Am I right to avoid battery chargers & jumpers that plug in to my car's cigarette lighter?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I continue to see ads for battery chargers and battery jumpers that operate through cars' cigarette lighters instead of the battery terminals. I have never tried one because I'm concerned that too many amps would be flowing through the lighter, which would be a hazard. Am I right to avoid these things? -- Ann

RAY: Yes, but for the opposite reason. Not enough electricity passes through them.

TOM: If too many amps passed through the lighter, it would blow a fuse. So these things have to trickle electricity from car to car so slowly that you could build your own replacement battery out of potatoes and twigs by the time your battery is charged back up.

RAY: So stick with traditional jumper cables, or, if that makes you uncomfortable, there are two other good options. One is a new kind of safer jumper-cable system that is supposedly idiot-proof (although, to be honest, I have yet to test it on my brother).

TOM: It's called Jump Star. The cables run through a computerized box that won't let any electricity flow until you have each of the connections hooked up correctly. They're quite pricey (about $100) and are made by Storm Enterprises. Contact your local auto supplier for more information.

RAY: Of course, the other safe option is a good, old-fashioned emergency-roadside-service membership, Ann. Good luck.

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