One of the most important components on your car is your battery. That’s because without it you are not even going to be able to start your car to go someplace. The charge it supplies enables your car’s engine to turn over. Once that’s done, your automobile’s alternator then takes over supplying necessary DC voltage to your car from then on. The problem being, sometimes a battery will lose its charge for one reason or another. That’s why having the best car battery charger available really comes in handy sometimes. These provide an excellent means of slowly recharging your battery or helping to maintain its charge over time.
This article is all about these handy battery charging devices. We will give you a lot of information about them. This information will come in the form of everything from vehicle battery charger buying guides to car battery charger reviews. When you are finished going over all this information, it will help you make a smart car battery charger purchase.
Best Car Battery Chargers Reviews
Here is what we feel are the absolute best buys when it comes to car battery chargers.
1. Battery Tender 12 Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger
If you have an ATV, Motorcycle or snowmobile battery that you want charged and maintained this is a good choice. It can maintain a charge on a stored car battery or keep it charged over the winter months too. For those that have purchased it, this has been a reliable and economical small vehicle charging solution. It is a lightweight and portable charging device that delivers 0.75 amps of charging power.
This car battery charger is loaded with nice features. One of them is once it’s connected, it will monitor the amount of charge a battery needs by itself. That means you will never have to worry about battery overload. It also has ISM (Infinite Sequential Monitoring) and a built-in smart controller.
It is a car battery charger that monitors itself to protect against reverse polarity hookups and sparking. There is also a 12’ output cord, fused alligator clips, and a quick connect harness included in the package. The manufacturer even backs it up with an exceptional 5-year warranty.
2. NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer
Whether you want a quick battery charge or just to maintain that charge, this car battery charger can handle that. It’s from the reputable car battery charger maker NOCO and part of their Genius line of battery chargers. They work great when it comes to charging cars, boats, SUVs, trucks, RVs, snowmobiles, tractors and more.
This is an especially nice battery charger because of its versatility. It can handle charging both 6-volt and 12-volt batteries. A user just has to simply plug it in and its smart technology will do all the rest. It will monitor and maintain any battery it’s hooked up to without overcharging it. This battery charging device will even minimize energy consumption when full charging power is not required.
On average, it will also charge a battery up to two times faster than standard car battery chargers. The built-in safety features on this car battery charger include spark-proof technology and reliable reverse polarity protection. This NOCO battery charger also comes with an outstanding 5-year warranty.
3. Motopower MP00205A 12V Battery Charger/Maintainer
Here is a car battery charger that can charge a large variety of 12-Volt lead-acid batteries. Other than plugging it in and attaching it to your car’s battery, there is nothing else a user has to do because it’s fully automatic. It will monitor and implement the battery charging process on its own by using its built-in microprocessor-controlled program. This budget-friendly car battery charger will also nicely deliver up to 0.8 amps of battery charging power.
It includes a built-in automatic float charging sequence and it’s designed to draw no-load when it’s not charging a battery. This makes it perfect for long term use on stored vehicles. Digital LED light indicators to tell the user what mode it’s currently operating in. It even features several SAE quick release adapters for attaching it to different style battery terminal connections.
This car battery charger also comes complete with several different safety features. That includes overcharge, short- circuit, spark, and reverse polarity protection. It avoids overcharging through the use of its creative constant pulse current maintenance function. Motopower backs this product up with an industry-standard 2-year warranty.
4. Schumacher SC1281 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger
If you are looking for more of a do-it-all car battery charger this one will nicely do the trick. It even can put out enough power to jumpstart your car. This Schumacher device also charges both 6-volt and 12-volt batteries. That makes it a handy battery charger to have in your garage or stored in your trunk. It’s a charging product that will even work on SUVs and pickup trucks.
This battery charger has the ability to both charge and maintain batteries. That’s due to its built-in microprocessor that automatically adjusts amperage as needed. It includes safety features such as reverse polarity detection and capacity overload too.
One of the more unusual features of this battery charger is its ability to test batteries and alternators. That will easily let you know where your car battery charging problem stems from. You get the answers that you need here on its large size digital readout. Schumacher backs this product up with an industry-standard two-year warranty.
