Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. Today I discuss portable jump starters.
Have you done a story on these portable battery jumpers? What does it take to jump a battery in a motorhome engine or a big diesel truck? In my opinion, RVers should have one of these aboard. We have one in our Honda Fit and it saved us from calling AAA one time—worked perfectly. And what other ways might they be of use? —CW
I haven’t done any real testing of these portable jump starters, just yet. But I have 50+ years’ experience of jump starting cars in general, so let’s explore this a bit and see what might work as a boost starter for your toad or even your tow vehicle or large RV.
Back in the day, if you wanted to jump start a car with a dead battery, you would have to park another car nose-to-nose and get a set of jumper cables. Or you could schlep a donor battery over to the dead car, being careful not to spill battery acid on your clothes. Also, be careful to connect positive to positive, and negative to negative. Doing it backwards for even a second can result in an exploded battery or destroyed electronics in the vehicle needing a jump start.
Enter the portable jump starter…
Let’s fast forward to the future and see what lithium battery technology can do for us. Instead of a big lead-acid battery that could weigh 40 or 50 pounds, what about a portable lithium battery pack that weighs only a few pounds and even some of the smaller ones that can fit in your pocket? And since there’s no lead-acid chemistry, then there’s no acid to spill. They also are short-proof and won’t damage anything if you accidentally get the polarity reversed.
How to select one…
Okay, it should be obvious that if you need to start a little car, then you can get by with a little portable jump starter. And if you need to jump start a big vehicle with a dead battery (like your RV), then you’ll need a bigger portable jump starter.
I haven’t personally tested these products for operation, but NOCO seems to be the leader of this type of technology. They include ratings for the size of gas or diesel engine a particular model can start successfully. For example, here’s what they say about the GB40 model which is rated for gasoline engines up to 6.0L and diesel engines up to 3.0L.
GB40 – 1,000-Amp UltraSafe Lithium Jump Starter
The GB40 is a portable lithium-ion battery jump starter pack that delivers 1,000 amps for jump starting a dead battery in seconds. It features a patented safety technology that provides spark-proof connections and reverse polarity protection, making safe and easy for anyone to use. It’s a powerful battery booster that doubles as a portable power source for recharging USB devices, like a smartphone, tablet and more. It’s designed for a car, boat, RV, truck and more with gas engines up to 6 liters, and diesel engines up to 3 liters.
- Compact, yet powerful lithium jump starter rated at 1,000 Amps – up to 20 jump starts on a single charge.
- An ultra-safe and mistake-proof design with spark-proof technology and reverse polarity protection, which allow it to safely connect to any battery.
- An ultra-bright 100 lumen LED flashlight with 7 light modes, including SOS and emergency strobe.
- Recharge your personal devices on the go, like smartphones, tablets, e-watches and more – up to 4 smartphone recharges.
- Designed for gas engines up to 6 liters and diesel engines up to 3 liters for cars, boats, lawn mowers and more.
What else can you do with a portable jump starter?
Many of these portable jump starters also include a trouble light and SOS strobe as well as a USB-C charging port for your phone. So, that’s additional great safety features you could really need if you find yourself lost with a dead battery in your RV.
Will I be testing them?
Perhaps…. I’ve asked for some test samples, and sometimes it’s a real push to get any action. But if I can get my hands on a few of them I’ll try starting a few vehicles with dead batteries and report on them, just for grins…
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there….
Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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