battery boosters

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  #1  
Old 11-03-17, 08:09 AM
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battery boosters

Wondering if anyone has any firsthand experience(s) to share. I have three sets of something like 30-40 year old jumper cables that were top of the line at the time, but I can see some corrosion where the cables bolt to the clamps so was thinking that I would take the ends off, clip the cables back, and, assuming the strands aren't all green, reattach the ends. But they have the older heavy duty clamps that are not as easy to attach as they used to be, so then was thinking that I would check out some new ends. Then started wondering if I should maybe just buy new cables and be done with it, which caused me to wonder if I even wanted cables, or would I maybe be better off putting a booster in each of our primary vehicles. But I don't have any idea how these work. Do you plug them into the wall, charge them, and they're good for so long? How do you know when it's time to recharge them? I understand that a booster isn't going to last as long as a set of cables, but is their lifetime enough to even consider? They must have some sort of battery in them, or maybe it's a capacitor, but is there a danger of leaking or maybe exploding if left in a hot trunk? And do they actually work?
 
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  #2  
Old 11-03-17, 08:50 AM
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I've had 2 Whistler packs (WalMart, $60) for almost 2 years. Winter before last I had problems with the battery dying every few days in my V8 truck and that booster saved my bacon dozens of times. Typically if a vehicle is in good tune and ONLY needs a battery boost you can get quite a lot of starts off a single charge--like 10 or more. It has enough power available thru the short wires & plastic clamps to actually start a cold V8 in winter with the primary battery REMOVED.
These boosters use lithium cells so if you're squeamish about reports of this type of battery catching fire, then I wouldn't consider it. These events are almost always during charging. Mine (all?) came with a tiny wall-wart charger that takes all night to re-charge so it might not be capable of overcharging the pack.

I always keep cables in my vehicles but when you're home alone one of these boosters is a great help. Supposedly the charge will last many months.
 
  #3  
Old 11-03-17, 09:19 AM
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The "old" style booster packs have a gel agm type of battery, and come in various capacities. They usually have inverters and can also power 110v items, most also have USB connections for cell phones, so also handy for short power failures at home. The AGM battery would last about 3 to 4 years, like a regular car battery. These are handy things to have, although they can weigh quite a bit and are large in size. They seem to be ok in the same environment as a car battery has to endure, they are the same type of battery, so should be ok with relatively high heat/cold. They should probably be charged up regularly to maximize the lifespan. A sealed AGM is a safe battery, used in racing applications for crash safety, so would not expect leaks.

The "new" generation of boosters are lithium battery based. In my view, they are typically undersized for reliable boosting, although they probably work fine in warm climates and with smaller, non diesel engines. The higher capacity ones (I have a Genius GB150, the highest power one they make, albeit all these power ratings are misleading to focus on numbers that do not really relate to cranking power), appears to be an excellent performer, but is very expensive. They appear to have a lower limit for high temperatures (hot trunk), and I have no idea what the lifespan will turn out to be. They are to be charged about every six months to maintain the charge. It is a smaller unit than any lead battery alternative. I probably went overkill for the highest power unit, I just wanted to have no chance of the boost not being sufficient, so paid up for high tech and excess power, and will be part of the experiment to see if these things hold up. My wife is leary of lithium due to the stories of cell phone and computer fires. Not sure if this is a risk with these, probably is under the wrong charging conditions and a manufacturing defect or puncture, so the risk is there. I am hearing lithium Iron chemistry is safer (but less energy density) than lithium Ion, so might be worth searching more, Napa Blue Fuel seems recommended as a Lithium Iron chemistry with adequate performance, but that's just at a glance.

On line reviews of the lithium ones are mixed, seem fine for some, not useful for others. That is why I erred on the side of the highest power one I could find. The Genius GB70 would have probably been sufficient and lighter/less expensive. I am in Canada with cold winters, so for other climates even the GB40 would make sense and at that power level the cost is very reasonable against a sealed lead acid alternative.

Bottom line is more real life experiences are needed to see how the lithium ones hold up. But it seems promising, and hence why I decided to give it a go. The last sealed acid one I had gave out after two years, when I needed it. So I suppose the frustration drove me to try the new technology.
 
  #4  
Old 11-03-17, 09:20 AM
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I am always amazed at people who will go to the effort to carry jumper cables and a battery booster in their car instead of maintaining the it so you don't need the cables or booster. Jumper cables you need another vehicle to help you out and booster packs need to be charged in order to work. Then there is the space they take up in the trunk... A new battery or cleaning the contacts doesn't sound so bad.