5. DieHard 71219 6/12V Shelf Smart Battery Charger & Maintainer
Car Battery charging does get much simpler than with this model from the reputable DieHard battery company. This product uses a 5-stage microprocessor-controlled system to charge light and medium-duty vehicle batteries. It even has a convenient automatic float mode that makes it great for long term vehicle storage.
This car battery charger is loaded with other great features too. It comes with several quick style connectors that even make tougher to reach motorcycle batteries easier to get to. Bright LED lights have been added to help guide a user through the charging process. There is also auto voltage sensing that modifies the charging processes as necessary to save energy. At less than 2-pounds, it’s also very lightweight and portable.
It also features several safety devices such as overcharge protection and it will not start charging if the terminals are crossed. Diehard also makes sure they back the quality of this car battery charger up with a generous 3-year warranty.
6. Ampeak 2/8/15A 12V Smart Battery Charger/Maintainer
Here is another very versatile car battery charger. It’s very capable of both charging and maintaining many different 12-volt battery types. This Ampeak designed battery charger even puts out a charge at 3 different amp levels. It’s also fully microprocessor-controlled so all its functions can be set to automatically come on and off. This auto battery charger even has three different charging rates. These include a float charge, quick charge, and rapid charge setting.
Among this car battery charger’s better features are its advanced LED readout and simple pushbutton operation. It makes charging or maintaining the charge in any vehicle battery extremely simple. It even has a special winter mode to help keep your car’s battery fully charged even in frigid conditions.
This battery charger also has many safety features built into it. These include overcharge protection, voltage regulation, hi heat shutoff, and short circuit and reverse polarity protection. It also comes with what Ampeak likes to call their 18-Month Hassle-Free Warranty.
Best Car Battery Chargers Comparison Chart
Battery Tender 12 Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger
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NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer
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Motopower MP00205A 12V 800mA Fully Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer
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Schumacher SC1281 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger
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DieHard 71219 6/12V Shelf Smart Battery Charger and 2A Maintainer
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Ampeak 2/8/15A 12V Smart Battery Charger/Maintainer
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What Is A Car Battery Charger?
As most people are well aware, car batteries are essential to the critical function of starting a car. The problem being is that there are factors that sometimes cause them to lose their charge. When this happens, they lose their ability to crank a car over or it takes longer to do so. As a result, that car battery will need to be charged back up so it works efficiently again. A car battery charger is a perfect device for doing this. Once it’s plugged in, it can put a small amount of charge into a battery slowly or do it rapidly. It all depends on the number of amps a battery charger puts out to determine how fast it charges batteries. The more amps, the faster that battery charger does its job.
Car Battery Charger Buying Guide
Here is some of the most important information that you need when you are shopping for a new battery charger.
4 Considerations When Buying A Car Battery Charger
Before you start your automobile battery shopping, you must first ask yourself some key questions. The answers to these questions will help you streamline your car battery shopping search.
What is the battery voltage of the vehicle I intend to use my new battery charger on?
Batteries for most vehicles come in 6-volt and 12-volt models. You have to use a car battery charger that has a setting for the right battery size or it won’t work. Most motorcycles, ATVs, and off-road vehicles have 6-volt batteries. Car, trucks, and SUVs mostly use 12-volt batteries. That’s why you need to know your vehicle’s battery voltage that you will use the charger on before shopping.
What do I want to accomplish with my new battery charger?
Of course, all battery chargers charge batteries but this can be done in different ways. You have to decide which way best meets your needs. You can float charge just a small amount of maintenance voltage over time, be able to charge a completely dead battery or even get a charger that will help jump-start your vehicle. Some will do two or more of these functions. Select a battery charger with the functions that best meet your needs.
How portable do I want my new battery charger to be?
It’s a good idea to decide whether your new battery charger will be stored in just one place or you will want to take it with you. Although most battery chargers are not big and heavy, some are more portable than others. Look for a sturdy, compact, and lightweight battery charger if you will be storing it in your automobile.
