By on October 11, 2019

best jumper cables

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Twisting the key (or, more accurately these days, pushing the button) only to come up with a fistful of no-go can be huge pain in the neck. While the root cause can be any number of maladies, identifying the fix as a simple jump start gets you going — at least for now. Stashing a set of jumper cables in the trunk of your car or under the front seat of your pickup truck is cheap insurance against being left stranded in the cold with a flat battery and long walk to nowhere.

Yeah, thanks to Stranger Danger and America’s love of litigation one may have to ask a few more good Samaritans before finding a person who’s willing to help boost the battery of your car than one would have had to ask twenty years ago. Thanks, internet. Nevertheless, there are more than a few good souls left on this earth, so all is not lost if you need to use one of these bad boys the next time you leave yer headlights on during a trip to Walmart.

Note well: the gauge rating of jumper cable wire operates in reverse fashion to just about every other measurement in the world. Here, a smaller number means a thicker cable — sets made with 1-gauge wire are hardier than sets made with 8-gauge wire. #TheMoreYouKnow

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


1. Editor’s Choice: Energizer 1-Gauge 800A Heavy Duty Jumper Battery Cables 25 Ft

energizer 1-gauge 800a heavy duty jumper battery cables

Overkill? Hell, yeah. Better than not having enough cable? Yewbetcha. This 1-gauge set of heavy duty jumper cables are just the ticket for starting anything from a Toyota Corolla to a stalled-out Death Star. Your author knows all too well the danger and despair of having lightweight jumper cables — not enough juice and a set of cables heating up faster than a politician’s hot seat.

This set is 25 feet in length from lobster claw to lobster claw, meaning one should have more than enough slack to reach between stricken car and saviour car. The clamps deploy a strong spring and a comfortable handle for secure placement and easy positioning. Fits both top and side post batteries, if you’re still rocking a 1990 Pontiac 6000. Thick 1-gauge cables should remain flexible even in the coldest Colorado climates.

Pros: Burly capability, thick gauge wire, great brand name

Cons: Costly

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2. OxGord Jumper Cables Heavy Duty – 4 Gauge x 25 Ft

oxgord jumper cables heavy duty

Those not wishing to splash out sixty bucks on a tool they may never use would be well advised to consider this set of cables from the mysteriously named OxGord company. Does Gord keep oxen? Is the ox well-fed? We may never know. What we do know is that this set of 4-gauge cables are stout enough for all but the toughest jumps and have good reviews on Amazon.

Extra strong ergonomic grip with clamps are said to open wide and clamp very tight on both top-post and side-post terminal batteries. These 25-foot cables come with a carry bag so you can retain some semblance of order in your car’s rapidly filling trunk. Their slightly smaller gauge allows some flexibility in extra-cold weather but not as much as the 1-gauge cables above.

Pros: Affordable, more than suitable for the vast majority of jobs

Cons: May stiffen up in really cold temps

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3. Booster Cable 4 Gauge x 20Ft Heavy Duty Cable with Reverse Polarity Protection

horusdy booster cable 4-gauge heavy duty jumper cable

There’s no shame in asking for a bit of help, whether it’s when picking out a bottle of wine for the evening or trying to use a set of jumper cables. For those not aware, reversing the polarity between cars (hooking a positive terminal to a negative terminal and vice versa) will cause much calamity and, at the very least, some extremely expensive noises. Fire is not out of the question.

The smart protector on these cables will protect from such short circuiting. When the connection is successful, a green “ok” LED will light up. If you have applied the clamps incorrectly, the smart protector will alarm and the “wrong” red LED will light up, notifying you of your boneheaded error. Your author enjoys how the fault light is labeled with a blithe “wrong” instead of “error” or something more friendly.

Pros: Reverse polarity protection, 4-gauge construction

Cons: Only 20 feet long

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4. Professional 1 Gauge 24 Ft Quick Disconnect Jumper-Booster Cable Set

paka tools professional 1-gauge quick disconnect jumper booster cable

Here’s a set of jumper cables that are meant for permanent installation on a tow truck or some other sort of recovery vehicle. Heavy duty 1-gauge cable is terminated with a set of eyelets on one end, meant to be connected to a well-grounded raw power source. Those wires terminate at a quick disconnect, one which should be mounted somewhere handy and easy to access.

