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Jumper cables vs. "cigarette lighter cables"

Like every good Northerner, I’ve had jumper cables in my car trunk for decades. I’ve seen ads for cables that you plug into the cigarette lighters of both the stalled car and the car providing the power. Supposedly, it takes a little while (? 5 minutes) to build up enough of a charge to start the stalled car. Note that I’m not talking about a battery-powered device; this is just a cable, and the current comes from the car that is running. QUESTIONS: Has anyone ever used these things? Do they work? How long did it take to get the stalled car to start? Are there any safety precautions to observe? Will these gizmos work by plugging cables into any power jacks in the two cars … e.g. the jacks in the rear seat of a van where kids plug in their DVD/Bluray players? The presumed advantages of these cables are their much smaller size and the reduced likelihood of frying electrical components by making incorrect connections under the hood.

they work so so.

they take a LONG time to charge. if your battery is DEAD it will drive you crazy waiting.
the cigarette lighter cables are tiny and have too much resistance to charge quickly.

a regular booster cable is made up of large gauge wire which lets the electricity flow easily between cars.

They work by recharging the battery. So they will only work if the battery is only discharged and is not too far discharged. I would guess that would cover maybe 70% of the first time no-starts that a regular jump would have worked. After the first time then the battery would be even further towards death and the odds start getting worse

With GOOD battery cables you can jump a car and start the dead car immediatly. The cigarette lighter cables work like a trickle charger. It will take a very long time. But it is a LOT easier to setup.

Many years ago I bought a Solar Power battery charger that plugs into the cigarett lighter. I actually works. Takes about 2 hours to charge the battery enough to start…but it DOES WORK.

As the replies have said, they will (eventually) work, but that’s only true if your dead battery can hold a charge. If not, they won’t help at all.

Regular booster cables can often provide sufficient current from the “good charged” battery, which makes up for the dead battery being unable to hold a charge.

They can work for charging a battery but should not be used while attempting to start the car, especially if the car being jumped still has a weakened battery., The car wiring is not designed to handle a constant high current draw like this.
Personally, I don’t think they should be used for even charging a battery unless it’s an emergency.

If your car won’t start because it has a dead battery, use old-fashioned jumper cables. That’s what they are designed to do. The cigarette lighter cables do a different job. As has been mentioned above, they place a slow charge on the dead battery. Eventually you can start the car from its own battery while getting no assistance whatsoever from the helper car. It is a slow affair because the lighter’s wiring has limited current-carrying capacity.

The jacks in the rear seat are no different from a lighter socket. Possibly they are even less useful if their wiring is fused at a lower rating, which may be the case.

One other point. I gather that on some new model cars the cig outlet is turned off when the car is not running. (I haven’t confirmed this myself, can anyone else comment). in which case the usefulness of these cables is limited, as the cars must both be running.

Yeah, they are turned off–but most of them are now called power outlets, not cigarette outlets, and they may have heavier wires. I use mine for powering my laptop and other low wattage items. I would never use them for charging a battery.

it depends on the model auto. my caravan has two outlets. one is powered up only when the key is on, and the other is live all the time.

my mazda truck has two live outlets all the time.

the daewoo has one outlet only live when the key is on.

so it isn’t identical every where on each car.

In my experience, the cables that plug into the lighters on the two cars are utter junk. Stick with a good set of cables.