Jumper Cable Buying Guide

Jumper Cable Buying Guide

If you own a car, truck, an SUV, or any other type of vehicle that relies on a DC battery to initiate motion, chances are that you must have come across a dead battery at some point. There can be many reasons for it, for example if your headlights have been accidentally left on throughout the night, a weak or old battery, freezing temperatures, parasitic draw from vehicle accessories and computers, and a great deal more.

Imagine – you’re getting late for work (does it really ever happen when you’re ahead of schedule??) – you rush to get to your car and push your keyless ignition switch only to be greeted with a dreadful “click click click” sound.  The lights on your dash flicker, you hear some familiar noises but one thing is missing. The roar of your Internal Combustion Engine coming to life. Guess you’re going to be a bit later than you thought! In this situation, ideally you would immediately go to your trunk and fetch your Booster Cables. Flag down a friendly neighbor with a vehicle or use a spare car to get your daily driver back to being roadworthy (at least until you can figure out what the root cause is).

  • Open both hoods and identify clear access to both vehicles batteries. Ensure you are ready to turn off the Car Alarm for either vehicle as it is common for it to sound after tampering with the 12v or 24v electrical system.
  • Ensure both ends of the leads are isolated (positive and negative clamps aren’t touching each other)
  • Connect your Positive and Negative leads to the “Donor Vehicle” first (the order does not matter as a circut is not yet completed)
  • Then connect the other end Positive lead to the positive post of your battery,
  • Connect the Negative lead to an unpainted metal part of the engine. Note: If you cannot attach it to a metal part, you can connect directly to the negative post of the battery.  This last connection should result in some large sparks, and possibly your car alarm may start to go off. This is completely normal and confirms that you have solid connections in the right areas.
  • After the last connection is made, start the Donor Vehicle (a lot of people leave it running when hooking up cables. We do not recommend this while positioning the cables for safety reasons) and  – depending on the quality and size of your cables and the output of the donor vehicle – you should finally be able to start your engine!

But what if you don’t have your own set of Jumper Cables?

I bet none of you would like to get into such a situation without a quality set of cables on hand. To avoid that disaster, you should prepare by obtaining a set of Booster Cables. However, before that, here are the things that you should look for in a couple of Jumper Cables sets we found on Amazon.

 

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Things To Look For While Seeking the Top Jumper Cables Set.

Gauge

An essential measure of a jumper wire is its gauge. Lower gauge (1-2) cables have a higher current carrying capacity and are used for heavy vehicles like trucks, SUVs, Commercial Vehicles, and RV’s.

Contrarily, higher gauge (4-6) jumper wires have a low current carrying capacity and are, therefore, used for small vehicles such as hatchbacks, sedans, etc. 

Source: https://xtronic.org/tips/table-awg/
Snippet taken from https://xtronic.org/tips/table-awg/

Remember that you don’t always need a lower gauge cable as they are more expensive. If you are the owner of a small vehicle like a sedan or a crossover, the lower gauge wires will do just fine but may take a bit longer to transfer enough energy to start. It may also not work if your battery is defective and won’t hold a charge – in which case the larger gauge wires may be your savior.

Length

Length is the second most crucial feature to consider before buying a set of jumper cables. In situations where it is possible to park both the cars nose-to-nose or side-by-side, then a short 10-12 feet wire should be plenty good. 

However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there is not enough room to park the cars close enough. Imagine getting stuck on the highway shoulder needing a jump. It would be MUCH easier if someone can pull up a safe distance behind your car and easily jump it. This is one of the strongest use cases for longer cables such as the Energizer ENB-125.

 

Clamps

Different jumper sets feature different sets of clamps, each with their own pros and cons.

  • Parrot clamps are designed to prevent the chance of shorting out as the conductive “teeth” are protected by the “beak” and this style is becoming very popular. They do not work with all styles of batteries as they require a bit more clearance than most other styles, but will usually work on side post and top post batteries.  Our top pick with this style is again the Energizer ENB125
  • Alligator clamps are the most common and generally feature a fully-conductive clamp with insulated handles. These tend to be very likely to short out (touch) but are completely universal. There is almost no situation that this style of clamp cannot overcome (safety issues aside).  A really good example of this style would be the Cartman CM-BC17-125
  • Mechanic-Style clamps are newer style that generally have a metal or polymer handle with the cable that runs to the end into copper “teeth” which can adapt to most styles of battery. Stay away from low-quality plastic ones as they may break sometimes. A common and good example of this style would be the Energizer ENB-420

Insulation

Jumper wires during operation carry high currents which can create a lot of heat. The 12v in most vehicles is not enough to penetrate your skin – movies got this one way wrong – and jumper cables cannot be easily used to shock people. It is still important to ensure the insulation on the wire is high quality, and the insulation on the clamps is sufficient to protect the user from extreme heat from moving too much power as well as extreme cold (it happens).

Tangle-free

While shopping for a pair of jumper wires, check to see if it is tangle-free. This may not be an issue with a short 10-12 feet set, but the longer 16-30 feet cable sets suffer more from this issue. In an emergency, probably the last thing, the last thing you would like to do is to untie a messy, tangled wire. Thicker, copper wires tend to be stiffer (especially when cold) and can be a real chore to unravel, which adds to your unease.

