When Mercedes, BMW, and Audi launched here in the US, their offerings were quite iconic and promised two things (which they delivered, spectacularly).
First, luxury and closely related, prestige.
Distinguished from the local offerings (the GMs and Fords) and other more ‘conservative’ imports from Asia basically, these German offerings were the defacto marques to turn to, if one was affluent and wanted it to show.
However, not only were these marques a status symbol and ultimate social status indicator, but they also were the very definition of luxury itself.
Comparing them to ‘plebian’ options was a clear comparison between night and day.
There was a little problem, however: these fancy luxuriously appointed pieces of moving technology could break down, often in the middle of nowhere and without any provocation.
These breakdowns, caused by a myriad of factors saw to it that they did not last (at least not anywhere near the imports from Asia, like the Toyotas or Hondas).
This ugly reality meant one thing, over the years: these vehicles were the exclusive toys of the rich (who could afford their frequent breakdowns) without much fuss. Things remained this way until 1989 when Lexus showed up, offering a better price, better luxury, and importantly, bulletproof reliability.
Now, for the first time in the history of automobiles, a luxury vehicle was all three things in one, things it was strictly forbidden to combine in the past: affordable, luxurious, and reliable.
For the first time in the history of motoring too, the ‘not so rich’ could also afford ‘luxury on wheels’ accompanied with peace of mind.
The Lexus LS 400 that made this happen was an instant hit and to this day, the Lexus marque has consistently topped the charts in fair pricing, luxury, and reliability.
It is also the only luxury marque Americans are comfortable buying used.
The story of the luxury marques above proves one important point…no one loves buying unreliable things…unless such a person is super wealthy and does not know what to do with money.
Unfortunately, such persons are in the minority in any given population (or society), leaving the rest of us in a position where we must actively seek out the very best of things and figure out how long they’ll last before commitment.
It is from this standpoint that the question, ‘how long do portable jump starters last’ is asked. And, within that context, the question makes a ton of sense.
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How Long Do Portable Jump Starters Last?
Generally, portable jumpers should last (or rather, can last) anywhere between three (3) to twenty (20) years when used normally with a private vehicle.
However, as you can clearly see above, these years are speculative and the margin between them is quite large.
This is because portable jump starters as a whole are a new concept that has not been with us for any appreciable amount of time. Statistics, borne from actual experience with them as regards longevity is thus an ongoing affair.
The estimates are drawn from the fact that most of the companies making portable jumpers today have been making similar battery-powered units for years now and such products are generally reliable and long-lasting.
Besides the reliability of the companies behind most of the products, a second bit is the fact of the battery type powering most of the jumpers, the lithium type, has been around for some time now and has proved its reliability in a plethora of applications. Inference is thus drawn from the known to the new ‘unknown’ (portable jumpers powered by lithium-ion).
Be that as it may, there are a few factors that will determine how long an average portable jumper will last, all other things being equal.
Factors That Contribute To The Life Span Of A Portable Jumper
The above being said and carefully considered, here are the factors that will directly influence the lifespan of your portable jumper, or any portable jumper at all for that matter.
1. Frequency Of Use
When Lamarck proposed his use and disuse theory, his mind wasn’t thinking about portable jumpers that would come into existence hundreds of years after.
Lamarck’s arguments were simple and to the point: bodily functions/parts that were used developed to serve the species concerned better while those not used simply withered away and with time, lost either presence of functionality.
This is classic evolution, at its finest.
However, with portable jumpers, the converse is the case: powered mostly with lithium-ion batteries (or their lead acid cousins), these batteries have a finite number of cycles that once reached, are as good as dead.
For some batteries or models, this cycle is 400. For others, more or less.
For a battery with a cycle count of 400 in a portable jumper, discharging it that number of times and recharging it back means that the unit will have battery-related performance that would ultimately, translate to a replacement, sooner than later.
Unfortunately, the more you use your portable jumper, the more frequently it will need to be recharged. Now, the more frequently it is recharged, the closer to its ‘grave’ it goes.
It is as simple as that.
Growing up, we were all taught that caring for things will make them last, almost indefinitely. We were also taught to wash our clothes (manual style, pre the proliferation of washers), iron them, and store them well.
We were also taught to water the flowers and lawn. We were also asked to do the dishes immediately after meals and not pile up plates in the kitchen. The list is truly endless.
All of the above had one solid object in mind: to help us all grow into responsible adults who care about and value things.
With portable jumpers, the care expected is a little different though; there’s hardly anything to wash, clean, or store away in a neat fashion.
Instead, there’s ideal/frequent charging, responsible use, and importantly, smart storage (free of either a bumpy or extreme temperature reality).
i. Ideal/Frequent Charging
The batteries that power a portable battery jumper are largely either lithium-ion or lead-acid – and each of these battery types has its distinct nuances.
For instance, the lithium-ion battery powering the Noco GB50, for instance, is recommended to take a maintenance charge at least once every six (6) months – though the unit can hold a charge and actually has a shelf life of a whole year.
The DeWalt DXAEJ14 on the other hand is powered by a lead acid battery and overall, is cheap for what is got and the functions it delivers. For best results, the manufacturers of this battery type recommend that it should be charged at least once every three (3) months – even when not actively used.
