If you have ever been in a parking lot and could not get your car started, you know how excellent jumper cables can be. The battery, starter, or alternator can die at any time without any warning. There could be many reasons why this occurs.
If you have a trusted pair of jumper cables, you can get your car started so that you can get to a repair shop. It is a good idea to keep a pair in your trunk. There are some details that you should know about jumper cables before you purchase a pair.
We provide information about the different types of jumper cables to help you make the best selection.
What are Jumper Cables?
Jumper cables may also be referred to as booster cables or jump leads. They are insulated wires that come in pairs with alligator clips on the end. The alligator clips are connected to the car battery and another source of energy.
Those other sources of energy include other cars or batteries that have a similar voltage as the car that is dead.
Why Does the Gauge of Jumper Cables Matter?
Jumper cables have a wire gauge. The thickness of the wire gauge lets you know how thick the wires are. The numbers range from 1 through 12. The lower the number means the cables will be thicker.
The wires are more effective the thicker they are, which allows you to jumpstart the battery faster. Thicker wires are more effective because of the higher amount of electricity that flows through them. Lower gauge jumper cables are also more expensive.
Most vehicles require a four gauge or six gauge set of jumper cables. However, if you have a larger-sized engine in your vehicle, you may opt for a two-gauge set instead.
Heavy duty vehicles like diesel trucks are usually the only ones that require one gauge. A 10 gauge jumper cable only gives you enough power to jump a drained, but not dead, battery in moderate temperatures.
Types of Jumper Cables
The different types of jumper cables have to do specifically with the gauge. Different vehicles require different types of jumper cables.
1. Compact Cars
A compact car will start if you use a six gauge jumper cable. You want to make sure you have a 10-foot cable that can provide 200 amps. This size jumper cable will work just fine.
However, you may want to consider a four gauge jumper cable. It is really in your best interest to get a 20-foot cable in case you cannot get the vehicles in the best possible position. You also want a cable that can provide 400 amps.
2. A Sports Car
If you have a sports car that allows you to zip around, you should have a four gauge 10-foot jumper cable. You probably do not want to go any lower than that.
However, if you have a Mustang or a Camaro, you should consider a two gauge 20-foot jumper cable. If you have 400 amps, that would be enough, but it would be better to purchase one that is 600 amps. You want to make sure that your cables have a secure connection with clamps that are solid copper.
3. Intermediate Size Vehicle
When talking about an intermediate-size vehicle, we think of cars like a Toyota Camry and cars of that size. A 6 gauge 10-foot jumper cable should jump your vehicle quickly to get you back on your way.
However, to guarantee yourself the highest performance, you should consider a four gauge 20-foot jumper cable that gives you 400 amps. This gauge type will ensure you are not stuck with a dead battery.
4. Full-Size Vehicles
When you have a vehicle that is similar to a Nissan Maxima, it is going to need a minimum of a six gauge 10 foot jumper cable that can give a minimum of 200 amps of power. If you want the maximum amount of energy, you should select a four gauge 20-foot jumper cable. If you can, go up to 800 amps to give you the most power and protection.
5. Minivan and SUV
It does not matter if you are driving an SUV or a Minivan; you need more power. You may find that a four gauge 10 foot cable that provides 400 amps will work adequately.
In reality, you should have a two gauge 20 foot jumper cable that supplies 800 amps. This size jumper cable is really what you will need to get you back on the road.
6. Truck or Van
Whether you have a full-size van like a Chevy Express or a heavy-duty Ford F-150, you are going to need more power absolutely. This size engine calls for a minimum of a four gauge 10-foot cable that supplies 400 amps for some situations.
If you want to trust that you are going to get reliable performance, you want a two gauge 20-foot cable. If you can, get jumper cables that supply 800 amps of power to get these large sized vehicles going.
What to Look For When Selecting Jumper Cables
The wire gauge is critical to the operation of your jumper cables. However, the length is almost as important. While it would be great if your car battery died in a convenient place.
You know one where you could easily drive another car up to it and place them bumper to bumper. That does not happen often. For this reason, it is essential to have flexibility with the jumper cables.
A 10-foot cable is only going to work when the cars can be bumper to bumper and facing each other. You should get a set of cables that are longer if that is possible. When the jumper cables get longer, the Gauge also decreases.
The gauge decreases because more electrical current can pass through those wires. A 4 gauge jumper cable is recommended in almost every situation.
When looking at the cable portion of a jumper cable, you can determine how thick it is. The wire inside is part of the determining factor for the thickness of the wire. There is also insulation inside the cables.
When living in a cold climate, you should have cables that are well-insulated. If you do not, the wires can break easily. You could damage the wires just by moving the cables around.
Insulation in the jumper cables helps reduce the wear of the cable. If the cable is worn, you are at risk of an arc. An arc can shock you or your car.
The better insulated the jumper cables are means that you are going to pay more money for them. However, a well-insulated set of cables is a much better investment than a less expensive set.
The clips, or clamps, that are part of your jumper cables are critical to creating a solid connection to the battery. They are the point of contact where electricity moves between two batteries. Both clamps look like they are copper.
They may not be Cooper. Instead, they may have a metal plate. Cooper is a much better conduit for electricity. It would be best if you looked for clamps that are made from cooper to get jumper cables that are the most effective.
When you purchase copper plated clamps, you may find that the plating wears off after several uses. Once the copper wears off, you will not be able to get a solid connection. You will be using the steel base, which does not conduct electricity as well.
You may find that you are having a difficult time jumpstarting the car. Copper clamps hold up much better. Even if they are scratched from repeated use, they will still conduct electricity effectively. To determine if the jumper cables have copper clamps, you need to read the product information from the manufacturer.
The cost of the jumper cables is a good determining factor when you are trying to figure out if the cables have copper clamps. If they are a lower price item and called budget-friendly, they most likely are not copper. Jumper cables with copper clamps are typically more expensive.
The amps, or amperage, of jumper cables show how much current the car engine is pulling when it is trying to start. Smaller cars do not need as many amps as a large SUV. For some vehicles, 200 amps will supply an adequate amount of power to the car battery.
However, it is not recommended that you use 200 amps. Instead, it would be best if you got cables that have at least 400 amps. If you have a larger vehicle, you should aim for at least 600 amps, if not more.
Resistance to Tangling
If you have ever tried to untangle anything, you know how miserable it can be. It could be lights at Christmas time or some type of chain that has gotten tangled. No matter what it is, no one wants to spend time pulling them apart.
This is especially true when it comes to jumper cables. If you are reaching for your jumper cables, you probably need them right away. It is not easy to manage a set of jumper cables that are 25 feet long.
They are bulky and difficult to move around. You definitely want to find a set that is marked as resistant to tangling. When jumper cables are tangle resistant, the manufacturer will mark them on the packaging.
It would be best if you also considered keeping your jumper cables in a case to prevent them from tangling.