The cables and clamps used to boost a stricken vehicle are then plugged into this quick disconnect junction box. It’s a handy solution that permits someone to offer a boost to another car without having to lift the hood of their own. That connector is said to be weather resistant but it would probably be a poor idea to submerge it in bog water while off-roading. Electricity and water don’t tend to mix, kids.

Pros: Very convenient design (after installation), easy access, 1-gauge cable

Cons: Installation is rather permanent

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5. AmazonBasics Jumper Cable, 10 Gauge x 12 Ft

amazonbasics jumper cable

These things are the equivalent of packing a set of throwaway hotel flip flops when you go to the beach. If you need them, fine. Just don’t expect to get a whole ton of use out of the things. This cable set would likely be useful for someone who’s trying to boost a small car that doesn’t need many cranking amps to get going.

Beyond that, this 10-gauge wire is likely to overheat very quickly. Trying to start your author’s V8-powered pickup truck or beloved eight-cylinder Lincoln would zap these cables into oblivion. Also, the ones shown here are just 12 feet long, meaning the dead and donor cars will probably have to be parked nose to nose in order for them to reach anything useful.

Pros: Very affordable

Cons: Short length, thin wire

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6. NoOne Booster Cables, 6 Gauge x 12-Feet

noone booster cable

Another entrant in the “Why Did They Name The Company This” sweepstakes is the NoOne brand, presumably created by a person wishes to remain anonymous. The cables selected here are of a reasonable 6-gauge thickness but your author would not recommend buying cables any thinner than these.

Again measuring just twelve feet, careful planning and positioning of cars will be required for a successful jump start. However, each clamp is smartly designed with an integrated LED light that illuminates the work area because, thanks to Murphy’s Law, dead car batteries always seem to happen at night. In the rain. On a busy road.

Pros: Convenient LED lights, acceptable gauge thickness

Cons: Just 12 feet of length may cause issues

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7. NoOne Jumper Cables, Heavy Duty 0 Gauge x 25-Feet

noone jumper cables heavy duty booster cables

From the same inscrutable brand we find these brutes, measuring a dandy 25 feet long and boasting a 0-gauge cable construction — the thickest on this list. The wires are over half an inch on the round, in fact, so go ahead and offer a jump start to that Greyhound bus stalled at your local Flying J.

Strong, jagged teeth and robust springs mean the clamps on the ends of these cables hang on tighter than an overly attached girlfriend. The makers also saw fit to work a reverse polarity detector into the mix, meaning an angry red light will illuminate and you absentmindedly connect these things the wrong way around. Fun fact: this warning light yells “wrong” as well. Fun times.

Pros: Super thick cable, tightly clamping jaws, 25 feet long

Cons: Heavy, will consume copious amounts of trunk space

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8. JEGS Premium Booster Cable 4 Gauge x 25 Feet

jegs premium booster cable

Anyone who watched Saturday morning car shows on TNN and Spike TV will surely know this brand name — for better or for worse. Nevertheless, this set of jumper leads has four-gauge construction and a 500 amp capacity, good enough for light to medium use. Consider getting a set with thicker cabling if anything with a V8 engine is in your driveway.

Its see-through carry bag ensures border guards won’t mistake your set of emergency jumper cables for a smuggled coiled snake, and the copper plated jaws in its clamps should conduct electricity with ease. Like most others on this list, they’re color-coded read and black so you won’t mix up the polarity, dummy.

Pros: Good customer reviews, decently priced

Cons: Options with thicker cables exist

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[Images provided by the manufacturer. Lead image: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock.com]

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40 Comments on “Let’s Start Something: Best Jumper Cables...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Speaking of litigation and fraidy-cat society with lots of people who don’t know how to fix anything with their own two hands, how many people actually *know why* the conventional guidance is to clip the negative wire on the dead battery car to some hunk of metal on the engine or body?

    Answer, it’s because when you clip the fourth (last) clip anywhere and you complete the circuit, if you clip it once and firmly then everything works fine, but if you’re kind of a spaz and you have a shaky hand that jiggles the clip as you’re trying to attach it, then you’re gonna make sparks. Same thing when you disconnect the first clip. If you just remove it quickly then there is no spark (there is technically a tiny little spark but it’s too small to see or to matter), but if you’re mister jigglyhands (or missus jigglyhands) then you’ll get a nice spark show. In either case, if you have an old fashioned ventilated battery (or a sealed battery that is crappy, broken, and not sealed anymore) then you just might have combustible hydrogen leaking out and the spark could ignite a scary little flame for a moment.

