Ultimate guide to lithium battery jump-starters

By: David Cook, Photography by: CAMPER crew


Everything you want and need to know about powering your adventures when away from a wall socket.

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters 1

In the past a jump start has required a friendly fellow traveller willing and able to get his battery(s) physically close to yours so that jumper leads could do the job, or, in the past decade or so, one of the handy, if hefty, jump starters, which effectively have been a medium sized wet cell battery in a poly case along with an attached set of jumper leads. Now, however, thanks to the revolution in battery technology, conveniently and surprisingly small lithium polymer battery packs have begun to appear which claim to be able to achieve the same thing.

So how do they fare?

TESTING OUR UNITS

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters 2

The units that we have selected to test are simply seen as a sample of the market out there today. There are huge numbers of these on sale and that has led to something of a wave of brands and models on offer.

Market forces are yet to weed out the poorer performers, but we feel that those we have here are all acceptable samples from the better end of the range.

We undertook tests on a four cylinder 3.4L turbo diesel in a Pajero 4WD, typical we thought, of a common level standard of camper trailer tow vehicle, and petrol-fuelled V6 Commodore.

All comfortably handled starting the Commodore. With the Pajero, we started testing our units on a charge of 12.15 volts (about 55 percent) in the vehicle battery—insufficient to do other than a very lazy rotation of the crankshaft and unable to start the vehicle. The vehicle would not start below about 65 percent state of charge (12.25 volts) from its own battery. This, we thought, was typical of a failing battery on a cold morning start. All of our units were able to provide the additional necessary kick to get the car to start promptly and easily.

We then tried them all at varying battery voltages, representing drops of 10 percent state of charge (SOC) (12.06 volts – 50%; 11.90 volts – 40%; 11.75 volts – 30%; and 11.58 volts – 20%) to find out at what stage they were unable to start the vehicle. To be honest, it is highly unlikely that a battery would get to 20 percent state of charge without some type of prior warning that something was wrong.

CALIBRE

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Calibre

The Calibre SCA7800 jump starter is a true shirt pocket unit, courtesy of its diminutive size and relative light weight. Conqequently, it has a more limited 400 amp claimed output. The kit, in its stiff cloth packaging, comes with a car charger, USB to Apple Lightning and 30-pin/micro USB plug set, plus the jump start battery lead and clamp set. The latter are sturdy and well shielded, with 10AWG cabling. The "intelligent jump start" unit at the base of the cables has basic use information printed on it that is easy to read and handy in the vent of losing the instruction manual. In jump starting it is advised to not crank the engine for longer than five seconds and to wait two minutes between attempts. The battery unit features a torch and a 5V 2A USB outlet suitable to charging smart phones. Mains charging can be done through the included USB cable and the battery unit’s micro USB input port, using a smart phone 5V 2A transformer, otherwise charging can only be undertaken in a vehicle.

The Calibre SCA7800 cranked over the diesel down to 40 percent SOC.

  • Battery type: Lithium cobalt
  • Battery capacity: 7800mAh; 28.86Wh
  • Peak amps (claimed): 400A (200A starting current)
  • Clamp power (claimed): 300A
  • Battery cycles: 1000
  • Cable size & length: 10AWG (5.26mm2); 260mm
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: No
  • Dimensions: 131 x 75 x 25mm
  • Weight: 300g
  • Operating temp: -10 to 60°C
  • Extra features: Torch; 5V 2A USB outport port
  • Warranty: 12 months
  • RRP: $149.95