Decide how sophisticated a car battery charger you want?
Some car battery chargers come loaded with all of the handy bells and whistles. This includes digital readouts, built-in voltmeter, advanced safety features and more. Others are 100% manually operated and basic. You must decide how fancy a car battery charger that you want. Chances are, the fancier your vehicle battery charger is the more it will cost too.
9 Important Car Battery Charger Features & Specifications
Here are the most important car battery charger characteristics to consider when shopping for a new one:
There is a huge selection of car battery chargers in the marketplace. That’s why it’s wise to consult a buying guide like this one before making a purchase. You must be aware that not all battery chargers include the same functions. Here are three of the main functions that a battery charger may do.
Maintenance (float charging)
Many battery chargers have a setting that helps a battery maintain its charge over a long period of time. This is ideal for vehicles placed in long-term storage or for cars that are in areas that experience freezing temps. Sensors on the car battery charger will sense small drops in voltage in a battery. They will then activate the charger to run until this lost voltage is put back in the battery. Best of all, these have settings that prevent them from overcharging a battery.
There are times when you may have a dead battery or one that has a very low charge. To recharge that battery, you will need a battery charger with a conventional charging function. A battery charger with only a maintenance function can not handle this job. Be aware that conventional battery recharging usually takes 10 – 24 hours.
Engine Starting Capacity
These days you are seeing many more vehicle battery chargers that have a car starting function. That means that they can actually be plugged in and then produce enough juice to start a vehicle. This takes a special setting on a battery charger that produces a high number of amps. You may see those battery chargers with this function cost more but for many it’s well worth it.
It should be noted that car battery chargers can be made to do just one of these functions or designed to do two or more of them. So, choose a new car battery charger with functions based on your own needs and desires.
Matching the voltage settings on your new automobile battery charger to the voltages of the vehicle batteries that you want to charge is very important. This is because you cannot charge a 12-volt car battery with a battery charger that only has a 6-volt setting. You also can’t charge a 6-volt car battery with a 12-volt battery charger without most likely ruing that battery. So you must have a 12-volt setting on your charger to charge a 12-volt battery. Similarly, you must have a 6-volt setting on your battery charger to charge a 6-volt battery. It’s very important to be aware of this when you are shopping for a new battery charger.
The listed amperage on a car battery charger is a direct reflection on its charging power. The bigger the charging range an auto battery charger has the more versatile it is. Low amp battery chargers (less than 3-amps) are usually used as maintenance chargers to add small amounts of battery charging over a long time. Vehicle battery chargers that feature a 3 to 15-amp range setting can charge completely dead batteries. Most car battery chargers that have an amp setting of 15 or above can jump-start a car. There are exceptions to this but this will give you an idea of the amp range settings on battery chargers.
Many people do not see hooking up a battery charger as anything very dangerous. That’s because the DC voltage found in car batteries is much less capable of harming you than AC voltage. The problem being, a chemical reaction takes place inside batteries that give them the potential to explode under certain conditions. This happens when sparks are generated during cable hookup. It also can happen when positive and negative leads are hooked up to the corresponding battery terminals. It may also be a case where a battery gets ruined because it was overcharged for too long. So look for included safety such as those below when you purchase a new car battery charger. These will help prevent dangerous charging incidents and protect batteries from being ruined by overcharging.
• Reverse polarity detection
• Overcharge protection (float mode)
When car battery chargers first came into the marketplace, they just had simple dial settings on them. That has completely changed over the years. Now many have sophisticated LED readouts or at least have helpful indicator lights. These are very nice features to have on any battery charger model. They make any vehicle charger that much easier to use. You will pay a little extra for this but it’s well worth having advanced LED redoubt capability on your charger.
In case you were wondering, it used to be the situation that all battery chargers had manual settings. That fact has changed dramatically over the years. Nowadays, a large percentage of battery chargers that are available for sale work automatically. That means you just set them and then they will take over safe car battery charging from there. It’s the ultimate in convenience when it comes to auto battery chargers. You have to decide whether you want to save money and go manual with your battery charger or spend more and get a fully automatic one.