As for your jumper cables I would get your old ones in shape. Test them out and see if they still work. Just because you see corrosion around the clamp to cable connection doesn't mean there is corrosion at the cable to clamp contact point. You might not have to do anything. And, your old high quality cables are still high quality. A quality replacement bought today will be expensive.

Battery booster packs, especially those that are lithium powered are true wonders of modern technology. Their lithium batteries can dump massive amperage to start a vehicle if the cables on the booster are up to the challenge. Lighter duty ones are good for hooking up and putting some charge into the vehicle before attempting a start. They have two big drawbacks though. The batteries loose a lot of their capacity when cold. And... lithium batteries can "flame on" if not properly cared for and bumping around in the trunk and then being asked to dump huge amperage to start a vehicle is hard duty on a little battery. They also don't like heat like spending their life in a hot vehicle parked in the summer sun. Lithium batteries have a low self discharge rate so they will stay charged for a long time but they degrade more quickly when stored fully charged especially if hot.
 
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Old 11-03-17, 10:23 AM
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There is merit to the idea of just buying a new lead acid car battery every three years, and maintaining it, checking water levels, doing specific gravity test, etc.. But my experience is the failure rate of new batteries is way too high, and you can be let down by eg. a short in a cell more frequently than the battery manufacturers seem able to solve for. There is a reason why most batteries are sold on the basis of their pro rated warranty, the manufacturer expects failures.

Also, if you have an alternator/regulator failure, this is often discovered only after the battery discharges and you are stuck. Further, the door light switches sometimes stick, and you end up with a discharged battery, not to mention leaving headlights on by mistake. There are lots of reasons for "surprise" that make a battery pack very handy to have. Also boosting friends/being a good Samaritan for others with bad luck, the booster pack is safer/easier for all involved than hooking up jumpers.

I also have some equipment at a cottage property, a rotor tiller for gardening, motorcycles, etc. which all inevitably need a boost.

A flaw in some lithium chargers is they will not actually work on a fully dead battery, there needs to be some voltage to get the boost. The Genius has a manual override to allow a boost of a fully dead battery. Not sure why all don't have this, must be some risk to boosting a battery that is so bad it can not accept a charge? The lithium risks seem to manifest when charging, more than when using. I chose the Genius because it appears they have thought of these risks and engineered some fail safes into the unit, but time and a larger installed base of experience will tell. I think Consumers report rated some of the lower power Lithium packs, the Genius was not their best rated, but the better rated ones did not have the power I was seeking.
 
  #6  
Old 11-03-17, 01:02 PM
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Thank you for all of the valuable input. Sounds like for what I want jumper cables are still the best way to go, so will give them some TLC, clean and inspect all of the connections, maybe replace the clamps on at least one pair, and call it a day. As far as having to carry them because of not maintaining the vehicle, quite the contrary. We do stay on top of such things, but I grew up off the beaten path, and was a tinkerer from my youth, in fact a pretty darn good one most of the time, so from my teen years through today I get calls very often from friends and neighbors when when something is broken or won't start, and my wife, having grown up on a farm, was accustomed to accompanying her dad when a tractor or combine or whatever wouldn't start. Consequently, jumper cables are just as common items for us to carry as are spare tires, jacks, a tool box, etc. In fact I told her a while back that I would just as soon she not carry them because I didn't want her to get into a bad situation by letting on that she had them, nor cause a problem with her own car by connecting them wrong, but her street smarts are pretty good, and her mechanical skills are better than a lot of guys, so she still keeps a set in her car too.
 
  #7  
Old 11-03-17, 05:10 PM
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I had the same issue, when I buy battery cables I never go cheap and almost never use them.
When I tried to use them, nothing happened, as you mentioned, where the cable connected to the clamps it the wires had corroded, stripped the wires back and they work fine.
But I alway try to have a plan B and carry a Booster box.
The one I have has a light, compressor, USB port, 120 volt inverter, as well as the jumper and was less than $100.00 at Home Depot.
Just have to remember to keep recharging it every week.
There's a button you can push to tell you if it needs recharging.
 
  #8  
Old 11-03-17, 06:07 PM
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Almost 50 yrs ago I made 2 x 16' pairs of jumper cables out of #4 superflex arc-welder cable.
I put good cable ends on the wires and they are in the vehicles under the seat today "good as new".
In the middle of winter those cables are as limber as a warm summer day and there is no power loss either.
 
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