Should Parents Send Jumper Cables To College?

My daughter leaves for college in a couple of weeks. She’s taking her hand-me-down 01 Impala LS with her to school about 250 miles from home. Thinking back to my son’s college years (and helping to keep his car running from afar), I thought I’d send some things, including good jumper cables, but I’m rethinking this.

The car has a fairly new, top shelf battery. The car has DRLs with automatic lights that can’t be left on after turning off the key. It’s never had starting issues and when I think about it, cars don’t seem to have problems with batteries and not starting like they did in the good old days. I’ve got jumper cables in several of our cars, but never use them.

We’ve got some kind of emergency road service on our insurance policies that provide a phone number and the insurance company dispatches a local tow company.

I’m thinking that more harm than good could come from those jumpers. Burning up car electrical systems because of improper cable installation or exploding a battery could be bigger problems than a rare or improbable starting problem.

Cables to go -or- no cables ?

Also, I’m sending a spare key. What else should I send ?


We ended up sending the cables, after a lesson on how to do it. He ended up needing them, with no harm done (whew!). We didn’t send the extra key, because son could lose it.


I just graduated from college myself and these are some recommendations I wish my parents did for me.

-Don’t send an ‘official’ spare key. Send her with a key that can only open the car and not start it if possible. That way, if she locks her keys in the car, she can get back in, but if she loses the spare, you’re not out a significant amount of money.
-Send the jumper cables after you teach her how to use them. But tell her to not broadcast the fact that she has the cables and to not have her always volunteer to jump people’s cars with hers. Otherwise, people she doesn’t even know who live in her hall will be expecting her to help them out which isn’t ideal.
-Don’t rely on those emergency service companies. She should be able to do something as basic as jumping her car. Reason why I say this is because I was once without jumper cables and I had to get the roadside assistance company to come out. Unfortunately, it took well over an hour for them to come out to me. Nothing is scarier than being a young female on the side of the road in the dark in a bad neighborhood waiting for your car to be jumped - trust me.
-She should really have an entire kit in her car. You know, with basic tools, jumper cables, jack, a blanket, spare clothes, flashlight, flares, and a red flag. You can even include a quick guide book on how to do basic things.
-And provide her with knowledge about what to do if her car gets towed or if she gets into an accident. My parents didn’t do that for me, and so when anything “bad” happened, I literally had to go off of instinct. One winter I ended up in the ditch. I called the police because I didn’t know what else to do. The police picked me up and just dropped me off at a truck stop and I was left to my own devices. i got a tow company to pick up my car but I couldn’t even figure out how to get to my car since there wasn’t a taxi available in the area. Needless to say, it was a long day for me.

Take care!

I’d also send a simple emergency go bag with MREs, water purification pills, thermally insulative/reflective blankets, emergency radio, flash lights and batteries, small emergency cash stash, etc.
Not to make anyone paranoid but emergencies do occur (storms, natural disasters, etc) where one is forced to evacuate. Since she’s living on her own, it is a good thing to have around. She may never need it but you never know.

If you’re getting her MREs, definitely skip cheese omelet and buffalo chicken.

Lol, yeah it all tastes like chicken flavored tooth paste to me too.
It is good to have when you have to leave, tho.

I’d go with a box of granola bars. Not like it would be for days. Drinking water would be more important.

MREs, purification tablets? Going to college in the Amazon?

Personally I’m not a jumper cable fan with thousands of dollars worth of electronics in a car, I just don’t use them and really have hardly ever needed them in 40 years. If you must have a back-up battery source, I’d get one of those battery boxes with the light and air compressor included. The only thing you have to do is keep it charged from time to time. A cell phone, debit card, and motor club card should be standard equipment in any emergency kit.

My daughter had a good set of cables in my 98 Pathfinder when she took it college. First thing I did was teach her how to use them correctly. She never had to use it on the Pathfinder…but she did jump a couple of her friends cars one winter.

Probably not worth it. And she wasn’t so far away that I couldn’t get there in an hour anyways.

It is imperative that you NOT put jumper cables in the hands of someone who does not know howto use them. An exploding battery is nothing to fool with and is a distinct possibility with someone who doesn’t know. They go off like a shot gun blast and battery acid is thrown everywhere.

