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How to Choose Which Jumper Cables to Buy

by TerriAnn
How to choose which jumper cables you should buy #cars

Many don’t realize that it really does matter which kind of jumper cables you buy. Who cares if they were on sale with an additional 30% off if the stinkin’ things won’t jump start your car when it’s dead?!

How to choose which jumper cables you should buy #cars

How to Choose Jumper Cables – Minimum Specs

  • Cost: MSRP around $40-$60. Amazon has a great selection of jumper cables for reasonable prices.
  • Width: Thicker is better but can be deceiving, as can the ‘heavy-duty’ label. Check the gauge amount instead.
  • Gauge: 10 is garbage, 8 is plenty sufficient, 6 is better, 4 is probably more than you’ll need (unless you need to jump a semi-truck). The lower the gauge, the more power goes through and the faster it will charge.
  • Clamp: The more sturdy the clamp, the better it will stay. If it has teeth, it’s even more reassuring that the clamps won’t slip off the battery terminals. Also, solid rubber-coated handles will lessen chances of shock.
  • Length: At least 12′ for a basic reach.

These are good to have on hand in case of emergency. However, it’s even better if you learn how to use jumper cables.

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Me January 23, 2016 - 4:11 pm

Article is lacking since it doesn’t mention the more important aspects such as whether it’s all copper or copper clad aluminum wire, how wire length affects current capacity vs wire gauge, and that the clamp type should be picked to be universal and yet, some types work much better than others on certain vehicle battery terminals or rather I mean, over top of the battery cable clamps the vehicle has on those terminals.

No matter how sturdy the clamps look, if they make a poor connection over the terminal then that will reduce effective cranking current more than the wire gauge, especially if a person isn’t cleaning off those terminals as needed.

TerriAnn van Gosliga January 25, 2016 - 10:55 pm

Thank you for this extensive explanation. The article was meant as a simple introduction to demystify the gauge numbering and what basics to look for when assembling an emergency kit. For those that are really looking for the best cables on the market and for very specific or regular applications, it would be wise to conduct a more in-depth research of which specifics to look for.

nathan February 6, 2018 - 6:26 pm

Has anyone heard of the jumper cables called SJC? Apprently some guy in texas invented something that tells you when you have the clamps hooked up correctly, protects your car from surges and has something to “block sparks” (whatever that means). I found the website but want to talk to someone who has actually used the product. Safetyjumpercables.com

TerriAnn February 12, 2018 - 11:40 am

I haven’t heard about these but they sound like an interesting product.

Dano312 May 27, 2017 - 7:12 pm

So- so… on your diagnosis Me. I was an electrical engineer years ago (back when aluminum was first introduced in house wiring, and electronics. I understand mixing, and matching up these materials well. True it is, that pure copper vs. copper clad aluminum, that in a continuous high current use, it would matter very much, choosing pure copper. Still a decent casual use choice of a heavier (or lower gauge) wire than normally in a good copper clad aluminum, with a good process for bonding, and I’d say 2 gauge with a tight connection onto solid copper clamps will/would be just fine. it should be noted that some of the cheaper ones out there under 20 bucks, are an accident waiting to start a melt down. Look for high amp 600 or higher, with a genuine UL approved symbol. This lets you know that it will do what the manufacturer states it will. Namely jump your car safely. P.S. 95% of the copper clad Ebay specials would never get used in my garage, or parking lot, FOR SURE!

The Best Jumper Cables (2016) | The Smart Consumer July 7, 2016 - 3:41 am

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JoninCO August 14, 2016 - 9:39 am

I like the basic instructions as to how to pick a good jumper cable but have some comments on the article and the pictures. First the pictures, please get one that shows covered or insulated clamps (the actual clamp part). When I jump a car I am always very careful not to touch parts I am not trying to connect and insulated clamps help in that respect. More safe.

Some instructions as to how to jump a car would be helpful – unless your lawyers advise against that. And for an article this simple perhaps another one would be in order.

Eddie October 2, 2016 - 3:28 pm

Did the job for me thank you to the writer

darryl April 22, 2017 - 2:10 am

Hi, i stumbled upon your site while researching on jumper cables for my article, you gave me a good idea of what to look out for when selecting jumper cables. Appreciate it alot for this simplified version!

TerriAnn April 23, 2017 - 11:02 pm

Glad it helped!

morgan February 7, 2018 - 2:00 pm

just the info i was looking for. thanks for the simple and straightforward post!

TerriAnn February 12, 2018 - 11:40 am

You’re welcome!

DeWyatt July 10, 2018 - 2:48 pm

Although me, and Dano312 brought some very interesting, and very important facts to the conversation, I found the EXACT answer that I was looking for in the article. So, for the, obvious intent of the article, I must say job well done Terriann.
Like I said before, the information that me, and Dano312 brought to the conversation is very important to pay attention to, for someone who’s say looking to buy a set of cables to be used in a mechanical shop, or a wrecker compay that does roadside asistance calls, and/ or encounter the need to boost a Big Rig. And I would even say that the same for someone who has the need to use the cables on a quite regular basis.
However, and Terriann said it herself already, this particular article was just to give the every day run of the mill vehicle owner a general idea of what they should look for in buying a set of booster cables to carry in their vehicle with them for when such a case should arrise that they leave their lights on, which is even a rare thing to happen with the newer vehicles these days, and it runs their battery down. Or if they happen along some poor soul who is in the position where they need to get a boost from a willing Good Samaitan, that wouldn’t really require a set of cables that would take a linebacker for an NFL team to be able to lift just to get the job done, so everyone can make it home safely. And before it’s brought up by someone who’s sitting there perched on their keyboard just waiting for someone to make a comment that they can attack with their ALL KNOWLEDGE OF EVERYTHING ABOUT VEHICLES SUPER POWER. I’m well aware of the fact that even though you get a set of booster cables that serve your purpose time, and time again, if they’re not the EXACTLY PERFECTLY MATCHED UP GUAGE, WITH THE EXACTLY PERFECTLY FIT CLAMPS, THEY CAN STILL FAIL, AND CAUSE DAMAGE TO EITHER OF THE VEHICLES INVOLVED, AND, OR HARM, INJURY, OR EVEN DEATH TO THE PEOPLE INVOVED.
That should cover all, if not at least most of the comebacks, although i’m sure I left out a word somewhere, or misspelled something, but the point is, I don’t think that Terriann wasn’t trying to creaate the perfect world with her article. I think she was trying to give some everyday people who are looking for a good set of cables, that may be used 3 times a year, some VERY GREAT KNOWLEDGE ON WHAT TO LOOK FOR, AND NOT TO LOOK FOR.
Thank you Teriann for the gret job.

TerriAnn July 20, 2018 - 10:29 am

Thanks and I am glad you appreciate the article for what it is. Things have even changed as we now have portable car chargers the size cell phones, removing the need of car-to-car jumper cables. But, I also want to thank you for your insight. If I update the article, it’s nice to have reference info right here in the thread!

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