The thrust of the matter? Carefully follow what your manufacturer recommends: that is your best chance of maximizing the life out of your jumper’s battery.
ii. Storage Style
The second bit of the care reality is how you store your jumper or the particular style that you adopt while doing so.
Generally, the better you store your jumpers, the more likely you are to extract maximum life from them. This reality isn’t rocket science.
Usually, the mark to aim for is to strive to store your jumpers at room temperature as possible. The generally suggested temperature is 59 °F (15 °C). Higher or lower often means accelerated degradation but for purposes of storage, lower is often better, provided you ensure a booster charge once in a while.
However, kindly keep in mind that the above is only a recommendation and if you happen to live in the tropics, this may not be feasible. In this case, your ‘ideal room temperature’ will certainly be a tad higher than what is obtainable here.
Again, when in doubt, always take a look at your owner’s manual, the body of the unit itself or call customer support for the jumper. This way, you get the best advice possible on how best to store your jumper to ensure maximum longevity.
3. Quality Of The Initial Product
There are a variety of products on the market today all bearing the name, ‘portable battery jumper’. These ‘jumpers’ essentially all do the same thing: they help your vehicle start when you have a weak or even outrightly dead battery.
The issue however, goes beyond just helping your vehicle start: while some are made by reputable companies here in the US (like Noco – which has been in business since 1914), others are foreign knockoffs, fashioned abroad at some ‘factory’ run by three (3) persons without even the faintest idea what durability, quality control or safety (for that matter) is.
If you’re like me and you opt to buy something from a trusted and old American company like Noco, founded since 1914, then, you’re sure that the durability, quality control, and safety parts are already sorted. My Noco GB 50, for instance, has been serving me year in, year out without as much as coughing.
But then, this is no surprise. I did not expect any less from it.
If you’re like me and are thinking about the next five (5) to twenty (20) years, then, you’re better off buying from a brand that has already made its name and has something to lose by shipping you a defective or substandard product.
What does an unknown, foreign brand have to lose?
4. Protections Available
There are many motorists that would rather never bother with the starter battery of a vehicle for any reason. At face value, this may seem extreme and one may wonder why it is so.
However, on closer look, the answers are always present: waiting to be taken in. The fear of an accident that may mean bodily harm to the motorist (at worst) or at best, an accident that may mean the battery is damaged or the jumper would need a replacement.
These are not things anyone enjoys: they are also part of an inalienable bit that actively sees to it that a portable jumper’s life is cut short if not handled properly.
A portable jumper (for instance) that short circuits due to wrong terminal connection will certainly reach its end that very day. It may do the same damage to the electricals of the vehicle in question too – if not handled properly. If it is not properly insulated, it will also come to an early death if it as much as meets raindrops or water splashes.
It is as easy and as simple as that.
To mitigate this reality and curtail the pending doom, manufacturers today have started the culture of adding up these protections to modern units that now ship to the market. This makes it easy for buyers to rest easy, knowing that their jumpers will run the natural course of their lives and won’t be cut short because of some mistake.
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are doing this. While the major ones don’t take this for granted, there are still very many examples available on Amazon, Ebay, Target, Walmart, and a plethora of other online (and offline) retail chains that still do not sport this very important and necessary protection.
If you’re unlucky to buy any of such units, it is only a disaster waiting to happen: one mistake, and the life of the unit comes to an unfortunate end.
The lifespan of the portable jumper you buy will largely be determined by whether or not it has these important safety measures in place. If it does not, your device is as good as just sitting on a keg of dynamite, patiently waiting for a catalyst to blow the whole place off!
5. Options Available On The Unit
Options on anything are good – that is the reason why German vehicles are loved in the first place (and in this fashion, the more, the merrier).
Take the S Klasse for instance: the vehicle is one of the most loved models – provided it is new and under warranty.
Six (6) months down the line, buttons begin to fail and functions start acting in an unintended fashion. If you are not leasing and desire to own the same for at least five (5) years (or more), the true ‘color’ of the vehicle begins to show after the warranty period or a set mileage (that varies between 50,000 and 100,000 miles).
Why is it so? And, if you’re particularly curious, you may as well add why Japanese luxury is comparable (and in some instances, even beat the Germans) but is way more reliable….
The answer is simple and as straightforward as can be: more options!
Options are a good thing (even a great, when looked at closely).
However, with more options comes the sad reality that there are also more things that are liable to break down! Reliability and more options thus never go hand-in-hand!
As is it with vehicles, so is it with portable jumpers that are meant to serve the vehicles: a jumper that has flashlights, a power bank function, an air compressor, a voltmeter, and maybe, an ambient thermometer function will likely break down sooner than a dedicated unit like the Noco GB 50 that is stripped down and focused on only what matters: jumping a weak or dead battery.
If longevity is important for you in the long run, this should serve as a guide.
Portable jumpers were before now looked upon as toys that were not reliable and would, generally, need to be replaced every now and then when they made their debut initially.
That narrative has changed: today, portable jumpers that are well manufactured and maintained can and will last as long as they need to – which in most cases, is more than two (2) vehicles, bought and used for an average of five (5) years.
For those who are especially passionate about maintenance, it is easy to keep a portable jumper in the garage, trunk, or glove box almost indefinitely and still get it to serve you a decade after, provided you know what you’re doing.
The keywords remain buying right and while at it, making sure that you religiously maintain same.