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How to avoid battery failures: A buyer’s guide to jump starters, booster cables, and battery chargers
Most modern vehicles are designed to handle cold starts, including at temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius. But batteries lose their juice, and smooth starts are no guarantee during our Canadian winters. So, how do you avoid a sputtering engine and battery failures?
NAPA gets you covered with a wide selection of jump starters (conventional or portable li-on), booster cables and battery chargers for all batteries and all vehicles. Now you can start whatever the weather and the road conditions.
Check your battery at first
Frigid temperatures diminish a car’s battery capacity and prevent it from recharging properly. If your car battery isn’t brand new, and you don’t feel like spending all winter on the side of the road, then you’d best take a few precautions.
For a sure fire start, make sure your car battery is at delivering more than 12 Volts and can hold the charge. All it takes to avoid rough starts and battery failures is charging your battery ahead of time. Not sure whether you should get a 3, a 6 or a 10 amps battery charger for your car or truck? We can help.
Whether you have a small car, a large truck, a boat, or a snowmobile, we’ve got everything you need to give your battery a boost.
Need a booster pack? Here’s how to choose the right jump starter?
Jump starters, sometimes referred to as booster packs, are a compact and practical emergency solution. They can restart a dead battery in both gas- and diesel-powered cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and ATVs. They may not be a substitute for battery chargers, but they will get your engine started even if your battery is completely discharged. No special maintenance required: just make sure your jump starter is charged before popping it in the trunk. In a nutshell, a jump starter is a portable power source that can be used to start up your car if the battery dies. There are hundreds of models to choose from, so we have a few tips to help you pick the right one for your vehicle.
- Power, measured in amperes (A),is the first thing to look at. The higher the power, the more effective the boost.
- Traditional lead-acid batteries can jump-start a vehicle’s engine or power small household appliances, air compressors, and other DC electronics. Keep in mind, however, that these batteries need to be recharged at least every three months to maintain peak efficiency.
- Lion portable power banks and jump starters shouldn’t be underestimated just because they’re pocket-sized. A 12 V mini jump starter is just as capable of boosting your engine—even if your car battery is at zero percent—as a full size battery jump starter.
Available with outputs of 400 A, 500 A, and 600 A, this small investment can save you major headaches. Although mini jump starters can’t power air compressors or inverters (DC–AC converters), some models feature a built-in LED flashlight or even USB ports for charging your phone. That means being able to jump-start your car even in the dead of night.
Car battery booster cables, a must-have.
Our Canadian winters will put any car battery to the test, which is why it’s essential to keep a pair of booster cables on hand. This small investment will prove its worth every winter, whether it’s your vehicle that needs a boost or you’re helping out a fellow driver with a dead battery.
At NAPA, we’ve got booster cables that match all designs and vehicle types from short to long, thick to thin, and everything from more affordable to professional-grade products.
How do I choose the right gauge booster cable?
The gauge, or thickness, of a booster cable wire is indicated by an inverse numbering system: the smaller the number, the thicker the wire, and the greater the amount of power it can carry. Most of our cables use a copper core for belter conductivity and more power in the end. You can jump-start the battery on most cars using an 8-gauge cable.For heavier trucks, however, you’ll need a smaller gauge.
How to choose the right car battery charger
A car battery charger isn’t something you pick at random. To avoid risking serious damage to both your vehicle’s electrical system and the charger itself, you need to choose the right type of charger and pay attention to its power (amperage), and voltage.
- Power indicates the charge power. Here’s a good rule of thumb for choosing the right level: check the ampere-hour (Ah) specification on your car battery and divide that number by 10. For example, with a Ford F150 battery that delivers 70 amps per hour, you would use a 7 A charger. Keep in mind that this is just a handy ratio—you can always opt for a more powerful charger. Not surprisingly, the higher the power, the faster the charger will do the job. At the same time, too powerful a charger could shorten the life of your car’s battery.
- The voltage of your charger should match the voltage of the battery you are charging. While modern cars typically have 12 V batteries, some chargers are also compatible with 6 V batteries, which are found in older vehicles. In the case of large trucks and construction vehicles, you’ll need a 24 V charger.
Lastly, always check which types of batteries (AGM, deep-cycle, etc.) are compatible with your charger. As for other battery charger attributes, the importance of the additional features you’ll see on the market won’t be the same for everyone. For example, if you’d rather not have to keep an eye on your charger, you might want to get a smart model that functions automatically. Smart chargers shut off on their own once the battery reaches 100 percent. Some are also designed to prevent sulfation and overheating, while others can even test and diagnose a battery’s condition.