Give Your Car A Boost With Portable Charger

A dead battery once meant waiting for the tow truck or asking random strangers for a jumpstart.

Scores of portable charging devices give consumers plenty of options. However, experts urge consumers to do their homework and select a product that’s durable, functional and, above all, safe.

“Jumping a battery is dangerous, so always look for a product that values safety,” said Mark Elkins, vice president of Gryphon Mobile, which makes the PowerAll line of pocket-size battery chargers.

Portable jump packs, lead-acid units once only found in repair shops, tow trucks and auto repair stores, have exploded in popularity in recent years. They share the marketplace with pocket-sized lithium-ion batteries that sometimes include a USB port to power additional devices.

Consumers should consider functionality, portability, ease of use, durability and safety when deciding which device to trust, Elkins said. He stressed searching for a product that values safety, since jumping a battery can be dangerous.

A charger that emits warning lights or tones when an error occurs or when it is connected improperly is especially helpful, Elkins said.

“Built-in circuit breakers prevent a person from frying the unit, while a warning chime forces them to disconnect the cables to make the sound stop,” he said.

Elkin offered the following insight about portable chargers:

  • Pocket-sized devices can plug into your car’s adapter to recharge, eliminating the need to ever remove it from the vehicle.
  • Choose a device that provides error messages. A device that guides you through the process and won’t work when improperly installed is especially helpful to novice users.
  • Portable battery chargers are either powered by lead-acid batteries (same as what’s under your hood) or lithium-ion batteries (the ones that are in your mobile devices).
  • Models built on lead-acid batteries are bulky and often unwieldy, but typically last longer between charges than their lithium-ion counterparts. The lead-acid versions sometimes include a 120-volt electrical outlet, which increases the device’s versatility.
  • Lithium-ion-powered models are the size of a smartphone. They can be stored in the glove box or sit in the center console, charging your mobile devices from a USB port (if it has one).
  • Portable devices are batteries themselves, so even they need charging every so often. The amount of time a device holds its charge varies from product to product, so shoppers should inform themselves before making a purchase. The longer a device lasts between charges, the better.