Is there a more disheartening feeling than turning your key and just hearing the faint ‘click’ of a starter solenoid without enough power to engage the starter? Or perhaps listening to the engine just turnover at about one revolution per minute?
No, there surely isn’t. And, of course, it only happens when you’ve driven somewhere, nowhere near home. A manual car can be bump started with a little persuasion, but an auto? You need a set of quality jumper cables.
If you’re lucky, you can buy a set of these cables and place them in your trunk tidy and forget about them. Hopefully, you will never need to use them. However, they do give you the opportunity to play good Samaritan should your neighbor ever find themselves with a flat battery.
But what sort of thing should you look for the best jumper cables?
Any high-performance jumper cable, or even just the run of the mill jumper cables, are made from copper wire. That’s because it’s one of the best conductors of electricity. They’re made from a multitude of individual strands. The bigger the wire, the more load it can handle, for sustained periods.
A smaller or thin jumper cable won’t be able to take much load before it gets really hot. The reason for the many strands is simple. One thick strand wouldn’t be flexible. Effectively, you’d be getting a metal bar that can’t bend or move and that just isn’t practical.
You should give thought to the length of the cables. Anything too short will make it difficult to place the cars to connect. In this case, bigger is better. But, of course, the longer the cable, the more copper and the higher the price.
If you’re looking to start a small compact, then lightweight jumper cables are fine. But, anything with a bit more get-up-and-go or diesel will require cables that are capable of delivering a higher load capacity. So, again, the thicker the better.
Best Jumper Cables Reviews
We’ve compiled a list of five of the best car jumper cables. One of them is a permanent solution rather than a quick fix. It’s worth knowing that ‘1 Gauge’ wire is thicker than 10 Gauge, but the calculations aren’t straightforward.
We won’t be getting in to wire thickness, other than referring to gauge. A thicker wire can carry more load or current. That means jumping a car should take less time or that you can boost a really heavy-duty battery.
Energizer 1-Gauge Heavy Duty Jumper Cables
- Rating: 4.9 / 5
- Brand: Energizer
Yes, this kit is expensive for jumper cables, but you’re getting more than a weak set of clamps and thin wire strands. These are designed for the professional user. Own a tow truck business? These are for you.
Made from one gauge wire, these heavy-duty jumper leads can carry a maximum load of 800 Amps. Again, calculations give differing results dependent on load test, but a typical truck battery will run around the 600 Amp mark. So, Energizer 1-Gauge will be able to jump-start just about anything you come across.
They use a copper-clad aluminum. In theory, that means you’re getting the best of both worlds. The lightweight of aluminum and the conductive capacity of copper. Either way, they remain flexible right down to -40 degrees centigrade, but still weigh-in at a heavy 10.35 lbs.
The best thing about these cables is the length. They’re 30 ft. long and more than enough to not have to move cars around. You can pull up behind the dead car and still reach the battery.
Another nice little touch is the Quick Connect. Once you’ve installed the socket on your tow truck, you can literally just plug into the socket for a fuss-free connection.
If you’re looking for the best heavy-duty jumper cables, you’ve found them.
CARTMAN Booster Cable 4 Gauge
- Rating: 4.6 / 5
- Brand: Cartman
Similar to the Energizer, the CARTMAN booster cables use copper-coated aluminum wire to transfer the power but come with a 4 Gauge wire. The wires are coated in T-Prene which helps them to retain flexibility down to -25 degrees centigrade.
The clamps use a patented design to ensure a secure connection to the battery terminal. The springs in the clamps feel pretty light, but Cartman does offer a full 5-year warranty on the product.
With 20 ft. of wire, the options for hooking up to another vehicle are many. You don’t have to be nose-to-nose. These will do nearly everything aside from straight behind the vehicle.
Everything comes neatly packaged in a bag and includes the jumper cables, gloves, and a wire brush for cleaning the battery terminals.
For the money, they’re worth ordering to just leave in the trunk of your car, a great set of booster cables.
Energizer 2-Gauge Jumper Battery Cables
- Rating: 4.3 / 5
- Brand: Energizer
These jumper cables are nearly identical to their more expensive counterpart already listed. Except that instead of the one gauge wire, they use two gauges and they’re 10 ft. shorter. The cables still have an 800 Amp rating. They will remain flexible in all but the harshest of winters and feature super strong clamps that will never form a weak connection.
The Energizer 2-Gauge cables don’t come with the Quick Connect system. They have clamps at either end, but that’s really only a useful feature if you’re running a breakdown service.
These heavy-duty jumper leads would be my choice for every day or semi-professional use.
Iron Forge Tools Jumper Cables
- Rating: 4.2 / 5
- Brand: Iron Forge
This price point makes the quality of these cables an excellent choice for throwing in the trunk and hoping that you don’t need them, but safe in the knowledge that if you do. They’ll work exactly as you need them to.
The Iron Forge Tools jumper cables use a 4 Gauge copper-coated aluminum wire that’s rated at 400 Amps and are 20 ft. in length. You shouldn’t really have any access problems. Better still, the clamps are well designed and have a strong spring mechanism. These will always give a great performance.
Unusually, Iron Forge Tools have a lifetime warranty for a replacement. They’re so confident in their product that they’ll replace any defective item with a brand-new item.
Definitely my choice for the cheap jumper cables.
Performance Tool W1673 Jumper Cables
- Rating: 4.0 / 5
- Brand: Performance Tool
These jumper cables from Performance Tool sit in the mid-range of pricing. While they don’t seem to offer that much more than the Iron Forge Tools cables, they do the job well.
As with all the other cables here, they’re copper-coated aluminum. They use a 4 Gauge wire which has been rated at 500 Amps continuous, with a peak load of 600 Amps. That’s more than enough for all but the biggest of motors.
The clamps use a strong spring to ensure proper connectivity. The cables have a thick PVC coating to avoid damage. For some, the PVC is less attractive than traditional rubber, but even so, they remain flexible in harsh climates. The coating shouldn’t crack or retain kinks.
20 ft. in length should give you all you need. However, trying to jump a car from behind is almost impossible unless it’s a small compact.
Using Jumper Cables
Jumper cables are easy to use. You’re effectively linking two cars together, or borrowing the battery power from another car.
The correct way to use jumper cables is as follows.
With the engine off on both cars, and in neutral or park, you should attach the red or positive clamp to the failed battery first, then to the live battery.
The black or negative lead should be then clamped to the good battery. Followed by a large metal part on the dead car. You should avoid attaching it to the other battery because when it closes the circuit, it may spark. This, in theory, could ignite battery gases.
Be sure to clamp it to an ‘earthed’ point on the car. A weak earth could cause the lead to heat up significantly.
Note: 6V systems aren’t so common now, but if it’s an old vehicle, there is a chance that it could be 6V rather than 12V. You should always check the battery voltage before connecting the jumper leads.
It’s worth identifying just why the battery drained. Leaving your lights on is one thing, but if there’s no obvious cause, you should get the battery checked. Consider purchasing a battery tester or multimeter.
Never Leave Home Without Jumper Cables
If you drive an auto transmission, a set of quality jumper cables is an essential part of motoring. You really should never leave home without them. You can pick up a set for the price of a few cups of coffee. It’s crazy to not consider it.
You don’t need to pay a lot to get a quality product. Having some jumper cables on hand may even give you the chance to play a hero to someone, and that’s a great feeling!
Any of these five jumper cables are worth your money. However, the Energizer permanent ones are really aimed at the professionals. From a different angle, if you’re the outdoorsy type, then being able to run a battery cable to power something easily is an added bonus!