ENDEAVOUR TOOLS ET6797

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Endeavour

The Endeavour Tools ET6797 Jump Starter/Power Bank is a nicely packaged and potent kit in a soft zip-open case, though extracting and inserting the jumper unit is annoyingly fiddly in a tightly fitting elasticised pocket. It is claimed to be 20,000mAh in capacity with 1400CCA and 74Wh, the highest of those we had under review. The kit comes with both mains and 12V chargers plus a USB to Lightning/micro USB lead. The 8AWG booster leads are a little longer than most and the clamps are sturdy and well shielded with plenty of grip. The negative lead incorporates a safety switch with green and red lights which flash and glow in various combinations to warn of problems (over-temperature, reverse polarity, over-current, etc) but the explanatory writing on the side is so small as to be extremely difficult to read, especially for older eyes. The operating temperature range is good. The instructions state the need for one minute between attempts to start the vehicle and you have five such attempts to get it started after which the jump starter will automatically shut down. These protections can be bypassed by pressing the reset button for five seconds, but one might need to be wary of overtaxing the unit. The minimum charge in the vehicle’s battery needs to be 3V. The unit has a torch and both 1 amp and 2.1 amp USB outlets (presumably 5V, though not stated) but which is which is not stated, and both 12V and 16V DC outlets for tablets or other appropriate appliances, but again not labelled. The latter is designed to be used with a supplied cigarette plug so would require an appropriate plug/cable set-up to go with it. The warranty is a minimal six months.

This very capable unit was our go-to when any other unit failed to start the vehicle and it had more grunt than any of the others on test. It started our diesel test car down to 20 percent SOC.

  • Battery type: Lithium polymer (LiPo)
  • Battery capacity (claimed): 20,000mAh
  • Peak amps (claimed): 1400CCA; 74Wh
  • Clamp power (claimed): 1400A
  • Battery cycles: 1000
  • Cable size & length: 8AWG (8.4mm2); 325 (+)/280mm (-)
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: Yes
  • Dimensions: 180 x 820 x 44mm
  • Weight: 674g
  • Operating temp: -20 to 60°C
  • Extra features: Torch; 2 x USB outlets (1A and 2.1A); 15A 12V and 16V tablet charging ports, cigarette plug
  • Warranty: Six months
  • RRP: $279

OZ CHARGE OC-KANGA 12-500

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Oz Charge

The Oz Charge OC-Kanga 12-500 is a unique jump starter in that it has no internal battery. Instead it uses super capacitors to draw current from the vehicle’s battery, provided it has a minimum of 3V present, and in so doing provides a charge sufficient to start the vehicle. This obviates the need to ensure your booster is always fully charged (which, despite the best intentions, it frequently isn’t).

If your battery is below 3V, you’re obviously in trouble, but that is highly unlikely and in the vast majority of occasions there will be some level of charge present. As it has no internal battery it is much safer to store and handle.

Generally the OC-Kanga 12-500 is designed to work on petrol fuelled vehicles up to 5L in capacity, and diesels up to 3.0L. The unit comes with a soft cloth storage bag, a car charger and a USB to micro USB charging lead, as well as its own jump start leads. Thus, the unit’s capacitors can be charged from the vehicle’s batteries, from another vehicle, or additional source where there is access to USB power or a cigarette-type plug.

The OC-Kanga 12-500 has  good 8AWG cables and the best battery clamps of any unit under review, they are large, strong and excellently shielded. When the unit is charged (15.5 volts) the LCD screen will display "Ready to Use" and a green ready light will flash. With the unit connected to the vehicle’s battery, press the "Run" button and you have 30 seconds to start the vehicle. This time can be extended to 120 seconds.

If the vehicle fails to start, wait five minutes and repeat the charging steps. Once charged the OC-Kanga 12-500 will hold its charge (optimum 15.5V) for several days. Charge times can vary between 90 seconds, when charging from a 12V vehicle battery with plenty of voltage available, to 180 seconds when charging from the car charger, and up to 25 minutes or more when charging off a USB point. The kit includes a very good easy to read manual. There is no facility for charging other appliances, running a torch or additional features.

The Oz Charge OC-Kanga 12-500 started our V6 Commodore test vehicle with ease but would only handle the needs of the diesel at 55 percent state of charge, just below the level at which the car would self start, as we were advised in advance. A new unit—the "Big Red" (1000 amps towards the end of the year)—is coming which we are informed will meet the requirements of starting up to a V8 diesel.