When people are buying car battery chargers, they usually have one of two things in mind. Some intend to keep their new charger in just one place such as a garage or auto shop. Others want the security of having a battery charger with them at all times. If you want to store your battery charger in your vehicle it should be a highly portable model. Portability factors to consider include size, weight, durability, water resistance, and a car battery charger having easily storable components.
Considering how useful they are, auto battery chargers are not that expensive an item. However, no one should make the mistake of considering them a disposable item because of their low cost either. This is why you want to get a battery charger that comes with a good warranty. Many that we did reviews on and others in the marketplace come with very good 3-year or better warranties. So for peace of mind regarding your purchase, try and find a battery charger that has a good warranty.
Many battery chargers have some nice extra features built into them or extra accessories that come with them. This includes built-in voltage meters, jump-start capability, quick connect cables, and storage bags. These are all nice additions to have. So if they are an option with your new battery charger be sure to take advantage of that. The number of accessories that come with a battery charger can also help you choose between two similar battery chargers. Choose the one that has the most accessories.
Trickle vs. Regular Battery Charger
Many people think that trickle chargers and battery chargers work pretty similarly. This starts and ends with the fact that they both charge batteries. Other than that, the difference between them is night and day.
Trickle chargers are designed to put a small charge into a battery consistently over time. This makes them ideal for such things as overnight use on cold nights to keep a battery from losing its charge. They can also be used for a day or so to put a maintenance charge in a car that has been sitting for a while. Trickle chargers have some significant drawbacks too. They have a difficult time charging a car battery that is completely dead.
The worst aspect of trickle chargers is that they never stop sending current to a battery in the form of amps. There will come a point when the battery gets fully charged and more amps going through it can damage it. Since there is nothing automatic about a trickle charger, the only way to prevent overcharging is to be there when the battery gets full and unplug the charger. So trickle chargers require much more monitoring than Battery chargers with a float setting do.
If you are convinced this type of charger is right for you, then you may want to take a look at our trickle charger reviews.
Battery chargers are usually made to both charge and maintain batteries (there are exceptions). They are much more automated in their inner workings than trickle chargers are. When they maintain batteries, they use what is sometimes referred to as a float mode. Similar to trickle chargers, this float mode provides a steady small current to a battery. The difference is battery chargers on float mode only send current when they sense a battery is not fully charged. This makes them more ideal than trickle chargers for long term use on stored vehicles. Most battery chargers also have a higher amp mode that allows them to charge dead batteries much faster.
Car Battery Charger vs Jump Starter
Here is another case where two car battery related products have some distinct differences. You will see this after each has been described in more detail.
A jump starter acts as exactly as its name implies. It’s primary function as you can tell is jump-starting a car. These are items that are also made to be extremely portable in most cases. That’s because most people who own a jump starter will keep it right in their car. Once it’s charged, a jump starter does not need to be plugged in to make it work. Most jump starters can even be used to start a vehicle several times before they need to be recharged.
Their biggest drawback is that they cannot recharge a car battery. Some do perform auxiliary functions such as putting air into tires, USB charging and acting as a safety light. Without a doubt, jump starters are the best device to have in a remote emergency dead battery situation.
If you want to be able to jump start your car but do not want to spend the money on a jump starter, then check out our jumper cable buying guide.
Car Battery Chargers
Just like jump starters, the name car battery charger perfectly describes this device. Its major function is to recharge a car battery. This can be done in small increments using a float setting or all at once using a standard-setting. On a standard-setting, a car battery charger can even charge back up a completely dead battery. They need to be plugged into an outlet to function and many come with built-in safety features. This includes overcharge protection, anti-spark clamps, and reverse polarity protection. They very seldom have any extra uses besides charging a car battery. One drawback with most car batteries is they do not have the necessary amps to jump-start a car. There are some exceptions to this rule but car battery chargers with this ability still can’t do it remotely. They need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work.
