What you need to know about jumper cables and using them

Article by Christian A., on September 5, 2018

Whenever your car battery dies in the middle of the trip, it becomes an emergency situation. However, you can revive your car battery by using jumper cables. Also called as booster cables or jump leads, jumper cables are a pair of insulated wires with alligator clips made from either copper or steel.

The jumper cables are used to connect a dead battery to a boost source – typical another battery – to initiate a boost or a jump start. The external supply of electricity from the other battery recharges the dead battery while helping crank the engine of your car. Once your car has started, its charging system will start to recharge, which means the other battery can now be disconnected.

Nonetheless, just as not all cars are the same, not all jumper cables are the same. The performance, durability and specs of jumper cables differ from each other. You might be getting a pair of jumper cables that doesn’t fit what you need for your car.

You really don’t need to purchase the most expensive jumper cables, just the right ones. Thus, it is always best to do some research before purchasing jumper cables. When purchasing jumper cables, it is unnecessary to take a look at the labels such as the ones saying “heavy duty.” Instead, you have to consider the wire gauge (width), length and clamp of the jumper cables.

Gauge

Wire gauge refers to the thickness of the jumper cable. The lower the number, the thicker is the cable. Likewise, the lower the number, the faster is the charge. This is because, the thicker the wire, the more current (amperage) can pass. In fact, thicker wires may allow you to jump start your car at little to no time as the current flow during the jump start is already high enough.

Thus, purchasing a set of jumper cables with a higher number could be a hassle. Many consider 10 gauge – the thinnest – as garbage, but it might suffice for very small cars. However, 8-gauge jumper cables are already enough for most cases, but selecting 6 is much better. Some drivers choose 4-gauge jumper cables, maybe because they are driving a semi-truck. A few choose 2-gauge just to be assured.

Lenght

Remember that you are connecting your battery to another battery of another vehicle. This means that you need pretty long jumper cables. Minimum recommended length is 12 feet. Nonetheless, longer jumper cables might really be needed for practicality’s sake. A number of drivers keep 20-feet jumper cables in their cars.

Clamps

Ensure that your jumper cables have heavy duty clamps that could connect to the terminals securely. Heavy duty clamps are usually larger and have a thick and secure insulation.

This means your hands could be far away enough to be reached by sparks generated during a connection, Likewise, their thick and secure insulation lessens any chances of electrical shock. Likewise, these heavy duty clamps usually have teeth to ensure that they won't slip off the terminals.

Steps you can follow when jump starting a car:

1. Ensure that the cars (Dead car with dead battery and boost car with boost battery) are parked close enough to ensure that the jumper cables can connect the batteries of both vehicles. Turn off the engines before making any connection.

2. Open the hood of each car to access the batteries. In some vehicles, the batteries are in different locations.

3. Start with the red cable, which is used to connect the positive terminals of the batteries. Clamp first the positive terminal (with + sign) of the dead battery, and connect the end to the positive terminal of the boost battery.

4. Connect the black cable, which is used to connect the negative terminals of the batteries. Start with the negative terminal (with + sign) of the boost battery, and then proceed to the negative terminal of the dead battery.

5. Start the engine of the boost car and leave it idle for some time.

6. After a few minutes of idling the boost car, start the dead car and leave it idle for a few minutes.

7. Once the dead car has come back to life, remove the cables in this order: black cable from dead car; black cable from boost car; red cable from dead car; and red cable from boost car.

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