  • Battery type: N/A
  • Battery capacity: N/A
  • Peak amps (claimed): 500A
  • Clamp power (claimed): N/A
  • Battery cycle: N/A
  • Cable size & length: 8AWG (8.4mm2); 300mm
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: N/A
  • Dimensions: 318 x 104 x 55mm
  • Weight: 1500g
  • Operating temp: -40 to 65°C
  • Extra features: None
  • Warranty: 36 months
  • RRP: $299

SCHUMACHER REDFUEL SLI1

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Redfuel

The Schumacher Redfuel SLI1 is a chunky battery jump-starter in a stiff cloth carry case. It was the only one of our review units with a lithium iron phosphate battery, which may explain the added bulk and weight, as it was bulkier and heavier than others of similar output. The kit came with a mains charger, 12V car charger, 12V socket that plugged into a 6A output plug, a USB to micro USB cable and the jump start leads and clamps set.

The clamps were well shielded and of sturdy construction though the cable gauge of 10AWG was smaller than other similarly sized units (which were mostly 8AWG (about 60% larger conductor). The battery unit had a simple to use on/off switch, which activated an excellent digital readout offering a simple state of charge figure (as a percentage), as well as numerous other massages to keep you informed of features turned on or unit status updates.

The unit is required to be stored between -4 and 40°C, something which might be difficult to sustain in a vehicle in various regions at some times of the year. There is a torch, which can be set for a flashing mode, and a 5V 2A USB outlet suitable to charging smart phones. There is a good manual with the kit and good instructions on a sticker on the body of the battery unit. The warranty is an excellent two years.

The Redfuel started our 3.4L diesel down to 40 percent SOC but baulked at lower figures.

  • Battery type: Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePh)
  • Battery capacity: 12,000mAh/38.4Wh
  • Peak amps (claimed): 400A; 270A cranking
  • Clamp power (claimed): approx 300A
  • Battery cycles: 1500
  • Cable size & length: 10AWG (5.26mm2); 380mm
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: Yes
  • Dimensions: 210 x 97 x 43mm
  • Weight: 811g
  • Operating temp: -10 to 55°C
  • Extra features: Torch; 12V 6A socket output; 5V 2A USB output
  • Warranty: 24 months
  • RRP: $335

SJS 06G2

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters SJS

The SJS (Smart Jump Starters) SJS06G2 is a very capable and impressive unit. It comes in a poly case and is well equipped with all the necessary components and is claimed to handle your charging requirements and the grunt to start up to 7L petrol and 4.5L diesel vehicles.

With a claimed peak of 600 amps and 300 amps of start current, it would handle most smaller diesels and larger petrol engines. It has a 2.1A 5V USB port for charging smart phones, and a port for 2A 12V, 3.5A 16V and 3.5A 19V charging of tablets and similar items. The kit comes complete with a range of eight plugs to suit most tablets, plus a USB to Apple Lightning and 30-pin plugs/mini USB/micro USB male plug cable. It also has a mains charger and a car charger. The leads are of heavier 8AWG gauge and the battery clamps are sturdy and well shielded.

The wait time between start attempts is a minimal 15 seconds for the first three to five start attempts, after which you are instructed to wait three minutes to cool the leads. The battery cycle claim of "up to" 2000 recharges is well ahead of other units under review. The torch can be set to standard lighting, flash or an SOS signal. There is also a bank of four red lights along one side of the unit that can be set up to flash, which would provide a handy safety feature if stopped on a road shoulder in traffic, such as when changing a tyre. The manual is easy to understand and there is a range of accessories available, including a tyre compressor, work light, female cigarette plug, 50A and 175A Anderson plug leads, and a 50 to 175A Anderson adaptor lead.

We found the SJS SJS06G2 started our 3.4L diesel all the way down to 20 percent SOC though it was starting to struggle a bit at that point. All together it was an excellent unit.

  • Battery type: Lithium cobalt polymer (LiCoPo)
  • Battery capacity: 16,500mAh; 61.05Wh
  • Peak amps (claimed): 600A (300A start current)
  • Clamp power (claimed): 300A
  • Battery cycles: "up to" 2000
  • Cable size & length: 8AWG (8.4mm2); 430 (+) and 400mm (-)
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: Yes
  • Dimensions: 186 x 85 x 43mm
  • Weight: 540g
  • Operating temp: -20 to 60°C
  • Extra features: Torch; 2.1A 5V USB port; 2A 12V, 3.5A 16V and 3.5A 19V charging port; emergency flashing beacon
  • Warranty: 12 months
  • RRP: $239

TITAN-489E

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Titan

The Titan-489 is a smaller and more compact unit that comes in a poly case. It has a variety of added features, including a torch, plus a red LED (both can be made to flash), a 5V 2A USB phone charging point and a 3A 12V/16V/19V charging outlet suitable for use with tablets and similar appliances, and in the kit are a range of plugs to suit various appliances plus a USB to Apple Lightning and 30-pin plugs/mini USB/micro USB male plugs.

