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Nowadays the powerbank has become almost as common as the handphone. Wait. No, no, I am not going to start talking about accessories for handphones! Rather, recently some models of powerbanks comes with very high storage capacity; 1.5 Ah or even 1.8 Ah, and is claimed to be powerful enough to jump-start a car with a weak battery ! Being the hardcore enthusiast, naturally when I saw one on sale at a local banking fair earlier this year, I immediately bought one. The one I bought is branded "JumperStarter", a not so imaginative name, made in Taiwan and costed just RM250 or around USD76. It comes in a nice vinyl carry-case, like those used for diaries and organizers and is equipped with a complete set of connectors to cater for all brands of handphones, smartphones, even video cameras. There is also a pair of battery clips of course, for use when jump-starting a car.

So, does it really deliver its claim of being able to jump-start a car ?

The batteries on both my cars are in pretty good condition so eventhough my DA6 Integra is only used on weekends, the battery charge has always been enough so I have never actually tested it after buying. But recently, circumstances left my DA6 Integra undriven for almost 3 weeks and as a result, the battery charge had weakened enough that I could not crank the engine. This piece of set-back then provided me with the opportunity to put to test, the claim of my new power-bank - to be able to jump-start a car - my car.

The video below shows the state of the battery when I first tested it yesterday. I think the feeble cranking of the starter motor shows the battery charge to have fallen to below the minimum level. It wasn't drained or flat, as the power windows and the dashboard lights were all still working. But there wasn't enough charge to power the starter enough to start the engine.

When I checked the powerbank, it too was almost discharged as I have not used or charged it since I bought it ! That was real forgetful of me ! Luckily I was at home so I plugged in the charger to first charge up the powerbank. This oversight on my part also reminds me to always check that the powerbank has a good level of charge (there is a series of 5 LED lights to show the level of charge left in the powerbank) as if I had needed to use it but was out of the house, obviously it wouldn't be of any use to me then. When I plug in the charger to charge it, only the first LED on the power charge display started blinking which shows an almost empty charge in the powerbank. I left it charging for almost 2 hours while I tended to some other matters. By the time I checked on it, the fourth LED was blinking, showing charge level of over 60%. I wonder, is it charged enough now for it to jump-start my car with only 60% charge level ?

I hooked the power-bank as per normal jump-start connections, the red/positive clip to the positive terminal of the car battery, and the black/negative clip to the negative terminal. Note also that this is the connection method if we only want to just charge the battery with the powerbank and not jump-start it. It is actually recommended for many modern cars by their manufacturers, i.e. hook up the charger battery, or the power-bank in this case, and let it charge up the weak battery. Then try to start the engine using the car battery only.

I left power-bank hooked up to the battery like this for a couple of minutes and then inserted the ignition key for the first attempt to start the car. This first attempt was still unsuccessful, there was only a single 'click' and the starter refusing to crank. Subsequently, I left it for another minute or so and tried again. This time, the starter cranked strongly and easily started the engine. I think the powerbank must have charged the car battery enough that it was above the minimum charge level and able to power the starter properly.

So this little test confirms the claim of the latest generations of power-banks that can jump-start a car with a weak battery. Note that a weak battery is not yet totally flat, so this test still doesn't proves it can totally replace the function of the car battery or to jump-start a car with a totally flat battery. But the more important thing is that it works well when the battery is too weak to power the starter. This new type of powerbank is an accessory that I would recommend any car enthusiast to buy. To 'borrow' the famous phrase from a charge-card, "Don't leave home without it".

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Wong KN
November 2014
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