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What is a Portable Jump Starter?

A portable jump starter is a powerful battery pack specifically designed to boost a vehicle’s discharged battery without the help of another car or power source. The power is pulled directly from the portable jump starter and transferred to the discharged battery using a set of portable jump starter-specific booster cables.

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Traditionally, a discharged car battery had to be boosted with the help of another car and a pair of booster cables. A vehicle with a charged battery would transfer power to the vehicle with the dead battery through the cables. Although effective, it requires not only another car but a set of booster cables as well, which is not very practical or convenient.

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About jump starters

Thanks to major technological improvements in batteries, a discharged car battery can now be charged with a powerful portable lithium battery without the help of another car.

Jump starters look like portable power banks that you would typically use to charge a smartphone or tablet on the go, with the exception that it has a 12-volt outlet to which special booster cables connect to.

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These devices vary in size, technology (lithium or lead), battery capacity (mAh) and cranking power (amperage). The best jump starters have high capacity lithium-ion batteries and strong amps rating. Most of them come with the same features of a traditional portable battery, such as USB outputs, flashlights, and more.

Jump starters are also commonly referred to as portable jump starters, portable battery boosters, booster packs, portable boost, car battery chargers or emergency car jump starters.

How do portable jump starters work?

Portable jump starters transfer power directly from the portable battery to a vehicle's discharged battery.

These devices work by connecting special booster cables directly into a 12-volt power port on one end and to a car battery using clamps identical to traditional booster cables on the other end.

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Once connected on both ends, simply turn on the vehicle as you normally would, and the jump starter will provide the charge needed to start your engine. Your engine will crank just as quickly as if using normal booster cables and another vehicle as the power source.

Boosting a car using a portable jump starter technically works the exact same way as booster cables except that the device itself is the source of power, rather than another car with a charged battery.

Visit our step-by-step guide and video tutorial on how to jump start your car using a jump starter for more information.

Jump starter key features

Portable jump starters are packed with awesome features, these devices are like a Swiss Army pocketknife and First Aid kit for your car.

Jump start your own car anywhere, anytime

The best and most desired feature about a portable car battery charger is that it is a self-sufficient tool. With this gadget, you’ll never need to ask a friend, neighbor, taxi or roadside assistance service to boost your vehicle's battery.

Lightweight & portable

Next, as per the name itself, these devices are portable. Lithium-based models are slightly bigger than an iPhone and weighing under one pound, jump starters will easily fit into your glove box, under a seat or in the trunk, so you can have it when you need it most.

Further, because of the portability, you can charge virtually anything with a motor, whether it be a car, truck, motorcycle, jet ski, snowmobile, lawnmower, and even a boat. In fact, one of the most popular use cases of portable jump starters is for boats on multi-day fishing trips.

Multipurpose - USB, Flashlight, and more

Another great thing about jump starters is that they are packed with really helpful extra gadgets. Most models come with USB ports to charge electronics on the go, a flashlight and some models even come with air compressors, emergency safety hammers, and a compass.

Types of portable jump starters

If you’re shopping around for a portable car battery charger, you will come across some very large and some very small models. In fact, there are two main types of jump starters. The newer, smaller models use lithium-ion batteries while the older, larger models use lead-acid batteries.

Lithium-ion jump starters vs. lead-acid jump starters

Lithium jump starters are very slim and compact yet mighty powerful. As the name suggests, lithium portable car boosters use lithium-ion batteries and weigh just under one pound. These jump starters are so small, most people can’t believe they can start a car but never judge a book by its cover.

Lead acid battery heavy-duty packs, on the other hand, use much older technology. Lead-based batteries are not only very large and heavy but discharge quicker and take longer to charge compared to lithium batteries. Lead acid jump starters also weigh up to 20 pounds, making them not-so-portable.

Overall, we strongly recommend a lithium jump starter over lead jump starter for several reasons:

  • Ultra-compact design, truly portable
  • Newer and better battery technology
  • Larger capacity and quicker charging
  • 90% smaller and lighter than lead jump starters
  • Include USB ports to charge your electronics on the go
  • Equipped with an LED flashlight and/or a compass
Visit our complete guide on the difference between portable lithium jump starters and heavy-duty lead-acid packs for more information.