Picture the scene, you leave work or school and walk out to your car. You notice that, after all-day, your headlights are still on, dimly lit now. Oh no! The headlights were left on accidentally and now your battery is probably close to dead.
Dang, now you wish you had read that article on roadwayready.com about what size battery jump starter you need. Oh, wait, here you are!
A battery jump starter with a rating of 400-600 cold-cranking amps should be sufficient for an average size car. However, there are other factors that need to be considered before you settle on the best battery jump starter for you.
So, what size battery jump starter do you need? Let’s take a look at several features and things to consider when purchasing a battery jump starter.
- Cold Cranking Amps
- Vehicle Engine Size
- Vehicle Age
- Operational Conditions
- Battery Jump Starter Size
- Other Features
My Quick Picks
If you are looking for a quick recommendation for jump starters, here are my top recommendations:
NoCo GB 40
6" X 3" X 2"
Charges Multiple devices
PoTek Portable Power Source
12" x 8" x 9"
DB Power 800
800 Peak Amps
7" x 1.3" x 3.5"
Of course you can read my full review of best jump starters over here.
Cold Cranking Amps
This is probably one of the most important factors that you need to consider. After all, you want to make sure you have enough power to actually start your car.
As mentioned a jump starter pack with 400-600 cold-cranking amps will be sufficient for an averaged size car. A four-cylinder Honda Accord for instance.
But not everyone owns a Honda Accord, the table below should help you see how many cold cranking amps are recommended for a particular car size.
These are generalized numbers but will point you in the right direction. I, for instance, have a Toyota Tacoma with a V6 engine. The battery jump starter I carry around has 400 cold-cranking amps.
|VEHICLE TYPE||FUEL TYPE||AMPERAGE|
Again these are generalized numbers. And you can see that a diesel engine takes more amps than a gasoline engine.
So let’s get into the weeds and find out what the best jump starter for you is.
What is Cold Cranking Amps (CCA)?
Cold-cranking amps measure how many amps the jump starter puts out for 30 seconds at 0 °F (-18 °C); while keeping the current of the battery at 7.2 volts. So what does that mean?
To be honest, I don’t know the math behind it, the point is, the more cold-cranking amps a jump starter has the more powerful it is.
If you live in a cold climate, you may want to consider a battery jump starter that has a higher CCA rating. A lead-acid battery can lose about 50% of its cranking power in extremely cold conditions. Therefore, it is more difficult and takes more power to get a car started in colder weather.
What are cranking amps in a battery jump starter?
You may see a reference to only cranking amps (rather than cold-cranking amps) when reviewing a battery jump starter. What does this mean?
Cranking amps refer to how many amps a jump starter puts out for 30 seconds at 32℉ (-18 °C).
Basically, cranking amps is the power the battery delivers during spring, summer, and fall. I live in Florida now, so a jump starter with 250 cranking amps would be sufficient for my Tacoma.
What does Peak Amperes mean on a battery jump starter?
You may see a reference to peak amps when looking for a battery jump starter. Peak amps are the maximum amount of power that the jump starter can push out on the initial burst.
This is not particularly helpful when deciding which is the best battery jump starter to purchase. Because it’s giving you the maximum amount of power on a short initial burst.
The battery jump starter may only be producing those peak amps for a second or two. Conversely, the cranking amps produce a steady stable current for at least 30 seconds.
When jump-starting your car you typically need a minute or two to give the car battery enough juice to be able to start your vehicle up.
However, battery jump starters come with a variety of other features, which we will get into later. Peak amps is a consideration when factoring in these other features.
So, to sum this all up. Peak amps should not be the deciding factor when choosing a battery jump starter. Cold-cranking amps or cranking amps should be your first consideration. You want to make sure that your jump starter will, in fact, be able to jump-start your car.
However, more peak amps generally indicate a more powerful jump starter. 1000 Peak amps > 700 peak amps.
Now that you know more than you ever wanted about jump starter amps, what are the other considerations that need to be examined?
Vehicle Engine Size
As indicated by the chart above, vehicle size does impact your decision on which battery jump starter is right for your car.
Common sense would tell you that the larger the vehicle the more powerful the jump starter needs to be.
A big V8 motor will take more to turn over than a smaller 4 cylinder.
Your owner manual or a quick google search of your vehicle will tell you what size engine you have.
To put this in perspective. Your standard Toyota Corolla will need about 150 cold-cranking amps to get jumped. On the other hand, a Chevy Suburban will require around 600-800 cold-cranking amps to get started.
If you have more than one vehicle you thing you will be jump-starting; get a jump-starter that will jump the largest engine.
However, vehicle size is not the only factor that needs to be taken into consideration.
In addition to the vehicle size, the vehicle’s age needs to be factored in. Over the years parts wear down and don’t function quite as well as they used to.
In addition, technology is advancing all the time. This is true with car batteries as well, so a newer battery in a newer car will not require as much power as an older vehicle.
A good rule of thumb is to have a battery jump starter that will have the power to jump-start your oldest and largest vehicle.
