with one hand.
That is the reason why Li-ion units can even be placed in your car’s glove box while lead-acid units can only be stored in the trunk area.
The second reason is self-discharge. A typically lead-acid battery self-discharges 5% per month at moderate temperature. It means you can lose 30% power juice if it stays idle for 5-6 months. Compared to that, the li-ion batteries discharge at only 1-2% per month – meaning less maintenance is required from you.
Due to these issues, lithium-ion units should be preferred when it comes to portable jump starters.
Battery Size and Voltage
Before choosing a jump starter for your vehicle, you need to find out the voltage of its battery.
A lot of vehicles such as cars, trucks, and boats, run on 12-volt batteries. But some motorcycles have 6-Volt batteries.
So if you’re intending to use a jump starter with different vehicles, make sure that it has adjustable voltage settings.
Cranking Amps and Cold Cranking Amps
Jumper starters come with different cranking amps ratings.
For those who don’t know, the Cranking Amps rating indicates a battery’s ability to start an engine. It’s the number of amps delivered by a battery in 30 seconds at 32°F – without dropping the voltage below 7.2V.
The number of cranking amps a vehicle requires will depend on the engine size and the temperature.
Among gasoline engines, a 4-cylinder engine will require 150-250 amps. Similarly, a 6-cylinder engine will require 250-350 amps and an 8-cylinder engine will require 400-550 amps.
For diesel engines, the 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder, and 8-cylinder engines will require 300-450 amps, 450-600 amps, and 600-750 amps respectively.
That being said, every car manufacturer has specified the cranking amps for each of its models in the user manual.
Moreover, jump starter manufacturers also list the type of engine their product is compatible with, such as 6L, 8L, etc. The letter ‘L’ means liter and indicates the total volume of an engine (its cylinders to be precise).
In case you live in an area that has cold weather all year long, you should instead look for Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) rating. It indicates the amount of current a fully-charged 12V battery can deliver in 30 seconds while maintaining 7.2V voltage – at 0°F (-18°C).
Since it’s harder to start an engine in cold weather, CCA will give you a more accurate picture of a jump starter’s abilities than the simple CA rating.
If you go through any jump starter’s user manual, you’ll find its cranking amps, cold cranking amps, and peak amps ratings. I don’t pay much attention to the latter as it only indicates the max power a jump starter can discharge for a short amount of time.
On the other hand, cranking amps and cold cranking amps refer to the power discharge for an extended time. Therefore, they’re much more reliable metrics.
Jump-starting is a risky procedure. That’s the reason why many jump starters have one or more safety mechanisms that protect the vehicle from stuff like reverse polarity, short-circuit, sparking, etc.
Jumper Cables and Clamps Quality
Many people don’t realize but it’s the jumper cables and clamps that’ll transfer the power from the jump starter to the vehicle battery. That’s why their quality should be top-notch.
The cables should be long if the +ve and -ve battery terminals are located far apart, while clamps should be made up of metal and coated with copper (for better current flow) and have a strong grip.
Best Portable Jump Starter: FAQs
Are Portable Jump Starters Worth it?
Yes, a high-quality portable jump starter is totally worth it. They can charge your car battery as well as other electronic devices. That’s why every car owner should have them.
Do Portable Jump Starters Work?
Yes they do. While they seem significantly lighter and smaller compared to lead-acid units, li-ion based portable jump starters work just as good in most cases.
Which one is Better: a Battery Charger or Jump Starter?
Jump starters are better if you need to start your vehicle quickly. Due to high amperage, they can start a vehicle way faster than a battery charger.
How Many Times can you use a Portable Jump Starter?
While some high-end units can start multiple vehicles in one go, you should try to recharge your portable jump stater after every time you use it – if you have a bigger vehicle.
I would also recommend you to wait at least half an hour before charging them. This is because many jump starters don’t accurately reveal their actual battery left immediately after jump-starting a vehicle.
Where Should I store my Jump Starter?
You should always store the jump starter in your car if it’s portable. The place where you’ll keep it must have a moderate temperature.
Can you Damage a car by Jump-Starting?
Yes, jump-starting is a risky procedure and can damage your car if it’s done incorrectly. That’s why many jump starters have safety mechanisms in place.