 

Review of the Top Jumper Cables on Amazon

The best of the lot is Energizer ENB-125. These 1-gauge jumper cables are ideal for trucks, vans, SUVs, full-size cars, mid-size cars, and compact cars. At 25 feet, these booster cables are long enough to establish a connection in places where it is impossible to park closer such as highways, parking spaces, apartment complexes, even tow trucks love these!

The vinyl-coated parrot clamps are safer and easier to use in tight spaces. The clamps are suitable to use on both top and side post batteries. Even if they slip off the terminals, the “beak” will ensure it won’t short out your vehicle’s electronics.

The cables on this set are made up of copper-clad aluminum (CCA). You might be familiar with the excellence of copper in conducting electricity; on the other hand, aluminum makes the cables light, flexible and cheap. The cables are tangle-free and remain flexible even at freezing temperatures. After use, the 25 feet pair easily rolls into a high-quality travel bag that comes with the set. 

The package is covered under two years official brand warranty by a household name, and their customer support is top-notch. You truly can’t go wrong with an investment in this set.

Next in line is the “Energizer ENB-220”. At 20 feet, the cables are just a few feet shorter than the previous model. It is a decent length but may fall short for longer or commercial vehicles if boosting from behind. For large vans, SUVs, sedans, and compact cars though, they will do just fine.

Just like the previous model, its Parrot-clamps are vinyl coated for better protection. The clamps are easy to use and have a decent grip. The parrot clamps being smaller in size, are ideal for compact cars and are good to use with both top and side post batteries.

Similar copper-clad aluminum cables are great conductors and lighter as well. The lines are tangle-free and remain flexible at sub-zero temperatures. An excellent quality travel bag is also included with the set for easy storage. 

The two years warranty ensures that your investment remains safe in case the pair gets damaged.

“Energizer ENB-616U” is a standard 16 feet, 6-gauge, booster jump start wire. It will get you going in almost every situation while being cost-effective. The six gauge and 16 feet lengths are great for SUVs, medium, and compact cars under normal circumstances.

As opposed to the previously mentioned models, this one has mechanic-style clamps with a comfortable handle. The clamps have a strong grip and can be used with both top and side post batteries. The clamps are covered with a vinyl coating, which protects them from corrosion and “accidental conductivity.”

The ENB-616U also features copper clad aluminum cables that remain flexible and tangle-free in all conditions. As like any other jumper cable set, these too come with a bag for easy storage. 

The whole unit is covered under a two years official brand warranty.

Next in our lineup is “Amazon Basics BC 120749A”. It’s 12 feet, 10-gauge jumper cable. As apparent, the 10-gauge wire is not intended for any heavy-duty usage. With its smaller capacity, it is only ideal for small/compact cars. Moreover, the smaller size also limits the use to only when cars are parked nose-to-nose or side-by-side. You may find it takes a longer time for enough energy to transfer to get going when using these sub-par cables.

The set is equipped with alligator clamps with a 110amp rating. The clamps provide a stronghold with comfortable handles for easy positioning. 

For quick visual identification, the 12 feet set comes in two different colors, i.e., black and red; thus, chances of a wrong connection are minimized. The cables are flexible and can roll into the pouch included in the package.

Amazon Basics provides a limited 1-year warranty for this product.

Top DC has put together a UL listed 12 feet; 4-gauge booster jumper cable made up of 100% pure copper. Being made up of copper, the wires have excellent conductivity and negligible losses. Despite being a 4-gauge wire, it is perfect for trucks, SUVs, and any car, thanks to its 100% pure copper cables.

The set comes with high-quality parrot clamps with a strong spring, making the clamps grab and bite tightly. The clamps are coated with a rust and corrosion-proof coating. 

High-quality PVC insulation ensures flexibility even at temperatures ranging from -40F/-40C to 167F/75C. The cables are generally more massive because of pure copper construction. 

The set comes under a whopping 5-year warranty. Though it may seem overpriced initially because of its pure copper composition and extended warranty, it can prove the right choice in the longer run.

Energizer ENB-130 is a heavy-duty, 30 feet, 1-gauge, 800A booster jump start cable. The set comes with a permanent installation kit and a quick-connect plug. For smaller cars, sedans, crossovers, etc. this might be overkill. ENB-130 is aimed at heavy usages like trucks, jeeps, repair shops, and anyone who needs to jump often without needing to open their hood.

Vinyl coated clamps have the necessary protection from rust and corrosion. Clamps have a strong spring that ensures a tighter grip. Both top and side post batteries can be connected to employing these clamps. Their comfortable handles provide a smooth user experience. 

 At 30 feet length, wires getting tangled can be a significant issue, but that’s not the case with this set of jumper wires. They are tangle-free, and their copper-clad aluminum composition ensures flexibility even at -40C. You are not using wires for long period? Not an issue; you can rolled it into the lovely little travel bag provided along with the set. 

Energizer also got you covered in case of any issue with their two years official brand warranty. You can also use the Anderson SB175 connector to make your own cables that interface with this set or your winch.

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