What are some other variables to take into consideration when deciding which battery jump starter is best?
Operation Conditions (Where Will You Be Using Your Jump Starter?)
This is a huge factor to consider. Where do you live? Are the winter months extremely cold?
If so, you need to make sure that your battery jump starter is up to the task of jump-starting your car. Living in Florida now, this is not much of a concern for me anymore.
However, when I lived in Maine, I needed to make sure that my cold-cranking amps (CCA), were higher than the recommended amount for my car.
For instance, I had a 2000 Nissan Xterra with a V6 3.5-liter engine. The recommended cold-cranking amps for that car is 210 amps. I had a jump starter that produced 400.
If you are going on a road trip, do some research ahead of time. If you are traveling to a cold climate; have a battery jump starter that will work in that climate. This is especially true if you intend on leaving your battery jump starter in the car.
The extra power in the battery jump-starter will not hurt the vehicle when you are in a warmer climate. Be prepared for the worst conditions that you will be in.
What is Your Budget?
While all the other factors are important because of practicality. This factor will most likely dictate which battery jump starter you will get.
There are some fine extra features that come with a battery jump starter, but extra features usually mean extra money.
While some jump-starters can be very expensive, many are not, and are reasonably priced. Do your research and find one that will do the job.
Make sure that it will start your car first, everything else is gravy after that.
Preventive Measures and Safety
A nice advantage to using a battery jump starter instead of jumper cables are the safety measures that are built-in. We all know that red goes to positive and black goes to negative and we discussed the dangerous effects of reverse polarity over here.
What’s cool is most battery jump starters come with reverse polarity protection. The NoCo GB 40 is an example of a battery jump starter that has this feature. This means, even if you connect the clamps backward, you won’t damage the unit or your vehicle.
Other safety features that may come with a battery jump starter are:
- Overcharge protection: This will keep the unit from overcharging its own battery
- Over-voltage protection: Again, protecting the unit from taking on more volts than it was designed for when being charged
- Overload and Over Current Protection: All of these have to do with keeping the amount of voltage and current nominal so as not to destroy the battery jump starter
Battery Jump Starter Size
There are jump-starters that actually roll around on wheels and are meant to start a fleet of cars. You are not looking for this kind of jump starter, it’s too big!
However, size is a factor when choosing your battery-jump starter. You obviously need a unit that will fit wherever you are going to store it.
So this comes down to the type of battery that is in your jump-starter and what features that your jump-starter will come with. For instance, a battery jump-starter with an air compressor will be larger than a unit without one.
The type of battery makes a huge difference in size and weight. There are two main types of batteries that jump-starter use.
There are pros and cons to both of these battery types, which we will not get into here. On the matter of size, the lithium-ion batteries have a distinct advantage.
They are smaller, lighter, and in many cases match a lead-acid battery in power output. So if you are intending to keep your jump starter under your seat or in your glove box; a lithium-ion jump-starter is a great option.
Other Features and Options
The primary purpose of a battery jump starter is to jump-start your car. As we discussed, you want to make sure that your jump starter can do that FIRST!
Jump-starters today, though, come with a bevy, of other optional features.
- USB Charging
- Power Outlets
- Air Compressor
Coffee maker (only in a perfect world). To list a few
For me, this is not a critical feature, I would rather have a separate flashlight in my emergency car kit. I had a flashlight on my last jump-starter and I never used it. I found a regular flashlight to be much more versatile.
Now, this is a handy feature to have. I am not sure what else to say about this; it’s a charger. We all have cell phones and/or tablets that require charging. It’s nice to have the option to be able to charge your devices.
Many of the lithium-ion batteries use the USB charger to charge the unit itself. Most units come with the USB cord so you can charge it just about anywhere.
Again, this is another useful feature. These usually come in a standard 12v system, so you can charge things like your laptop.
A quick story. I actually used one of these to run my son’s nebulizer. We were out in the woods and he began to have an asthma attack. Back at the car, we plugged his neb in to get his breathing under control. It could have been a much worse event had we not had the option to plug in his neb.
This feature I have used even more than the jump starter. When the little horseshoe light comes on the dashboard, telling you that the air pressure is low in one of your tires. It’s very nice to have a portable air compressor with you.
You don’t have to worry about finding a gas station, you can simply find a safe place to pull over and put air in your tires.
Or put air in your spare tire, if you have a flat and need to use your spare tire to get going again.
As a bonus, I used it all the time to put air in the kid’s bike tires and inflate balls. It is a very handy tool to have.
The units with the air compressors are usually larger and heavier. They are not the small portable lithium-ion batteries, they are usually the lead-acid batteries.
For instance, the JNC 660 jump starter is 18 pounds(!), but it is a solid unit and you won’t be disappointed with it. If you have the room, it might be worth the extra investment.
Wow, now that you know what size battery jump-starter you need, go get one. These are an excellent tool to have. Whether you are commuting to work or school, or you are going on a road trip, these are invaluable to have.
Take your time to do your research and you will find the jump-starter that you need.