Guide to compact jump starters / power banks

Jump starter powerbanks are not just fancy gadgets – they come in extremely handy for both instant roadside assistance and charging devices on vacations or roadtrips. There’s a lot of jump starters on the market, so how do we choose the right one? Here’s a guide to things to look for.

Choosing the right compact right auto jump starter / power bank

Important things to look for

#1 advice: Peak Amps: The peak Amps the unit will deliver tells you of its power. Compact powerbanks are typically in the 400-1200A range.

The rule of thumb:

300A peak amps will jumpstart a 2l engine
1200A a 6 liter engine

Car engine volume: Many car boosters specify the engine they can jumpstart. Check if your own car is within range. Larger compact jump starters will kickstart an 6.5l diesel / 5.2l petrol engine up and running, smaller ones only 2-3l engines. The engine size it can jumpstart is proportional to the amps, but also wire size, connector quality and electronics play in.

Battery capacity is always measured in micro-Amp-hours such as “8000 mAh”. 1000 micro amp hours means it will give 1A for 1 hour. The capacity will determine how many times you can use it to jump start an engine – or how many phones it will charge.

Charge time: Read reviews and specs to learn about the time is takes to charge the powerbank from empty. Some have quickcharge feature with USB 3.0 and charge in a few others, others will take up to eight hours to charge.

Heavyduty clamps and cables: Some smaller powerbanks have flimsy cables and/or clamps. They can overheat and will break quicker. The cable quality matters if you use it a lot, both for light use, the cheaper cables might do.

Difference between cheap and heavy-duty cables and clamps, as shown for the DBPower 600A.

Accessories: Jump-starters mostly come with a set of accessories like wall-socket charger, in-car adapter (to charge it while driving), connectors and adapters for different smart devices like phones and tablets, and a storage pouch.

Build quality: Look for negative reviews to learn about the quality of the jumps starter materials and if your chosen product might be prone to breaking.

Safety features: The power of jump-start powerbanks means that safety matters, such as protection against reverse-polarity, overcurrent and short-circuiting. Most of the newer powerbanks are also protected against over-charging and over-heating.

Battery level indicator: Make sure the battery pack has a visible battery display somewhere. This will avoid a drained battery when you need it.

battery level indicator on a DBpower 1200A
Battery level indicator on a DBpower 1200A

Flashlight: Jump starters almost always have an integrated flashlight, but check specs. This is very handy in a dark engine compartment. Some also have a strobe function to warn other cars in case of a broken down car on the road.

USB ports: More USB ports are handy if you are on vacation with others or just for the family roadtrip. Most have 2, however lighter / smaller powerbanks typically one have 1.

Storage pouch: You will soon appreciate a practical storage bag for cables, chargers, adaptaors and clamps.

storage case
A practical storage case is great for both transportation and storage. Pictured: Brighton jumpstarter

Warranty: If the jumpstarter stops working, a warranty comes in handy. Most units come with a 2 year warranty or more. Also look at user reviews to learn about friendliness of customer service.

Private or pro? Most powerbanks are portable and personal. But some larger type jumpstarters are made for professionals and handle different battery voltages and will even connect to other electrical systems. They won’t have the USB features for smart devices.

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