It’s the dead of winter and someone in the parking lot can’t get their car started. They turn the key and nothing happens. Being the Good Samaritan you are, you decide to help. You pull out the trusty jumper cables that your dad gave you. They’re worn, but they still do the job well; or do they?
Old jumper cables can actually damage your vehicle’s electrical system. When your dad was driving, cars didn’t have the fancy onboard computers that they do now. When jumping, old cables allow a brief yet massive power surge to rock your vehicle’s electrical system, doing irrevocable damage to the computers’ wiring. Do yourself and those you’re helping a favor: get smart jumper cables.
How Smart Jumper Cables Protect Your Vehicle
Imagine the conventional hook-up between two cars when jumping a battery. You have two gator clips on the positive and negative electrodes on the live battery, and one of the dead one. The second negative clamp is hanging out as a ground on the engine block.
When the batteries are connected, they have a voltage reference and are at equilibrium. The alternators on both vehicles are working to replenish the juice in the dead battery, and refill the draw from the good one. Once you remove one of the clamps, though, you lose that reference. The alternators then produce high voltage currents that rush through the systems of both vehicles. When this hits the computers, it weakens them permanently.
You probably won’t notice this damage right away. Over time, it will eventually become apparent and your systems will give out. Affected systems can include your engine control computer, the audio system, the alternator and others.
In essence, smart jumper cables function in much the same way as conventional ones. There is one key difference, though. These cables have built in surge protectors that help to absorb those voltage increases. They’re also easier to use. Whereas on conventional cables you need to respect polarity, smart jumper cables have an automatic polarity adjustment.
You can pick up smart jumpers for relatively cheap at most automotive parts stores.
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November 9, 2012 by Jamie Rettig