    Find ten of your friends who aren’t car nuts and ask them…

  • avatar
    R Henry

    About 20 years ago, I invested in a great set of jumper cables. They live in my trunk, coiled around the spare tire.

    Very useful to have plenty of length…don’t go cheap with anything less than 25ft.

    I have been able to help quite a few strangers with dead batteries over the years. Always great to be equipped to do a good turn!

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Sheetmetal and wires, both are thicker with a lower gauge number. I don’t know of anything else with thickness measured in gauge.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    And whatever you do, if you value your car, *do not* let anybody else besides you connect up jumper cables. It’s easier than you’d think for somebody not paying attention to connect them backwards, and you will fry the electrical systems of one or both cars when you do. (Not all cables or batteries have obvious black/red terminals. Visually verify the polarity mark on the battery itself.)

    And, of course, heed the instructions to connect the negative on the dead car to something distant from the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      +1 on looking at the positive and negative marks on the terminals.

      Another thought experiment, get ten of your friends who are not car nuts, point to the ground strap on your car battery, and ask them if it is the positive or the negative. Maybe one might point out that it is attached to the ground but most of them will probably say something about a black wire, a few of them will mumble it with uncertainty and low confidence.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        I’m sure it depends on the vehicles involved but I’ve been there when the battery explodes showering all of us with sulfuric acid and on other occasions when the jumper vehicle dies and both had alternator failures from mis connected jumper cables .

        Either I do it or you don’t get a jump nor will you be allowed to jump my vehicle .

        Period .

        Teaching your spouse / kids / friends / etc. really is the right way to go .

        -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I presume that in a reverse-polarity situation, damage won’t occur until the booster car is started?

      Have jumped several cars in my driving career without a problem. I just presumed that since some of these cable sets have indicators, that the electrical systems of both vehicles don’t self-immolate as soon as a connection is made.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I’ve jumped a couple dozen cars. I still read the connection instructions on the package, EVERY TIME. Takes an extra ten seconds and ensures I don’t make a costly mistake.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    A set ~16′ long with 6ga or 4ga is the sweet spot. If you are doing the 20′ cables or longer 1 ga is the minimum.

    I’d recommend the 10ga 12′ amazon basics over the 4ga 25′ Jegs ones all day every day, because there will be more available voltage at the business end with the shorter smaller ga wire.

    • 0 avatar
      The Comedian

      Didn’t sound right so I ran this through an online wire resistance calculator. Your math doesn’t check out.

      10ga 12 ft = .012 ohms per side, .024 ohms total path.

      4 ga 25 ft = .006 ohms per side, .012 ohms total

      (Assuming copper wire and equivalent quality jaws & wire to jaw connection)

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Well ;

        Yes and no ~

        The electrical current travels on the outside of each strand of wire so those cheapo cables (battery, jumper, anything) that save cost by using fewer, coarser wires regardless of gauge, are not going to pass amperage as well as the nice expen$ive cables that have lots and lots of fine wire strands .

        I used to make up my own battery cables using 0 gauge welding cable and solder typ claps, they worked a treat ~ the engine cranked faster than anyone imagined, this of course resulted in faster starting, less starter & battery wear, so on and so forth .

        Well worth the effort and minimal cost if you’re keeping the vehicle for a long time or if it’s a 6 volt system .

        I’ve seen more red ground cables that I’d like to over the decades .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          notinuse

          “The electrical current travels on the outside of each strand of wire …”

          That is not true. Skin effect does not apply to direct current.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            O.K. ;

            I don’t know this, I’m not an Engineer so i listened to my training and they said so, I use the parameters I mentioned and it works for me .

            As always : Y.M.M.V. =8-) .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            In the case of copper-clad aluminum jumper cables, the copper is on the outside of each strand and offers significantly higher conductivity vs. aluminum, so there is a ‘kernel of truth’ here…

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            notinuse,

            Today I learned that the aluminum power lines crossing the interstate have steel strands at their core. Very cool – thanks!

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Got any with special clamps for sensitive nipples?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The most important thing is to carry jumper cables regardless of how cheap they are. I have had jumper cables in every car I have ever owned and my father did as well. Better to have a set even if you never use them than to not have them and be caught with a dead battery. I feel the same way about spare tires but more and more manufacturers are doing away with them and offering a can of Fix o Flat.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

    Well, not always but for many years now. I am fortunate that I haven’t had any charging system, starter, or battery problems catch me by surprise but I quit carrying them long ago.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe the next trend will be to offer a battery without posts that cannot be charged with jumper cables. You will only be able to charge your battery using the auxiliary power outlet in your vehicle. That will be marketed as a safety measure to avoid people from being electrocuted. It would save battery manufacturers money by leaving the terminals off and they could charge more for terminal less batteries marketing them as safer. Just kidding or maybe not. Crazier things have happened.

