Handheld Jump-starters

In a previous article, we talked about what to do if your car doesn’t start.  There are many factors to consider.  It might not be a dead battery.  I could be a clogged fuel filter, clogged air filter, bad spark plugs, bad fuel, a bad ignition coil, or a host of other reasons. But if you find yourself with a vehicle that just needs a jump, you probably feel like you have only one option: find someone with jumper cables who is also willing to jump your car. But, is that your only option. No.

Improved Batteries

In the recent past, battery technology has made some rather astonishing leaps.  This is especially true with lithium ion or Li-ion batteries. These types of batteries hold a charge for a long time and are good for hundreds of charge/discharge cycles. Although, the problem with these types of batteries is that they cannot be fully discharged, or they could be ruined.  Also, they usually only last about two or three years. So how does the Li-ion battery come into play for a stranded motorist? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about handheld jump-starters.

Handheld Jump-starters

There are now dozens of models of handheld jump-starters available on the market.  These handy little gadgets are not much bigger than a cell phone and can actually jump-start your car with relative ease. I really couldn’t believe it until I received one as a gift and needed to use it. I had already charged it using the wall plug, so I was ready to go.  I attached the leads to the dead battery and then plugged the connector into the jump-starter device.  I turned the key, not expecting anything to happen.  After all, I was using this tiny device to jump-start my 5.9 Liter V8 pickup truck. I was happily surprised.

With one turn of the key, the truck started immediately. This is definitely a must-have in my glove box now. And the good thing is, it will work for many jump-starts and holds a charge for many months, thanks to the Li-ion batteries.  So this is where our Li-ion batteries come into the picture. Using Li-ion batteries (usually lithium cobalt oxide), the batteries can provide the high amperage necessary to start a car or light-duty truck.

Best One?

A quick search on your favorite search engine will reveal some options and brands available in this area. So, which one is best? That really comes down to your own needs.  These devices come with varying options, including flashlights, USB ports (to charge your phone or another device) battery level indicators and even tire inflators (on larger models). It really all depends on what you might use it for, besides starting your car. Just be sure it is capable of producing at least 400 amps at peak power. Prices range from $35 US to $180 US or more.

Another feature to look for is the ability to change the internal battery. Some devices are completely sealed and therefore will be useless once the battery goes completely dead. You need to balance this with the cost of the unit. In other words, if the unit costs $120 and lasts three years, that’s about $40 per year, which is cheap insurance, if you ask me.


All in all, I highly recommend having a hand-held starter in your car for emergencies.  Even if you just use it to charge your devices and use the flashlight, it’s an inexpensive remedy that will give you peace of mind.

Written by Gary Pradel