If you’ve ever walked out to your car in the morning and found a dead battery, you know how important the best car battery charger is to have on hand. Nobody has time to wait around for a jump start, that’s why most people invest in one of the battery chargers for additional peace of mind.
Having a good battery charger is a wise decision for any household, but you need to make sure it’s a reliable product. Otherwise, you could end up in the same boat when your engine doesn’t start. There are lots of bad products on the market that won’t help you get to work on time. That’s why we’ve compiled a full list of things to look for as well as our top 10 car battery charger choices.
How to Use a Car Battery Charger
Car battery chargers contain some different features that make them easier or more difficult to operate. With that said, the basic operation for setting them up remains the same.
1 – Remove your negative battery cable from the terminal. Remove the positive cable from the terminal as well.
2 – Ensure that your battery charger isn’t plugged into any power source.
3 – Your battery charger must remain in the off position.
4 – Connect your positive cable from your charger to your positive terminal.
5 – Then, connect your negative charging cable to your negative terminal.
6 – Turn your charger on and adjust the settings (if you can).
7 – Monitor the charger in case there’s any trouble.
8 – Don’t move or touch your charger cables while the unit’s in operation.
9 – Make sure you turn off your charger and unplug it (if necessary) before you remove the charger cables off the battery. Always start with the negative cable first, then move to the positive cable.
10 – Reattach your battery cables with the positive one first.
Important Safety Tip: If you don’t follow the steps correctly, you could fry your electronics, cause a shock, or face an exploding battery. Your negative terminal always completes the battery’s circuit. This means that the electricity is flowing into your battery through the positive connection and comes out the negative.
That’s what makes the negative terminal “hot” even when your car’s not running. That’s why you don’t want to connect the negative terminal to your battery without a positive connection attached first. Remember, your negative terminal comes off first and attaches back on last.
The negative is typically marked with a minus sign. The positive terminal is colored red and features a plus sign.
Can You Charge a Dead Battery?
There’s no simple answer to this question because it all depends on the circumstances. Most of the time, the answer is related to the events which caused the battery to die.
For example, if the battery’s been sitting in your storage for a short time or if you left your headlights on, it’s possible to rejuvenate your car battery. On the other hand, if you’ve recharged your battery many times or had it stored for a long period, you probably won’t have luck. Instead, this battery probably reached the end of its life cycle.
Aside from that, if your battery exhibits any sign of physical damage, you won’t want to attempt recharging. This includes any leaking, bulging, or cracks. Instead, make sure you dispose of it properly.
Choosing the Best Car Battery Charger
When you select an auto battery charger, there are several factors you’ll need to consider. You want to have access to all the features you need to get your car running quickly, so here’s what we recommend keeping an eye on.
Many modern chargers come compatible with all car batteries, no matter what size they are. Top car battery chargers handle both 6V and 12V with ease.
An entry-level battery charger comes with either 10 or 20 amps. If you want something mid-range, you’ll opt for a 20-amp charger with a 55 – 100-amp boost mode. If you’re a professional that works on vehicles, it will make the most sense to invest in something up to 60 amps for the standard charge mode and 275-amps jump start mode.
You want to make sure that the battery charger has short circuit protection, overload protection, over-current protection, overcharge protection, and overvoltage protection so you remain safe at all times.
The maintenance mode exists to maintain a fully charged cell without using a lot of power. This is used when the car sits for long periods or goes into long-term storage.
Jumper Cable Length
You won’t really want anything less than 12-foot long which is a basic reach.
This is often referred to as the boost mode. It supplies between 20 and 250 amps to start your car when the battery is dead.
This is called a float mode. Some chargers start this at 85% of the full charge, while others wait until 95%. Whenever it kicks in, the trickle charge helps to maintain a 100% full charge with a small charge rate, while keeping the battery safe from overcharge.
Some of the best car battery charger maintainer can tell users when the battery isn’t connected correctly. There are also some models which feature internal testing mechanisms to detect sulfated, discharged, or bad cells.
Best Car Battery Charger Reviews – Our Top Picks
Here are the top ten car battery chargers we could find on the market. They make up a wide range of chargers from heavy-duty industrial models to units that just produce a trickle charge. Read through our buying guide carefully to determine which one is best for your needs.
If you need something to work on fleets and a wide range of cars, this might be your best option. It’s good for both 6V or 12V batteries and offers many features that the budget-friendly choices don’t have. It can analyze common electrical and starting issues.
There are also options for emergency starting or fast charging (which only takes one to three hours). If you prefer, set it up for trickle charging. At two amps, this rejuvenates a smaller 12V battery in about 12 hours.
The color-coded meters make it easy to use, plus there’s a built-in fan to offer better performance and longer life. At over 27 pounds though, this isn’t good for general home use, plus it’s slightly bulky. In addition, most average users won’t want to pay the higher price tag for this beast. Schumacher Electric is a brand name you can really depend on.
NOCO Genius G3500 3.5A UltraSafe Battery Charger
The G3500 charges both 6V and 12V batteries plus lead-acid batteries to 120Ah. It’s also ideal for lawn and garden batteries, marine use, automotive maintenance, plus deep cycle battery charging. With this charger, you can also repair damaged cells.
If you’re looking to use the advanced features, this works for micro hybrid start-stop vehicles as well as CANBUS electrical systems as well. The built-in microcomputer monitors all battery activity to provide safe charging.
The interworking of this charger allows it to consume less energy than many other systems. It’s also lightweight at just a pound and compact, making it ideal for portability.
