How Does a Portable Jump Starter Work?

by Jody L. Campbell

The Jump Starter or Booster Pack

The jump starter, or booster pack, is a convenient device that acts like the battery of another vehicle and comes equipped with its own alligator clamps to attach to the battery in your car. There are benefits and drawbacks associated with a jump starter. The best thing about it is it eliminates the need for another vehicle and messy jumper cables. If the battery in your car will not turn over the engine, you can hook the jump starter to the battery yourself and (hopefully) get enough peak amps out of the jump starter to "boost" your battery and turn the engine over. Jumper packs range in quality and price ranges. The higher the price, the better the jump starter. Keep in mind that you may not need all the little gadgets that come equipped with the jump starter. Many of these accessories, like a flashlight or portable air compressor, may suck some of the charge from it if you use them. Some jump starters can put out around 1700 peak amps to help boost your battery to turn the starter and get the engine started. The downside to jump starter packs is the fact that they will not charge your battery. If your battery is completely dead or has very low cold cranking amps, your jump starter may not provide the power you need to boost the battery.

How it Works

Hooking up the jumper pack to the battery is pretty simple. Match the colored alligator clamps of the jump starter pack to the battery terminals; red for positive and black for negative. Once the clamps are connected to the battery, turn the power button on for the jump starter, if equipped with one. Some models put out peak amps automatically without a power on/off button. When clamped to the battery terminals (and turned on if equipped) the jump starter transfers its peak amperage to the battery and "boosts" the cranking amps of the battery. Be sure the wires and jump starter unit are not located near any moving parts before attempting to start the vehicle. Then, start the vehicle. Since the jump starter only puts out a base peak amperage, it will not charge your battery if you keep it plugged in for a length of time. You have one shot of starting the battery. However, dirty or corroded battery terminals may prevent a good connection for the alligator clamps and hamper the jump starter from transferring its optimum peak amps. Taking care of your battery and battery terminals is as important as caring for your jump starter pack.

Care and Maintenance

Keep the jump starter stored in a cool dry place when not in use. Do not leave it in your car especially in extreme cold conditions as it can drain the jump starter and compromise the plastic clamp wire covers. Keep the jump starter charged to optimize the peak amp output in the event you will need it. Taking care of the jump starter will help make sure it returns the favor when the time comes.

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.