Own a car for long enough and you’ll eventually find yourself with a weak starter battery. If the battery is just old, then maybe it will turn-on all of your accessories, but lack the grunt to turn the starter motor. If you’ve left something energized overnight, something more than just an interior dome light, then you may come out to a DEAD battery, one that is so low that nothing works at all. Either way, I’ve found a tool that can help recover from such an event, even if no one else is around to help.
First, I’ll share that both of the scenarios above have happened to me. Most of my original factory batteries seem to last anywhere from three to five years. The battery on my GTI lasted three years. It had a history of abuse; so, I was not offended when it was time to replace it. Read more about my replacement in this entry. As for self-inflicted dead batteries, the first time was due to my key fob “talking” to the car over a long weekend when the car sat outside covered in snow for a few days. That was a surprise and my first incident that I felt was due to having a “keyless start” car. Over time, though, I had a few things go wrong after accidentally leaving a bypass switch for my electronics panel in the “ON” position or perhaps neglecting to shutdown a microcomputer that’s hidden in the car, both of which WILL flatten a battery before too long. Jump-starting the car seems easy enough. But the problem is greater than it used to be in the old days.
When the battery is just weak, getting into the car is still just as easy as usual. From there, open the hood and do your magic. But, if the starter battery is truly dead, then getting into the car is the first challenge. The key lock is either absent or covered on many modern cars. No worries; it’s not terribly difficult to pluck-off the cover and get into the car. Hopefully, you read the owner’s manual ahead of time and already know how to do that. My first dead battery presented two additional challenges: First, I needed to roll the car into the street to access an “undead” car. Since the steering wheel lock is electric, I could not turn the wheels to manuever the car. Instead, I just rolled straight into the street and blocked the road until the car was started. That’s always fun! Next, a tool that I needed was in the trunk. The hatch lock is ALSO electronic. So, it wasn’t opening until the engine was running. Thankfully, I could crawl-in once I unlocked a rear door from INSIDE the car.
“Okay, I’m in the car and the hood is open. What is this magical tool that can get a car started without extra help?” I introduce to you the Autowitz SuperCap 2, a jump-starter that’s based on super-capacitor technology instead of batteries. I discovered it while watching an overlander channel that I like, “Softroading the West.” With all the modern electronics in today’s cars, some are understandably apprehensive about jump-starting their car or anyone else’s. The risk of incorrect cable connections is real, as is the potential for surge voltages when starting two connected cars. The Supercap charges from a strong battery in about five minutes. Weak or nearly dead batteries will take longer. Once charged, simply press the button, listen for the 10-second countdown timer (while moving to your driver’s seat), then start the car when the alarm sounds. The Supercap is discharging into the path of least resistance at that point, which hopefully will be your starter motor if you turned your key or pressed a “Start” button when prompted.
The Supercap 2 can even charge from a dead battery, though it may take about thirty minutes! When I made this video, I had left my entire electronics panel energized overnight and came out to a battery with just 6.7 volts. I had someplace to be and didn’t want to wait thirty minutes to charge my Supercap from such a low-state battery. So, I plugged it into my Jackery Explorer 500 and was ready to jump-start in about four minutes. The car started almost as good as with a healthy battery. Afterwards, I drove for about 20 minutes to recharge the starter battery.
Today, I have a LiFePo4 auxiliary battery in the car. It cannot jump-start the car, but it CAN quickly charge the Supercap 2 if I need to jump-start my car or anyone else’s. I’ll share my LiFePo4 setup in my next post. In addition to being effective, the Supercap is also compact. In fact, it takes up less space in my emergency kit than a set of jumper cables. There’s no need to maneuver a “jump car” to help a stranded motorist. Simply plug the Supercap into your 12V outlet, charge until it beeps, then walk the device to the stranded car, connect it, press the button, and start it. It’s that easy! Unlike earlier “jump packs,” the Supercap 2 does not contain batteries, it does not need to be stored with a charge, and it does not require routine maintenance. In fact, mine was under the driver’s seat for nearly a year before the first time I used it. It is exactly the compact, quiet assurance that most drivers will appreciate.
I’m publishing this a little late for a Black Friday sale. But perhaps you can still find a good holiday deal using my Amazon link. Perhaps the sale will last more than just a day. Is “Cyber Monday” still a thing? Even without a sale, it’s a great gift for the holidays.
Ready to Jump!