Do jumper cables go bad?

Finishing Up

Once you find dead battery running, you should remove jumper cables safely. You should follow the reverse procedure to remove it. You should remove black clamps first from a battery of dead car and then another boost car.

The second step, you can follow by removing red clamps from a battery of dead car and then remove from boost car. You can store or pack your jumper cables.

Final Thoughts

Whereas good quality jumper cables can last a long time, poor quality or undersized jumper cables can go bad, failing to work or smoking and possibly causing a fire.

Always buy good quality, well-regarded set of jumper cables. Best to use 4-gauge or lower to cater for jumping small cars, pickup trucks, vans, and small trucks without getting hot.

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Problem 2: Wrong Size Jumper Cable

A jumper cable has to transfer electricity from th

A jumper cable has to transfer electricity from the charging system of a donor vehicle to the weak battery on the stalled vehicle. The electricity is produced by the charging system, which is why you need the donor car to idle while you charge the weak battery.

If the jumper cable is a cheap version, it could overheat quickly and melt the plastic and rubber insulators that keep the wires dry and stop you from getting an electrical shock. Jumper cables are rated based on the amount of electricity that they can handle.

Most repair shops use jumper cables rated a 0 gauge, which is the strongest and handles the most power. They also are very expensive and more than you would need to safely jump-start a vehicle.

Jumper cables with about a 4-gauge rating will do the job fine without overheating or cooking the plastic and rubber insulation surrounding the wires. The gauge of jumper cables can go as high as a 15, which is the weakest of the bunch.

Anything less than a 6 gauge generally is too weak to properly jump-start a battery. You should look for jumper cables with between a 4 or 6 rating of the wire gauge.

The cables will look fine in the package but work poorly if you try to jump-start a vehicle. It always helps to pay a little extra to ensure you are buying a quality pair of jumper cables. When you are dealing with a dead battery, you do not need the additional headache of fried jumper cables that do not work.

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1. What Causes Jumper Cables to get Hot?

A combination of the high starting currents drawn by the car at startup combined with cables that have a low current rating causes heat buildup in the cabling and melting of the insulation.

In severe cases, you may experience smoke and fire that can burn through the body of the car.

You can void the risk of smoke and fire when you use appropriately sized jumper cables.

6-gauge jumper cables can be a fire risk with larger cars.

If not sure, use the heavy-duty jumper cables with 4, 0, or 1 gauge especially when jumping the larger vehicles that have a significantly higher current draw.

Never Boost a Frozen Battery

Lead acid batteries work even in the far north. A fully charged lead acid battery freezes at -69°C, but a battery at 11.6 V freezes at just 0°C, because most of the acid is locked up in the lead plates. Attempting to jump-start a frozen battery could cause an explosion. A frozen battery needs to be thawed out and checked for damage. If the battery isn’t cracked, recharging may be possible.

Do You Hook Up Red or Black Jumper Cables First?

Once the two vehicles are in place, turn off both and open the hoods. Attach the red jumper cables first. Start by clamping one red cable to the positive side of the battery that won’t start. Then attach the other red clamp to the positive side of the working battery.

Next, clamp one black cable to the negative side of the working battery. When you’re ready to attach the other black clamp, don’t connect it to the dead battery. Instead, find a metal component in your vehicle’s engine block where you can attach it safely.

How Do You Know If Jumper Cables Are Bad?

Several signs, such as wearing and tearing jumper cables, can tell if they are bad.

So here are some signs which you can look for to know if it’s time to change your jumper cable.

  • The cables feel hot to the touch.
  • One of the metal clamps on the cable has melted and is stuck to itself.
  • The cable smells like burning and a chemical smell typical of some types of plastic materials.
  • A wire has been exposed or broken inside, and you can see the copper wire coming through.
  • Fraying of the cladding on the cable
  • Rubbing the cable against a rough surface causes sparks.

So if you have noticed any of these signs, take your jumper cables to your local auto parts store and ask them to test them out to make sure it’s not bad. If it is bad, get yourself a new set of jumper cables. 

Why do Jumper Cables Fail?

There is not a lot mechanically that can go wrong with jumper cables…unless they have surge protection or some other electronics attached to them. There is always the possibility that something like that will wear down with time.

Not a Good Sign
Not a Good Sign

Physical degradation is the prime reason that jumper cables will fail. It really depends on the quality of the materials that are used in the jumper cables.

One of the worst things that can happen is if one wire separates from the clamps. If this happens, it will be very difficult for you to continue to have a connection with your car’s battery terminals.

There is the possibility of sparks if the wires become separated. And when you have sparks you have the potential for fire or explosion. So if you see exposed or loose wire, think twice before using that set of jumper cables.

Jumper cables can last a very long time however when they are taken care of. I have had my set of jumper cables for about 10 years now. This leads to the question, how do I maintain my jumper cables?

How Long Does Jumper Cable Last?

It may seem that jumper cables last forever; they wear out over time and need to be replaced before they become dangerous. But many factors tell how long you can use your jumper cable.

Overall, if you have cheap-quality jumper cable and do not take care of it properly, it will not last more than two to three years. 

Thus, one of the factors in lasting out of jumper cable is care and maintenance. 

Another important factor is how you use them to jumpstart the car. But the good news is that with a little attention to the below-given tips, jumper cables will last a long time. 

Stop-Start Not Ready Battery Charging; Must Readenginediary.com

How Do You Jump a Car Battery Without a Second Car?

If another vehicle isn’t available to start the dead battery, you may be able to use a jump box if you have one on hand. Also known as a battery pack, this handy piece of equipment can easily replace the second vehicle. Just hook up the jumper cables to the dead battery and the jump box, and try starting the vehicle. When it starts, remove the cables and allow the vehicle to idle.

I got sloppy and did not pay attention while applying cables to the battery

All my experience helping to jump other people’s batteries fed me the lie that this was not a big deal. I say that because I got sloppy and did not pay attention. I hooked up one side of cables to my wife’s car and turned around. Apparently, this was the critical moment. I must not have been paying attention, and swapped the cables ends when I turned around. Then, I connected the leads to the battery on my Tucson in the wrong positions.

I turned on the minivan. The van started fine. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. So, I had no clue I had done anything wrong. That is because the battery on the Tucson was, as they say on the Princess Bride, only mostly dead. I remember thinking, I’ll go inside for two or three minutes, grab something, and then come out to start the Tucson. So, I turned and walked away.

A headlight shows damage where a jumper cable that
A headlight shows damage where a jumper cable that was incorrectly attached, melted and burned a whole through the lens | HJ Pizarro

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Don’t Lean Over a Charging Battery

Even if you avoid the first four mistakes, boosting a dead battery is still dangerous. Heat, pressure, internal arcing, and acid spills can occur without warning, and you don’t want to be leaning over a battery if they do. Jump-starting a car battery is relatively simple, but it isn’t without its dangers. Now that you know what jumper cable mistakes to avoid, you’re ready to help a neighbour or get yourself out of a jam without getting hurt. Of course, if you don’t have a donor vehicle, then all of this is moot. What about portable jump boxes? Check out the next article in this series for more information on portable jump boxes. By Benjamin Jerew

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