The Best Car Battery Chargers of 2022

Sure, you could grab your cell phone and call a mechanic at the first sign of car trouble, or you could become self-reliant by buying a couple of things that can get you up and running almost as quickly as you were stopped. Life can be unpredictable, and you never know when you’ll need to jump-start your battery. That’s why we’ve compiled a handful of picks for the best car battery chargers to get you back on the road.

A portable battery charger can help you avoid the hassles that come with a dead battery, like trying to flag down a helpful stranger or waiting for someone to show up with jumper cables. A portable charger is also much easier than jump-starting since you don’t have to string bulky cables from one vehicle to another. And it’s much more compact than you might think. But that’s not all.

“A jump-starter provides a lot of amperage [to start the car] and thus they are rather rough on batteries,” says Mike Arman, an electronics expert, vocational school teacher, and author of Motorcycle Electrics Without Pain. Arman has built fuel injection systems and wired countless cars, motorcycles, and airplanes.

“There are several kinds of portable car battery chargers, including a solar battery charger. That said, if you’re going to pick up a portable charger, you want to make sure it’s the right one. Here’s a list of some of the best car battery chargers, depending on your specific car battery and charging mode needs, and based on user reviews and expert opinions. And make sure to keep reading for a deeper dive into the different car charger types.”

Comparison of the best battery chargers for 2022

best auto battery charger
The Battery Tender Plus is our pick for the best overall battery charger.

What types of car battery chargers are there?

There’s no question that there are a lot of different car battery chargers out there, and the one that’s right for you depends on your vehicle, your usage of it, and the price you want to spend. However, no matter what you choose, it will fall into one of the two major categories of battery chargers – automatic and manual.

Automatic (or “smart”) chargers can gauge the level of the charge in your car’s battery as a float charger and act appropriately, keeping it from draining entirely or overcharging. Either of these can be harmful to your battery, depending on the type you have, so having a smart charger that eliminates those risks can be better for your battery in the long run.

Manual chargers, on the other hand, simply transfer their power to a battery until they’re disconnected or depleted. While this can potentially be detrimental to a battery in the case of overcharging, it also provides an advantage: some smart chargers will have trouble locating (and subsequently charging) batteries that are completely dead, but this isn’t a concern for manual chargers.

READ  Audi A4 Dimensions: Perfectly Balanced Luxury Sedan

As a rule, it’s better for a vehicle’s battery to be charged slowly than quickly, if you can spare the time. “A jump-start or using a fast charger on modern cars can fry all kinds of delicate electronics, and then you may be looking at some real money,” says Arman. “Modern cars are actually computers which just happen to have some wheels attached. You can do thousands of dollars of damage to the electronics if you are careless or sloppy with jump-starts or quick chargers.”

A slow charge can be accomplished with a trickle charger. Trickle chargers come in both automatic and manual varieties and are designed to recharge batteries slowly over longer periods of time.

Automatic trickle chargers are effective for vehicles that will go unused for several months at a time, as they can offset the natural rate of self-discharge that the batteries experience. The self-discharge adds up and can potentially drain your battery entirely by the time you try to use your vehicle again. Since these chargers are automatic, they’ll only fill up enough to compensate for the small amount of battery life that’s discharged before turning off again.

You can leave automatic trickle chargers plugged in, due to their safety features. “If the battery charger is plugged into a grounded wall outlet and attached properly, you can leave the charger attached until the battery is fully charged,” says Lauren Fix, creator of Car Coach Reports. Fix is a television and radio host and auto columnist who has been featured on Forbes, Inside Edition, and ABC.com. “A top-quality charger will have a shut off when it reaches a fully charged status.”

How to charge a battery

It’s okay to charge a battery that’s still attached to a vehicle, but make sure the vehicle is off. If you’re worried about the cold of a garage affecting the battery’s health (if you’re storing a vehicle, such as an RV, for the winter), you can also detach the battery and leave it charging indoors – but this presents risks of its own.

“On newer cars, disconnecting the battery to charge it will lose all the memories in all the electronic doo-dads in the car,” says Arman. “If you are lucky, all you will have to do is reset the radio stations. If you are not lucky, you’ll get a bazillion error messages and you might be looking at a tow to the dealership to have all kinds of things redone before you can drive the car again.”

Charging the battery itself is a fairly simple job but can also be potentially dangerous, so you’ll need to make sure you’re careful. Any task that involves working with electrical current poses a shock risk, and spilled battery acid is harmful to the skin.

