It might have been a long time since you last had to grapple with a flat car battery, but when it does happen it can be a major inconvenience. Unable to start your car can ruin your day, and it is less likely than ever that a friendly neighbour will come to the rescue with a pair of jump cables and an open bonnet.
To quickly and easily get yourself out of a tricky situation, you’re going to need one of the best jump starters. Instead of a charger that slowly refills your battery, a jump starter administers a shock of electricity to kick-start your car immediately, which can then charge its own battery once up and running.
Here are five reasons why you should always have a jump starter in your car.
1. Starts your car instantly
As we said above, the jump starter offers an immediate solution for a flat battery. All you have to do is attach the starter’s two cables to your car and its battery, turn on the jump starter, then start your car in the normal way.
Car battery chargers can also be useful, but these are designed to slowly refill the battery rather than start the engine directly. So if you need a quick fix, the jump starter is for you – just remember to keep it charged up between uses.
2. Portable and easy to use
Unlike battery chargers, jump starters are often remarkably small and portable, often not much larger than some of today’s bigger power banks. Some models will easily fit into a glove box, yet offer all the power you need to start your car.
They are also very easy to use. All you need to do is attach the red positive clamp of the jump starter to the positive terminal of your car battery, then connect the black negative clamp to a bit of solid, clean and ideally unpainted metal on the car. Now just turn on the jump starter, then start your car in the normal way.
Now leave the car running for a few minutes to add some power back into its dead battery, then turn off the jump starter, remove its clamps, turn off the car, and you’re done.
As a general rule, larger jump starters are more powerful, hold more charge, and are capable of starting vehicles with bigger engines. They can also provide more starts per charge than smaller models.
3. Charge other devices with USB ports
Many of today’s jump starters also work like portable power banks, with USB ports for charging devices like smartphones. Few yet offer the latest USB-C connection, but USB-A is commonplace, with mini USB used to charge the starter back up again.
Some, admittedly much larger, jump starters even have plug sockets for powering devices you’d normally attach to a wall outlet. That way, you could use the jump starter to power outdoor products like jet washers and vacuums to give your car a clean. These larger starters need charging via a wall outlet instead of a USB cable.
4. Often includes an integrated torch
Many jump starters, large and small, come with an integrated LED torch. This can be handy for all sorts of reasons, but especially if your car won’t start at night and you need to see under the bonnet.
Larger jump starters have their torches positioned so that they can be sat on the ground and angled towards your car to help you see what you are doing. Some even come with a pair of torches for even better illumination.
If the jump starter you choose doesn't include this, it's worth investing in one of the best torches to live in your car ready for occasions like these (or a head torch, for hands-free illumination), rather than relying on your phone torch.
5. Cheaper than you might think
It’s hard to put a price on a product that can potentially save the day, but when it comes to jump starters, many are surprisingly affordable. Some of the larger, and therefore less portable, models are priced from around £35 to £65, while more convenient portable options cost from around £60 to £200. Just remember to buy a jump starter that is powerful enough to start the size of engine your vehicle has.
Have we convinced you? Then you need to check out T3's guide to the best jump starter, where we recommend the best products to suit your needs.