Powerlines: The 6 Best Jumper Cables

Aug 12, 2015

Category: Gear

It’s a common misconception that all jumper cables (or booster cables if you prefer) will do the same job. This is patently untrue and believing that lie is a good way to end up stranded even though you have cables in hand. A good pair of cables will have a nice thick gauge that can handle bigger batteries, copper or copper-plated connectors, surge protection (because otherwise you could end up with two dead cars), quality insulation, and be long enough to easily reach your battery and the battery of another car.

In addition to the attributes listed above, you’ll want to tailor the cables to your needs. If you live in a cold climate, they need to be well-insulated and capable of uncoiling without cracking when the mercury bottoms out. You’ll want to be careful with words like “Heavy-Duty” since the term can be misleading. Stick with cables that have a lower gauge, usually between 2 and 6. Any higher (meaning thinner) and you run the risk of not getting enough juice. For whatever you’re driving out there, and wherever you’re driving it, one of the 6 best jumper cables will keep you on the move.

AAA 4324AAA

AAA 4324AAA Jumper Cables

Pro: Very slender
Con: Short and thin

Slim Pickins: We’re going to go back on our word just a little bit here by adding these 8 gauge booster cables, which are slightly smaller than we’d ordinarily recommend, but they do a heavier job than many 6 gauge cables thanks to their tight internal winding. These are mostly for smaller cars and 4-bangers who have the battery shoehorned into a strange position that requires both a thinner connector and thinner cable to allow you access. They can work for larger vehicles, but expect to wait a few minutes while the battery builds up a charge before you hit the ignition. If you have a subcompact or a hybrid where space is at an absolute premium, then these can squeeze into the tightest of spaces. They are only 12 feet long and rated as medium duty with a 400 amp carrying capacity, so be sure that a minimalist pair of cables is enough for you. If you require something a little beefier, any of the AAA line is good. The 16-foot, 6 gauge 4326AAA are nice if you still want something small, but not tiny. [Purchase: $15]

Yuasa Motorcycle Jumper Cables

Yuasa Motorcycle Jumper Cables

Pro: Coils compactly
Con: Not wise to use on cars

Built for Bikes: Typically a biker just needs his motorcycle boots, a truly badass jacket, and a little time on the open road. Since it’s easy enough to push-start a bike, jumper cables don’t enter into the psyche of the average rider, but that’s a mistake, especially for those who prefer a bigger, heavier hunk of equipment between their legs. One day forgetting to turn the ignition switch off and your road trip could come to a painful end. Take a minute and snap up the Yuasa cables for your motorcycle. They’re only 8 feet long and use an 8 gauge cable, which is small for a car, but better for the smaller batteries on a bike. The rubber grips insulate against shock while the cables themselves are meant for compact storage under a seat or in a saddle bag. They even come with their own carrying bag that can be strapped to the side. You’ll probably never need them, but don’t get cocky. [Purchase: $23]

Astro SP0616 Jumper Cables

Astro SP0616 Smart Plug

Pro: Safer connection
Con: Short life span for jumper cables

Jump Smart: If you’re not familiar with using jumper cables, it can be easy to make a mistake and take a shock by cross-matching cables to improper terminals or accidentally bumping the ends against each other, causing sparks and stressing the car’s electrical system. To prevent this, Astro has created these smart cables. They have LED lights like a cable modem to show when they are connected to the proper terminals. Each end is connected separately so that even if the connectors touch, there is no juice flowing through them until the very end to spark or shock. The cables are ultimately connected through the insulated terminals set in the center of the cords. The cables themselves are high quality, with 16 foot, 6 gauge wire tested at 400 amps and ends that can attach to top or side terminals. They don’t have quite the same longevity as cables without the smart split, but you’ll still get more than a decade of use without difficulty. [Purchase: $30]

Coleman Cable 08660

Coleman Cable 08660

Pro: Different lengths and gauges
Con: Copper clad aluminum

Most for the Money: The average person using any standard vehicle – from sporty coupes that you can only motor around in wearing driving gloves, goggles, and a white scarf, to guys with dually utility trucks – will find no problems using the 08660. They come in various lengths, from 12 to 25 feet depending on how much slack you’ll need to reach your battery. They can also be bought in either 4 or 6 gauge, though we suggest that everyone go with the 4 gauge just to be safe. These work in any climate thanks to their T-Prene coating that keeps them pliable up to nearly 100 degrees below. They’re rated extra heavy-duty for maximum power conveyance and the ergonomic handles are easy to use whether you’ve got fingers like frankfurters or a pianists slender, elegant digits. On the back of each handle is a polar-glow indicator that glows in the dark to tell you which cable is positive and which is negative, even if you are having to work blind because you forgot to grow a third arm to hold your tactical flashlight. These are the go-anywhere, do anything, survive the night and stay on the road booster cables of choice. [Purchase: $34+]

Die Hard Platinum

Die Hard Platinum Booster Cables

Pro: Very long life
Con: Clamps can be tough to operate

Current Carriers: If you’ve got the money to spare, or you’re the kind of person who would rather buy the best product once and never replace it, the Platinum cables from Die Hard are made with a lifetime of use in mind. They are pure copper – the holy grail of conductivity – both in the clamps and along the entire length of each cord. The spring inside each clamp is powerful, allowing it to lock down around a post like a pitbull. Each side has glowing polarity indicators to take out the guesswork in the dark. These come with safety gloves in the case to help prevent the possibility of shock, which would be much stronger than normal jumper cables thanks to the pure copper connections. The cable is a large 4 gauge rated at 450 amps and is 20 feet long, making it enough for anything short of a semi. For something that won’t split or degrade, these are an investment worth making, especially for your wife/mother/daughter. [Purchase: $55]

Deka All Copper

Deka All Copper Booster Cables

Pro: 2 gauge for industrial use
Con: Expensive

Industrial Grade: Perhaps you have something a little larger than just a big-boy truck, like a Peterbilt or a juggernaut RV that requires a bigger juice jolt to kick over the beefy ignition. For these as well as industrial vehicles, there is the Deka All Copper. They’re 24 feet long which allows them to reach up under the highest hoods to get to batteries buried deep in the workings of the largest engines. The 2 gauge jumper cables are some of the biggest in the business allowing for maximum current to be carried from battery to battery along the pure copper cord. The parrot head clamps lock down even on larger posts and are easy to operate for hands of any size. The insulation on the 600 amp cables is made from Thermoplastic Elastomer which is long-lasting and resists oils and abrasions as well as low temperatures. [Purchase: $115]

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