What Gauge Jumper Cables Do I Need? How to Pick the Right Size

Jumping a Car Without Jumper Cables

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Going to the auto parts store can be pretty overwhelming. If you're anything like me, it means standing there contemplating what gauge jumper cables you need for your vehicle instead of asking someone for help. But if you're going to choose jumper cables, you need to know what to look for.

What Gauge Jumper Cables Do You Need?

 Jumper Cable and Tools

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​Not all jumper cables are created equal. They come in different gauge sizes, which can make knowing which size to purchase difficult.

According to Popular Mechanics, you should look for a set of jumper cables that are between gauge sizes four and six. You also want to look for jumper cables that are about 20 feet long, just in case you can't park your car close enough to another vehicle.

By the way, when we talk about the gauge of a wire, we're talking about its thickness. The higher the number, the smaller the wire.

Jumper Cables 101

Jumber Cable

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​Now that you know a little bit about what gauge jumper cables you need for your vehicle, we need to talk about how they work and how to use them safely.

When it comes to what gauge jumper cables to purchase, you have some options. There are two main types of jumper cables:

The traditional ones you may already have in your garage or trunk and the newer portable battery packs. These battery packs allow you to jumpstart your car without another vehicle. But even the best car battery charger needs to stay charged to work.

Safety first

​One of the first things you should notice when you purchase your new set of jumper cables is that one clamp is red, and one clamp is black. These clamps must never touch each other.

If they happen to touch when one set of clamps is connected to a battery, they can spark and potentially short out your vehicle.

That's especially important when you connect the cables to a vehicle that is running.

How do they work?

​When it comes to using jumper cables, there are specific steps you will want to take.

If your car needs a jump, you want someone to pull up with the front of their vehicle facing the front of your car.

After that, it is time to pop your hood. With the hood open, you will need to locate your battery. You might need to remove a plastic cover. If you see one, go ahead and remove it.

Now it is time to find those handy jumper cables. You will need to identify the positive clamp from the negative one. Generally, the positive clamp is red, and the negative clamp is black.

Once you've identified the correct clamps, you need to determine which terminal is which on the actual battery. Most car batteries will have these marked with a "+" or a "-."

Connect each clamp to the correct terminal.

Now, it's time to turn on the car with the working battery. Next, you can go ahead and start the vehicle with the dead battery. Once you get your car running, keep the jumper cables connected for a few minutes before disconnecting the wires.

How to Choose the Right Ones for You

​Like previously mentioned, jumper cables come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to knowing what gauge jumper cables to purchase, you want to make sure you find not only the right gauge but also a high-quality set at a reasonable price.

What to look for when buying jumper cables

The first thing you want to look for when purchasing a new set of jumper cables is their length. You want to ensure they are long enough to reach between two vehicles without straining. The larger your car, the longer your jumper cables.

Next, you want to find what gauge jumper cables you need for your vehicle. The larger the vehicle, the lower the gauge number.

Jumper cables with a gauge of four to six work great for the average person's car. However, they may not work on large trucks. A large truck would have greater success getting jumped using a gauge of one or two.

Third, you want to look at the materials used to construct the cables themselves. Because they're going to be conducting electricity, you want to make sure they feature good quality materials.

Copper is the best, but these cables can be a bit more expensive than those made out of aluminum.

You also want to take a look at the clamps. The best kind of clamps will look like alligator teeth. You want this type of clamps because they cling to the battery terminal more securely.

Also, check to make sure they are appropriately insulated, such as with rubber or a similar material. After all, getting electrocuted probably isn't on your to-do list.

Lastly, the jumper cables you purchase should not tangle up easily. Nothing would be worse than a dead battery and trying to untangle jumper cables in the dark.

What You Need to Know About Your Dead Car Battery

Car Battery

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​If you aren't sure why your battery wound up dead or if you need to jump your car almost as often as you drive it, you may want to talk to your mechanic.

However, there are a few common reasons why you may have lost the charge in your battery:

Defective alternator

​The alternator is what keeps your car battery charged. If something goes wrong with this vital part of your car's engine, your battery does not charge properly.

If this problem goes on for too long without being fixed, you won't be able to start your engine.

Human error

​Have you ever accidentally left your car lights on? Or maybe you forgot to shut your driver's side door the whole way?

These events can quickly drain your battery, causing you to need a jump.

Extreme cold

​If you live in an area where the temperature plummets during the winter, battery issues are probably a frequent concern.

In freezing temperatures, lead sulfate crystals can build up in your battery. Over time, this can destroy your car battery.

Loose battery cables

​Have you ever been driving, and the lights on your dashboard start to flicker? This may mean that your battery cables are loose. The only thing you will need to fix this is a screwdriver.

Once you tighten these cables, your car should start right up. No jumper cables required.

Old battery

​Like everything in your vehicle, batteries will wear out over time. If you have an old battery, it won't hold a charge.

Don't worry, though. Most auto parts stores will replace your battery for you if you are uncomfortable with doing it yourself. They can also help you determine what gauge jumper cable you should buy.

Let's Start Your Engine

Car Engine

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​Make sure you don't get stranded on the side of the road by keeping a set of jumper cables in the trunk of your vehicle. Even if you don't need them personally, you could make someone's day by helping them out.

What gauge jumper cables you need will vary based on the type of vehicle you drive. Just remember to keep the gauge size low, and you should be good to go.

Do you have a favorite brand of jumper cables? Let us know in the comments below!

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