There are also both mains charging and 12V charging plugs. The clamps are sturdy and well shielded though the leads are the smaller 10AWG gauge. The negative cable incorporates a smart alarm/protection switch which functions with various coloured warning lights and/or alarms to warn of problems (over voltage/over temperature/reverse polarity/over current, etc). It’s just a pity about the "Chinglish" instructions on it. The instructions appear a bit sketchy but it is all there. The warranty is a limited six months so isn’t great. The operating temperature range of -40 to 60°C is the best of those under review and will cover everything you’re likely to meet in Australia. The RRP of $115 is the cheapest of our review group.

The Titan started our 3.4L diesel down to 40 percent SOC.

  • Battery type: Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePh)
  • Battery capacity (claimed): 900A starting power
  • Peak amps (claimed): 1100
  • Clamp power (claimed): Unknown
  • Battery cycles: 1000
  • Cable size & length: 10AWG (5.26mm2); 230 (+) and 280mm (-)
  • Polarity protection: Yes
  • Overload protection: Yes
  • Dimensions: 160 x 78 x 38mm
  • Weight: 450g
  • Operating temp: -40 to 60°C
  • Extra features: Torch; flashing red light; tablet 3A 12V/16V/19V charging port; 5V 2A USB port
  • Warranty: 6 months limited
  • RRP: $115

UNIDEN UPP120

Guide To Lithium Battery Jump -starters Uniden

The Uniden UPP120 comes with a sturdy poly case and the addition of a small tyre compressor which can be powered from the battery pack. The operating temperature range is smaller than some we reviewed. The kit comes with car and mains chargers, and a USB to mini/micro USB cable. The jumper unit has an easy to read digital screen, which shows charge status with both a battery graphic and a numeric percentage state of charge figure.

The cables are the smaller 10AWG but the clamps are sturdy and well shielded. The manual recommends only three seconds of cranking with the unit and a one minute wait between attempts.

Connecting a device to the USB output for charging automatically turns on that circuit and commences charging. The included air compressor is likely to be a "get out of trouble" unit only, and while it worked for us—slowly—and the screw-on valve fitting did become hot enough to make it difficult to remove, we wouldn’t want to be totally dependent on it. It comes equipped with an air needle attachment for inflating balls and another attachment for inflating small air beds or bike tyres. Use the compressor for no more than 15 minutes at a time to avoid overheating. The torch can be a steady light or has two speeds of flashing.

The Uniden started our 3.4L diesel down to 20 percent SOC but was showing signs it was nearing its limits by then.

Battery type: Lithium on polymer

Battery capacity: 12,000mAh; 44.4Wh

Peak amps (claimed): 400A (200A start current)

Clamp power (claimed): "up to 400A"

Battery cycles: 1000

Cable size & length: 10AWG (5.26mm2); 310 (+) and 210mm (-)

Polarity protection: Yes

Overload protection: Yes

Dimensions: 170 x 80 x 40mm

Weight: 436g

Operating temp: -20 to 60°C

Extra features: Torch; 5V 2.1A USB outlet; USB to micro/mini USB plugs; separate tyre compressor and accessories

Warranty: 12 months

RRP: $199.95

THE RESULTS

In conclusion we would have to say we were genuinely impressed with the capacity of all of these units, even the smallest. Only the Rescuemate, which we were told in advance would not start a diesel over 3.0 litres in capacity, failed with that vehicle. Even the smallest did the job of kicking over the diesel down to a level of just 40 percent state of charge on a cool mid-winter’s day, though it was sometimes an obvious struggle, requiring the glow plugs to be heated-up first, and then two or three attempts.

We highly recommend that you carry one.

Check out the full feature in issue #118 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.