  • avatar

    I had cables too in the trunk along with spare tire. Never used cables though one time I had dead battery but AAA guy came with his own cable and new battery. Never used spare tire either. Last time I used spare tire on any car was in 2001.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I still have the set of commercial grade 25′ 0 gauge jumper cables I bought in 1973 .

    I recently bought another two pairs on Amazon, one for each of the daily drivers .

    Cheap jumper cables suck and you can no longer use both 6 gauge cheapies on the hot side and bang the chrome bumpers to – gether to affect ground path….

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    At about the same cost as a competent cable set, a compact powerful portable jump starter will safely boost a weak battery. A second vehicle is not required. The highly regarded NOCO GB40 1000 Amp 12V Lithium Jump Starter is often sale priced at US$70.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah a quality jump starter is pretty amazing. I’ve got a NAPA Blue Fuel (Schumacher Red Fuel) unit that has started a car with a battery that barely made the dome light glow.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Last time I used a spare tire was in 2008 and I have not used a jumper cable in a while. I do have amp chargers at home and have charged my vehicles and riding mower with them.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Two of our three cars have rear mounted batteries and a remote positive jump terminal in the engine compartment. These terminals are inside protective housings that don’t leave much room for jumper cable jaws.

    Several of the reviewed cables have absurdly bulky jaws that would never work for us.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      The remote terminal under the hood is a good idea, since nearly all of the juice is going to the starter motor anyway.* It sounds like an implementation failure how they made the protective housing too small. That’s just dumb.

      * It’s an old winter weather trick to clamp the positive lead directly onto the positive stud on the starter motor instead of the battery post. You do gotta be careful that it doesn’t slip off the stud and ground out against something like, oh, I dunno, your fuel line when you’re trying to start your car at 3 in the morning just so you can go home…

  • avatar
    Power6

    I stopped carrying jumper cables and picked up a small jumper battery years ago. That way I can jump my own car! You do have to top up the charge every 6 months or so.

    • 0 avatar
      redrum

      Yes, this! I picked up one off Amazon for around $50 a couple years ago. It’s worked flawlessly in jump starting 3 different cars, and holds a charge for many months. So much more convenient than trying to get 2 cars close enough for a jump (which can be a challenge no matter how long the cables are). I still have a set of traditional cables sitting with my spare tire in the trunk but I doubt I’ll ever use it again.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I have carried a set of cables and my snow brush year round since I started driving. I’ve only ever had to jump my own car a couple times, but I’ve come to others’ rescue multiple times.

    The least intuitive jump was a lady’s hybrid Camry; she didn’t know where the 12 Volt battery was and it was the middle of the night. Under the hood were all sorts of bits with battery insignia, but nothing resembling a post or battery. I had to ask to see her manual; battery was in the trunk. She wanted to pay me, but I couldn’t take her money.

    Other than that, I keep a Schumacher starter pack/battery tender (referenced in another of these best buys posts several months ago) at home for our cars. Parking nose to nose is not easy in our driveway.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Matthew, thanks for this post. Reminded me that I didn’t have a set of jumper cables in my daily driver after farming out my spares to our fleet of college vehicles. Now rectified.

    – First line of defense is a jump charger (check the charge periodically). Second line is jumper cables. For some modern vehicles, there is a chance of damaging electronics on either vehicle.
    – “UL Listed” will cost slightly more but might be better constructed.
    – “100% copper” jump cables are available (most will be copper-clad aluminum or “CCA”).
    – I prefer all-metal jaws. [Interestingly, I have never seen jaws large enough to clamp around the “engine block” which is where the instructions say they should go… :-) ]
    – Any set of jumper cables is better than no set. If you need to jump a vehicle using a not-so-great pair of jumper cables, connect them with the good engine running and leave them connected for several minutes before attempting a start.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “I have never seen jaws large enough to clamp around the “engine block” which is where the instructions say they should go”

      The lifting eye somewhere on the engine or one of the exhaust manifold studs is usually the perfect spot.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    /reads #6 with interest/
    “your author would not recommend buying cables any thinner than these.”

    /looks back at #5/
    Huh.


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