Picture the scene. It's early on a dark winter's morning, and you’ve got a long drive and a busy day ahead of you. You jump in your car and turn the key in the ignition, only to hear the dying throes of your car’s battery making the engine cough and sputter – and then silence.
Luckily, there's an easy way to get out of this situation that doesn’t involve waiting for breakdown services to turn up: jump starter packs. We’ve checked out Amazon, Halfords, and eBay to bring you the best portable options on the market, covering everything from the best jump starters with air compressors to the best jump starters for diesel engines. So start your engines and read on to find out more!
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How many amps you need to jump start your car will depend on its engine size, so it’s important that you choose a jump starter that’s going to be appropriate for your make and model. If you don't know your exact engine size, check the owner's manual or simply search online for your make and model plus 'engine size'.
Many manufacturers will state the engine size their jump starters are suitable for. In general, jump starters with around 400 to 600 amps will be more than enough to jump start any normal, consumer vehicle, whereas commercial vehicles may require up to 1500 or 2000 amps and smaller, more compact vehicles can be boosted with as little as 150 amps.
It's recommended that if you want to use your starter for more than one car, you should choose one that will be able to jump the largest engine. One thing to note is that a jump starter won't be able to start a completely dead battery, so if your battery is totally flat you will need to have a new one fitted.
Making sure the connectors are attached to the right ports on your battery is imperative in making sure you keep both in full working order. If the cables are incorrectly connected, the polarity of the electrical system will be reversed for a few seconds which can cause irreparable damage to the sensitive electronic components in your car, such as on-board computers and electronic sensors.
Reverse polarity protection is an internal circuit that ensures that neither the jump starter nor the car will damage should you accidentally attach the connectors to the wrong ports. This will then be conveyed to you by a warning such as a light or sound indicator.
If you’re constantly on the go and need a jump starter that can be ready to use at a moment’s notice, the last thing you want is a unit that's going to be difficult to keep fully charged.
It is therefore important for you to check how each unit is charged – this is usually either via the mains, through a 12V socket or even via USB cable. Doing so will make it as easy as possible for you to keep your jump starter in a usable condition should you need it.
Jump starters can come equipped with all manner of extra features and tools to aid in starting, fixing and maintaining your vehicle. These can prove extremely useful and can actually help you de-clutter what you carry with you in your car day-to-day.
Undoubtedly the most useful is an air compressor, which you can use to fix a flat tyre on your car or any other vehicle you have at home. Other handy features include LED lights to help you see what you're doing and even USB sockets that can come to the rescue when you find yourself with a dead phone or device.
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Boost HD UltraSafe Portable Lithium Jump Starter｜GB70
An All-Round Winner With Rapid Charging and Big Power
Jump Start 4000
A Reliable, Heavy-Duty Starter Great for Large Engines
Advanced Lithium Jump Starter
Highly Compact Jump-Starter for Smaller Vehicles
Heavy Duty Jump Starter
A Light, Portable and Well-Functioning Choice From the RAC
Portable Power Pack｜SWPP1
Jump Start Most Types of Car With the Added Assurance of Reverse Polarity Protection
Roadstart Emergency Power Pack｜RS1312HV
A High-Vis Unit With Cable Storage to Keep It Tidy
3-In-1 Rechargeable Portable Jumpstarter｜J0265
A Useful Addition to Your Car Care Kit With Bright Lights and a Built-In Compressor
5-in-1 Portable Car Battery Jump Starter
A 5-in-1 Model You Can Use on the Road or as a Camping Charger
This is the jump starter that does it all! Firstly, it features a rapid charging time that zips from empty to fully charged in just 2 hours, plus you can get up to 40 engine starts on a single charge. It has all the safety features you would expect from a high-quality piece of car kit including spark-proof technology, so you can use it with total peace of mind.
This may be a pricier starter, but its compact size belies how powerful and useful it is and it holds its charge fantastically well, making it good to use whenever you need it. This hugely popular offering from NOCO will be invaluable to any driver.
This jump starter was selected as a “Best Buy” by Which Caravan Magazine for its reliability and functionality, and if you've got a bigger engine you need to start then this is the perfect option. The 1-metre leads have a heavy-duty isolator switch which allows you to safely connect them to the battery, which is a useful feature.
The only areas we can fault this on is that it's quite basic and its also quite bulky and heavy, but if you have a heavy vehicle then this is a great "does what it says on the tin" option!
Using a lithium battery as opposed to lead-acid allows this battery to fit into a glove box, and is perfect for vehicles with a smaller engine size. With LED indicators and reverse polarity protection as a safety net, it's also easy to use the first time.
This jump-starter comes additionally with a built-in LED light and a USB port from which to charge personal electronics in a pinch. But be aware that an engine size above three litres will require more than this starter can give.
It may not offer as many extra features as some, but this is a really reliable portable jump starter for those with smaller cars, not to mention an affordable one. It is compact, relatively lightweight and the battery status indicator is a really useful feature.
Keep in mind that this is only meant for smaller cars which means it isn't as versatile as other models available, and the jump leads supplied could be longer to allow you to place the unit on the ground when it's in use. You also need to give it a really long initial charge, with some people leaving it in excess of 18 hours.
Streetwize's starter pack promises to be able to start most types of car and offers a reliable power backup for starting your vehicle when the battery is low. It also features an air compressor with a tyre adaptor kit so you can get back on the move no matter what sort of tyres you have.
One area this unit could improve upon is that the tyre pressure gauge isn't well suited to non-commercial vehicles. If you need to be accurate when inflating your car's tyres, therefore, you may find this difficult.
This jump starter from Sealey has a composite hi-vis green case with moulded rubber protection as well as integral battery cable storage and a carry handle for convenience. There is an LED readout of the battery condition, and the 12V and USB sockets are handy for charging any accessories you may need on the go.
Although a charge time isn't specified, this unit can take quite a long time to fully charge and when it was charged, it doesn't offer as good a run time as some when using it as a power source.
Amtech's 3-in-1 starter is a useful piece of kit for any car owner. The sealed battery can easily jump-start a 12-volt car battery and the booster cables feature heavy-duty alligator clips that will remain durable after lots of use. It also features LED lights and both a mains and a 12V adaptor for power.
This jump starter does have some power retention issues, with it giving out less power than expected even after it's been fully charged. It can also take a long time to fully charge and it doesn't give specific information on what sized engines it works best for.
This jump starter from STW is full of useful features such as USB sockets for charging your gadgets, an air compressor for your tyres and tools to check your car's battery health and get it going again. It is robust in design and can even power up electronic items if you go camping.
In some cases, the amount this jump starter holds is variable, with it running out sooner than expected. The inbuilt cooling fan is also very noisy, which isn't an issue for jump-starting your car, but it could be if you want to use it for other purposes.
Although it's always best to read and follow the instructions of the particular jump starter you have purchased, here's a guide from the RAC on how to use a battery pack.
Written and researched by Catherine Torrance
No. 1: NOCO｜Boost HD UltraSafe Portable Lithium Jump Starter｜GB70
No. 2: Clarke｜Jump Start 4000
No. 3: Halfords｜Advanced Lithium Jump Starter
No. 4: RAC｜Heavy Duty Jump Starter
No. 5: Streetwize｜Portable Power Pack｜SWPP1
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