Ways to Diagnose A Dead Car Battery
There are a few simple ways to check to see if your car has a dead battery. You can start by turning the switch to your lights on and see if they work. It also helps to check the dome light on your vehicle’s interior when the car door is open. You can also turn your key in the ignition to see if the dashboard lights come on. If no lights work there is a good chance your car battery is dead. But these things can also be caused by other problems too such as faulty wiring and bad switches.
With that being said, there is only one way that you can be sure your car has a dead battery. That is to do a simple test with a digital multimeter that has a DC volt setting. Just touch the red multimeter test lead to the positive terminal (usually marked with red ends) on a battery and the black multimeter lead to the negative terminal (usually marked with black ends) of the battery. Again, make sure the multimeter is set on DC volts. If you get a reading of 12.45 volts or higher when doing this your car battery is not dead. There is another problem with your car.
What is the simplest way to find out if your car battery is dead if you don’t have a multimeter? It’s to take it out of your vehicle and bring it to an auto supply store or a mechanic. Choosing a cordless impact wrench may help you take the battery out easier. They will have the means to test your car battery. It only takes a few minutes even for mechanically challenged individuals to remove a car battery. If you don’t want to take your car battery out yourself, ask someone to help you with a jump start. Once started, drive your car to an auto store. Have them test it in place and you can buy a new battery if yours has no more useful life.
7 Signs of a Dead Car Battery
There are several signs that you might experience with your vehicle that will indicate your car battery is most likely dead. These include:
- Your car lights do not come on at all when you hit the switch
- The dome light on your car does not come on when you open your car door
- Your car engine just clicks over when you turn the key but it does not start
- When you insert a key into your ignition and turn it, no dashboard accessory lights come on
- The battery looks swollen or misshapen
- A battery does not take a charge even after several hours of charging
- Batteries that are dead because of overcharging or other damage may emit a foul smell
What Causes A Car Battery to Die?
There are several reasons that cause a car battery to die. Here are some of the conditions that often lead to battery failure:
- The terminal connections on the top or side of the battery are corroded
- A car has an alternator that is not working properly
- Human error – this includes doors left ajar, lights left on or added car accessories that are improperly hooked up
- Battery age – over time batteries lose their ability to hold a charge
- Temperature – extreme heat and cold severely impact battery health
- Driving distance – batteries tend to lose charge if a car only drives a short distance repeatedly
What Really Happens, On A Chemical Level, When A Car Battery Dies?
Many people do not realize that a car battery is not like more traditional batteries found in such things as flashlights or cordless power tools. Vehicle batteries store a charge inside through a liquid chemical reaction. We will do our best to try and describe how a car battery’s chemical process works in Layman’s terms.
It must also be noted that a car battery is not just one big battery either. A typical lead-acid battery will have six smaller cells inside of it. In a common 12-volt battery each of these cells adds up voltage until it produces about 12.6-volts. This is the amount of ‘cranking voltage’ needed to start most cars. Inside each of these cells, a chemical reaction takes place that enables a battery to build and maintain a charge.
The three components inside of a battery that allow it to build and maintain a charge. Two of them are connectors known as a cathode and anode. These go in and out of the battery and are attached to the terminals on it. The third component is a sulfuric-acid solution. The cathode and anode sit directly in this solution. When a car’s electrical system sends electrons through the anode and cathode it produces a chemical reaction with the sulfuric acid that builds up a stored charge in the battery.
It goes without saying the actual car battery chemical reaction process is much more complex than this. But this description gives you a good general idea of how a car battery builds up a stored charge.
Advice to Keep Your Car Battery Alive
Are you not sure how to keep your car battery fully charged at all times? Here are some helpful tips that will keep you from finding a dead battery when you go to start your car at a later time.
- Garage your car on cold nights if possible
- Hook up a charger to your car battery if it’s being stored long term or cold weather is expected
- Double-check that no accessories or lights have been left on before exiting your vehicle
- Non-maintenance free batteries should have their water level occasionally checked
- Take your car on an extended drive once in a while to keep the battery charged up
- Do not subject your battery to excessive heat, it can be more damaging than cold
- Keep your battery terminals clean
- Don’t hook up too many electric accessories to your automobile
All of these steps promote long battery life. Owning the best car battery possible will also make sure you have a battery that will last a long time.