It’s shockproof, dirt-proof, dustproof, and waterproof. On top of that, it comes with reverse polarity detection, overcharge protection, and other safety technology. With the feedback LED lights, you’ll always know what’s happening. We don’t recommend this for jump-starting a large battery, but it would be fantastic for maintaining a charge.
STANLEY J5C09 Jump Starter: 1000 Peak/500 Instant Amps, 120 PSI Air Compressor
This is often rated as one of the best portable battery chargers on the market and is useful in many applications. Not only can you jump your dead battery with it, but you could fill your flat tire as well. That dual-purpose gives you more peace of mind while traveling.
You can use it to light up space with the LED flashlight, or charge your phone battery. It takes up minimal space in the car trunk and is ideal for any roadside emergency. This particular model features a 1000-peak amp jump starters with compressor, plus the 500-amp instant jump starter.
The downside to this unit is that it doesn’t work correctly if you don’t keep it charged. Allowing it to sit for too long might cause damage. Plus, it does have shorter cables than some other options.
Sunway Solar Car Battery Charger 12V Battery Trickle Charger
If you want the best solar car battery charger, we’ve got you covered there as well. This top-of-the-line battery charger offers enough features at a reasonable price. Use it for your car, boat, trailer, tractor, snowmobile, or motorcycle.
You can install it directly to your windshield or dash and there’s also a long 16-foot quick connect extension cable. The unit is constructed of durable ABS plastic housing and a PV glass cover. Of course, having tinted windows might affect the performance of this charger, so that’s something to keep in mind.
This three-stage high-frequency unit offers a patented alternator check and engine start. Of course, it also starts and charges your battery. There’s even a 3-amperage trickle charger for maintenance.
The easy-to-see digital LCD shows your battery status. For safety purposes, there’s even reverse polarity protection which lets you know if the machine is hooked up improperly.
This system provides a storage spot for its power cord instead of wrapping it around the machine like some others. Overall, it comes with a 75-amp engine start, 25-amp rapid charge, and 3-amp battery maintainer.
Another thing about this system is that it’s rugged. The metal casing ensures that you’ll be able to drop it without instance. It’s also fairly small which makes it great for portability and it only weighs about 8.5 pounds.
Battery Tender Plus 021-0128
This doesn’t just come with amazing features but it also has a reputation for excellence. While we think most of the car chargers are easy to use, this one is probably the simplest of them all. While it’s not designed for jump-starts necessarily, it is ideal for hooking up to a battery that isn’t used often.
Because of the lower current, you have more protection than with many other models. The surprising aspect of this charger would have to be the ten-year warranty it comes with. This is far greater than most in the industry and not what one would expect considering the low price.
BLACK+DECKER BC15BD 15 Amp Bench Battery Charger
One wouldn’t expect this household tool giant to do well in the automotive field, but this battery charger is well-made and capable. The heavy-duty construction keeps it safe from wear and tear, which is inevitable when working on cars.
This machine doesn’t use different modes like some other models. Instead, it reads the battery and selects the best option between 0 and 15 amps to charge at. There are three stages included. The first is its high-amperage charge which works fast to get your battery to 80%. The next is the modulated charge to steadily increase the battery to 98%. Then, there’s the float charge which operates at low amperage to finish the charge and maintain it while preventing overcharging.
Some people might not be fond of the lack of user control, but it works great with no issues. It’s nice not to have to think about it, but just let the machine do its job. There’s even a repair mode on the BC15BD. This mode reduces the buildup of any solids found in the battery to increase capacity.
There are even some diagnostics on the unit which evaluate the alternator. If you are stuck with a dead battery, you’ll find the 40-amp jump-start feature gets you back and running in no time. If you don’t mind investing another $25, there’s also a 25-amp version of this car battery charger as well.
Don’t let the small size of this unit fool you; it works great. Many people won’t choose this over the well-known brands, but it’s worth a second look. The low price makes it appealing to anyone on a budget plus it’s simple to use.
All of its functions operate through the onboard microprocessor which communicates directly to your battery. It starts with high amperage to get the battery up fast, then slows down automatically to a lower amperage as it reaches capacity.
Considering it weighs just 12 ounces, this compact battery charger is great for portability. Plus, the easy to read LED display is helpful. Keep in mind that this smaller size means it isn’t great for quick jumping, but better for slow charges.
Schumacher Electric SC-1200A-CA
Here’s a smaller model from Schumacher Electric. This one comes complete with fully automatic battery charging, digital display, automatic voltage detection, plus a condition setting to run battery maintenance. This charger automatically detects if you need 6 or 12-volt charging.
It also makes it simple to see what stage of charging the battery is currently at. Because it only weighs a pound, this is more portable than the other Schumacher we reviewed earlier. Either one of their models could be considered a great option because they’re reliable.
The retractable handle on this machine also doubles as a power cord wrap. It also comes with a two-year warranty which isn’t shabby considering the low price.
KeyLine Chargers KC-75A-MP
This isn’t just good for bringing dead batteries back to life, but also maintaining a charge over time. It features five stages which fully charges, maintains, or conditions your lead/acid, gel cell, sealed, or AGM battery. It’s estimated that they’ll last four times longer with this charger.
There’s even a desulfation stage included with this 75-amp charger. This stage conditions your battery to prolong the battery life and allow fewer flats. They offer a full five-year warranty on this unit plus an additional 100% money-back guarantee which is mainly unheard of. Even though it’s not a top brand name, that guarantee alone makes it worth a look.
Owning a decent battery charger is something you want to do before you need it. You might not appreciate the benefit of having one of these at your house until your car battery is dead. Then, you’ll realize the worth and be glad you made the investment.