When my daughter was in high school, I caught her running out the door with our jumper cables announcing that she needed them to jump start her friends car. After a little questioning, I find out her friends car will urn over fine, it just won’t start. This was a case where a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing. I immediately took the Cables away from her and announced that her friend could call her father. We bought her a jumper battery and practiced connecting it for her use. They are much safer and easier to teach how to use.

I have jumper cables, and have only used them to jump other peoples cars. Jumping other cars can be an issue for some cars and adds to potential sources of messing up the car by a number of options. If they are trained in use, of cables, ok. But keeping up batteries with timely replacement and maintenance, ie cleaning terminals if needed should suffice. Then again it is always fun to save a damsel in dis dress with a jump if needed…

How about a AAA membership instead. They will take care of jumping her car when needed and they are less likely to damage the electronics. A cell phone charger that plugs into the cars power port (cigarette lighter) would be good also incase something happens to the car and her cell phone is dead.

Make sure you and other important family phone numbers are on her speed dial with the most important contact (you) name preceded with ICE (in case of emergency) for any emergency workers. I.e “ICE Dad”

If your daughter is anything like my son, send her off with a pair of jumper cables you are trying to get rid of. They will never get used but you will never see them again, either.

It doesn’t make sense to not send them. You already have them and if you have a AAA membership she can get help. But if she needs the cables, she’ll have them. They take up hardly any room. I mean, I could go on a bike ride or a run knowing I can drink water at home but carry a water bottle just in case with very little inconvenience.

I just saw an article on Yahoo news about the 10 biggest party schools. Maybe it would be better to send the jumper cables to college and keep the son or daughter at home.
Seriously, I think it depends on the interest your daughter or son has in learning how to do things such as using jumper cables. Our son attended military school for his high school education and looks at cars merely as transportation. When he left for college with a car, I bought him a AAA membership to use. The car he took had a side terminal battery which is a little more difficult to connect the jumper cables. Once he was out of college and on his own with a limited income, he learned to do many things himself. I think his best move has been for each place he has lived, he has found a good independent shop and lets them handle his car maintenance and repair.

This is an interesting thread, esp now that I am in the process of teaching my 17 yr old how to drive. My 1st session started with popping the hood. Haven’t talked about the jumper cables yet. I never thought that far out I guess.

Looking back, I am not sure what my parents were thinking. My dad never popped the hood on his car and ironically he was an engineer, used to be in charge of quality control of oil products, including engine oil. Didn’t have the least amount of interest in the condition or level of engine oil in his car. So I had to figure things out on my own, sometimes the hard way.

I have traveled some pretty rural roads with beater cars without a cell phone. I always tried to carry basic tools. I do have AAA now, but still prefer not to use them if possible.

Would i send jumper cables to college? What college would have them? Maybe West Point. You could train jumper cables as paratroopers. Until they got all tangled up coming down. Must be getting late.

A jump pack would be a better idea than the cables as long as you get the right one, my dad has used one to start his car fairly recently after ignoring the dealer’s recommendation to replace the 6 year old battery, had to call mom to bring the jump pack from home but it worked. Bought the new battery from the nearby Costco that afternoon.

Would campus security offer a jump start? the local community college security will jump start the car as long as you sign a liability waiver. My mom was advised to call a taxi for a jump start when she was a masters student at the university of washington back in the 90’s because it would be cheaper and probably faster than calling a tow truck to do the same

The sending of the jumper cables may depend on the kid using them. The result of a backward hook up is so significant that the cables can do more damage than help if you can’t trust the user. Train you daughter on proper use of jumper cables. If she seems to understand how critical it is to get them on right then pack them in the trunk. If not, leave them at home. If you send the cables at a minimum pack a good flashlight in the car too.

My son is going on 22 and I won’t send him off with cables. He has AAA and a good battery. He’s just not a car kid and I have to remind him to check the oil and get the oil changed. If your daughter pays attention to things like tire pressure and checking the oil, she might handle jumper cables just fine.

I would send the jumper cables, and I know since common sense is your moniker, you will teach her how to use them properly.

An auto club membership can be a good idea, but the 45+ minutes you wait for help could mean the difference between making it to a final exam on time or not. Too few people carry jumper cables these days, and when someone at a gas station needs a jump start, I am often the only person around who has jumper cables.