Your charger will come with detailed instructions that should be followed, but there are a few rules that are more or less universal (again, though, included instructions should supersede everything else). To start, you’ll always want to make sure that your charger is off – otherwise, you’ll risk subjecting yourself to an electric shock. Then, you’ll connect the charger’s positive clamp to the battery’s positive terminal and the charger’s negative clamp to the battery’s negative terminal. Usually, the charger’s positive clamp will be red and the negative clamp will be black.

READ  The Future of Muscle Cars: Introducing the 2024 Dodge Charger EV

After the charger is connected to the battery, individual instructions may vary. Some chargers may have settings to adjust that will determine the rate at which the battery is refilled, while others can just be turned on. Either way, at this point, you’ll be ready to start charging.

The amount of time you’ll need to take to fully charge your battery depends on the existing charge level and the rate of your charger. Let’s say you have a 12-volt battery that holds about 48 amps of power. If your battery is completely drained and your charger can replenish 4 amps per hour, a full charge will take 12 hours. If your charger has an adjustable amperage rate, you can determine how long it will take to fully charge. Again, it’s better to charge your battery slowly, but in the event that you need a quick charge, you can set your device to a high rate. Just make sure that you keep an eye on it if it’s a manual charger to prevent overcharging.

Car batteries won’t need to be charged very often if your car is used regularly – typically, you’ll just need to use the charger if the car won’t start, which shouldn’t happen until after years of use. Some telltale signs that your battery is running low include a slowing of your engine cranking speed and a dimming of your headlights. You can also purchase a battery tester if you’re concerned about getting stranded.

When it comes to motorcycles, RVs, boats, or any other vehicles that are likely to go long periods without use, though, drainage is a major concern. Like cars, these vehicles typically use lead-acid batteries, which experience self-discharge when not in use. It’s recommended that you charge these batteries every 30 days to prevent battery death and preserve overall battery health. Like with stored cars, you can also leave these vehicles’ batteries hooked up to automatic chargers or a car battery maintainer.

5 things you need to know before you buy a car battery charger

  • What kind of battery type does your vehicle use? Most likely, the answer is a regular lead-acid battery, but if you drive an RV, it probably has a deep-cycle battery. In any event, you’ll have to make sure any charger you consider is compatible with your battery.
  • Do you want a manual or automatic smart battery charger? Automatic chargers are typically easier to use, as they regulate their charge to prevent battery-damaging overcharging, but manual chargers are better for reviving dead batteries.
  • How much power do you need in a charger? Do you want one that charges a battery slowly and keeps it maintained while it’s not in use? Or do you want a charger that can power up a battery quickly and possibly provide a jump-start as well?
  • What size battery charger do you prefer? Though all of the models on the list are technically portable chargers, some are much larger than others and might be more difficult to use. More powerful chargers are generally larger.
  • What do you want to spend on a battery charger? Again, there’s typically a direct relationship between the power provided and the cost of the unit, so if you want to charge more quickly, you’ll need to spend a bit more.
READ  Autopolis: The Forgotten Gem of the Diamond Star Coupes

FAQs

Q: Can I charge a battery that’s still attached to a vehicle?
A: Yes, but make sure the vehicle is off to prevent any mishaps.

Q: How often should I charge my car battery?
A: If your car is used regularly, you’ll only need to charge the battery if the car won’t start, which shouldn’t happen until after years of use. For vehicles that go long periods without use, it’s recommended to charge the battery every 30 days to prevent battery death.

Q: What are the telltale signs that my car battery is running low?
A: Some signs include a slowing of the engine cranking speed and a dimming of the headlights.

Q: Can I leave the charger attached until the battery is fully charged?
A: For automatic trickle chargers, as long as they are properly attached, you can leave them plugged in until the battery is fully charged.

Q: How long does it take to fully charge a battery?
A: The time it takes depends on the existing charge level and the rate of your charger. It’s better to charge the battery slowly, but if you’re in a hurry, you can set the charger to a high rate. Just remember to keep an eye on it to prevent overcharging.

Conclusion

Having a reliable car battery charger is essential for every car owner. It provides peace of mind knowing that you can quickly get back on the road in case of a dead battery. Whether you choose an automatic or manual charger, make sure it is compatible with your battery type and meets your power and size preferences.

Investing in a high-quality car battery charger is a wise decision that will extend the life of your battery and keep you prepared for any unexpected battery issues. So, don’t wait until you’re stranded on the side of the road. Get yourself a reliable car battery charger today and keep your car running smoothly!

Car news