How to Keep Your Battery Running Longer
Car batteries have come a long way in the last 20 – 30 years. Most are now what are considered to be maintenance-free batteries. That means you don’t have to periodically add distilled water to them as you did years ago. It does not, however, mean you never have to do anything to help extend your car battery’s life. You still need to keep corrosion from building up on your battery’s terminals and keep dirt and oils of it. Garaging your car during cold weather periods and keeping your battery away from extreme heat are also recommended. Keeping your battery close to full charge on a regular basis will help it last longer too.
Factors Affecting Battery Life
Here are some of the most common reasons that batteries need to be replaced:
- Like most products, car batteries age and eventually are unusable
- Batteries that are subjected to extreme heat will become damaged and need to be replaced
- Repeated complete draining of a battery will significantly shorten its useful life
- Overcharging can damage a battery and shorten its life
- Allowing corrosion to build on the terminals and letting the battery sit in a dirty area can damage it
How Does a Car Battery Charger Work?
This is a perfect time for this question. That’s because we just did a basic description of how a car battery builds up a stored charge. We mentioned a car’s electrical system puts a charge into a battery. This charge sends electrons through the system that produce a chemical reaction that causes a batter to build up a stored charge. A car battery charger simply takes the place of a car’s electrical system in the process. It now provides the charge that sends electrons into a battery as a catalyst for chemical reactions to take place.
A car battery charger’s role is really this simple. There is a difference between the car electrical system and a charger to note. That’s a car’s electrical system can only put the same amount of charge into a battery at all times. A car charger has settings that can vary the amount of charge going into a vehicle battery.
How to Charge a Car Battery in 4 Steps
Charging a car battery is a pretty simple process. Here are the necessary steps in doing that:
- Step 1:
Setup your car battery charger next to your car. Make sure you put it in a position where it’s cable and clamps will reach your car’s battery.
- Step 2:
Select the amperage setting and type of charging (float mode or conventional mode) you will use for the job (not all battery chargers have this option).
- Step 3:
Next, hook up the cable with the red clamp to the positive battery terminal (red to red) and the cable with the black clamp to the negative terminal (black to black) on the battery.
- Step 4:
Plug in the charger and turn it on. Make sure there are no sparks or safety warning lights lit on the battery charger. Car battery charging is not an instant process. Depending on the amp rating of your battery charger, it can take 8 – 36 hours to charge a dead battery.
FAQ’s & Answers
Here are some questions about car batteries and chargers that we are asked repeatedly:
- Question: I have a battery charger that only works in float mode. Will that be able to completely charge a dead battery?
Answer: This would not be our preferred way to charge a completely dead battery. A better way is to put it on a battery charger with a conventional battery charging setting. Most likely using a float mode to charge a battery will not work or take an exceptionally long time.
- Question: Should I always use the highest amp rate setting on my battery charger on everything that I use it on?
Answer: The answer here is definitely no. Say you have a battery charger with 2-amp, 10-amp, and 15-amp charge rates. If you are trying to charge a lawn tractor battery at the 15-amp charge rate it might damage it. A 2-amp charge rate will be ideal for this situation. Sometimes fewer amps are better in certain charging situations.
- Question: Can I charge a battery is that is not installed in a vehicle?
Answer: Good question. Many people wonder about this. A car battery does not act any differently whether it’s in place in a vehicle or taken out of it. So that means any car battery that will take a charge while installed in a vehicle will also take a charge when outside the host vehicle.
- Question: How can I protect my car battery in winter?
If you have a car then buying a car battery charger is a good investment for you. These products are not that expensive and many of them have more than one use. It’s very convenient to have one of these in your garage or stored in the trunk of your car. You never know when you are going to have use for one. It’s hard to think of any reason that someone would not want to own the best car battery charger.
Before shopping for one, take the time to look over the information that we have provided here. If nothing else, go over the characteristics in the buying guide that are important to know about car chargers. Take the time to look over the car battery charger reviews to see what features good models have too. Once you know this information you stand a better chance of finding a great car battery charger for your needs.