Batteries & Power

Your car may run on gasoline but it needs electricity to get started. That’s why the battery is such an important component of every vehicle, and not just automobiles. Jet skis and ATVs are just a few of the other engine-powered “toys” you may own that depend on a battery. Car batteries have a limited lifespan. That’s because temperature extremes play havoc with the internal chemistry, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. A powerful stereo will tax it further, especially if you listen with the engine off. A dead battery can leave you stranded somewhere. At best it’s a nuisance. At worst, it could be a safety issue. That’s why we put together our guides to the best car batteries, battery chargers and portable jump starters. Our guides cover the important points you need to know before buying any of these. They address points like voltage, amperage, cold cranking amps and reverse polarity detection, explaining each term for people without a technical background. Cars all use 12V batteries, but many smaller pieces of machinery have 6V systems. It’s essential to buy the right one, so our guide to the best car batteries makes this very clear. We also highlight the issue of deep-cycling, which is when a battery isn’t recharged straight after use. (It often happens with equipment that gets stored for a season.) Some batteries handle deep-cycling, others don’t. Check our guide before buying! A charger is the device you use at home. It plugs into an outlet and delivers power to replenish the battery. Good chargers have voltage and amperage auto-detect, so you don’t damage the battery by overcharging. They also come with reverse polarity detection to stop you hooking cable up the wrong way round! Check our best battery chargers guide to learn more. A portable jump starter is the charged-up power pack you take with you. Many are surprisingly small and light yet store enough power to crank a big V8 engine. Reverse polarity detection, USB charging and an LED flashlamp are useful features that many include. Read our guide to the best portable jump starters to learn more.