Best Gauge For Jumper Cables: What Gauge For Jumper Cables

Did you lose or misplace your last set of jumper cables? Maybe your last set wasn’t strong enough and now you are looking for a replacement that will do the job when you need it to.

So what is the best gauge for jumper cables? If you go with a lower gauge, you will have bulky cables that will ensure success, or go with a higher gauge that is easier to maneuver and work with.

Below we go over the different aspects you need to consider before making your purchase!

What Are Jumper Cables?

Jumper cables are the red and black cables that you use when your car’s battery is dead and you need to boost it.

They look like this:

Battery jumper cables.

These cables are a must-have tool in your car, along with any emergency supplies and a first aid kit. If you don’t have a set of these when you purchase a new car or buy something privately, make sure to head to the nearest parts store and pick a set up!

The times when you need them are usually the most inconvenient moments. Imagine, you wake up a little late for work and run out the door just to find out you left the headlights on in your car and the battery is dead. Then you are knocking on the neighbor’s door (or using your partner’s vehicle) and asking for them to help give you a boost.

Many roadside assistance packages will come to your location and give you a boost (thank goodness), but you might not have the time to wait for them to get there!

So, what are jumper cables? They are electrical cables that have both positive and negative ends (on the red and black wires respectively) with clamps that are used to connect to a car’s battery terminals. They come in several gauge sizes depending on what your needs are and in different lengths.

You connect the positive ends to the positive battery terminal and the negative to the negative battery terminal. The concept is really simple, but if you do it wrong, you can cause a lot of damage!

What Is Gauge?

Gauge is the measurement we use to determine the thickness of a wire. For jumper cables, the gauges range from one through twelve, one being the thickest and twelve being the smallest. The thicker your cable is, the more electricity that can run through it, which means a one gauge cable will deliver a lot more load than a twelve-gauge cable will.

Knowing what the different gauges mean is important when you are looking at jumper cables since each person might have a different use or preference for sizing.

What About the Length of the Jumper Cables?

There are also different lengths of jumper cables out there! A ten-foot cable is the most common length and works fine when you can position the two vehicles end to end, but that might not be the case 100% of the time, and why risk it?

A man use jumper cables between two vehicles.

Something to keep in mind with cable length; the longer your cable is, the less effective your wire is going to be. What I mean is, that a ten gauge cable will be fine at ten feet, but won’t be as effective at transferring electricity at twenty feet.

What are the Best Gauge Jumper Cables?

Now that we have covered what jumper cables are, we can start to narrow down what size of jumper cables is the best fit for you!

We already know that a thicker cable will deliver more electricity than a smaller cable, but what does that matter to us? So as long as it powers our battery then why does it matter?

If your battery is stone dead, a smaller gauge cable will not be able to deliver enough juice to get your car started, but a thicker gauged cable will be able to! Cases where this might happen; if you live in a cold climate, below freezing temperatures will kill your battery, or you left your headlights on overnight or something is being powered by your vehicle. I’ve even drained my battery by using an air compressor to fill up my own car tires!

The most common gauges that you will see at the store are two, four, and six gauge jumper cables. The reason for this is that not all batteries need the same amount of juice to get them going again. A car battery isn’t as big as a truck’s battery and doesn’t draw as much electricity to start the vehicle.

Knowing this allows us to rule out any of the other gauges and just focus on these three!

Best Sized Jumper Cables Based on Vehicle Type Compact Car

The majority of these cars will be safe with a six gauge set of jumper cables. If you drive a Toyota Prius or a car that is comparable in size, their batteries only require a 200 Amp draw, which a six gauge cable is rated for. It is recommended to get a set of cables that is good for at least 400 Amps (it will state this on the cables), and try and find a set that is twenty feet long if possible!

Car mechanic powering battery using jumper cables.

Sports Car

If you are driving in something like a Camaro or Ford Mustang then you will want to have a beefier cable. A four gauge cable that is ten feet long would be the bare minimum I would recommend. If you want to be on the safe side, then I would look for a two gauge cable that is twenty feet long and runs at a minimum of 400 amps.

Intermediate or Midsize

These are the cars that are in-between a compact and a full-sized car; a Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Elantra would fit in this category! A six gauge ten-foot cord that is rated for 200 amps would get you by. But like the compacts, I would still recommend jumping to a four gauge with a longer cable for the added insurance that it will work when you need it to.

Full Size

Cars that fit into this category are the Chrysler 300s and Chevy Impalas. They are much bigger and longer than the other cars we have covered, and can typically have a bigger engine in them.

A six gauge cable will work if that is all you have on hand, but for a reliable pair of jumper cables, do yourself a favor and get a set of four gauge cables that run at a minimum of 400 amps. Twenty-foot cables are my preference, but a ten will work if you don’t want to carry too much bulk in your car.

SUV or Minivan

If you drive an SUV like a Ford Escape or a Minivan like a Honda Passport you are likely shuttling around family for different activities and need to make sure your vehicle works! A four gauge cable running at 400 amps will be okay, but to ensure that they are enough I recommend going bigger.

A two gauge cable running at 800 amps is my recommendation for a vehicle of this size. You’re buying something to guarantee that your vehicle will start back up; get what will work for you 100% of the time!

Truck or Van

Driving a half-ton pick-up like an F-150 or a Grand Caravan requires bigger and stronger batteries than most on this list. They draw more amps to turn the engine over, so they require a bigger set of jumper cables to boost them.

These vehicles will require the same as an SUV – you could get by with a set of four gauge cables, but just go bigger with the two gauge jumper cables, twenty-foot long that run at the required 800 amps.

A man holding jumper cables towards his car.

To summarize: Six gauge is adequate for a smaller vehicle, will work on a mid-size vehicle, and is not recommended for larger vehicles. Four gauge is the recommendation for smaller and mid-size vehicles, and at the minimum required for a large vehicle. Two gauge will get the job done on any of the above vehicles and is your bulkiest but safest bet to boosting your vehicle.

How To Use Jumper Cables

With the right set of cables picked out we are now ready to jumpstart your vehicle!

Here are steps to boosting your vehicle:

  1. Clean the cables and battery terminals of contamination or residue that may cause a weak connection.
  2. Put both vehicles in the park then turned off the engine.
  3. Attach the red (positive) cable to the positive post on the dead battery, and then do the same to the good battery.
  4. Attach the black (negative) cable to the negative post on the good battery, and then attach the last clip to the negative post of the dead battery (you can attach the negative to any unpainted metal surface, bolt, clip, etc. and it will work just fine).
  5. Turn on the vehicle with the good battery and leave it running while connected for a few minutes, (if your battery is really dead, you might need to wait up to 20 minutes for it to start).
  6. Once you have waited a few minutes, try turning over the motor of the dead vehicle. If it starts, leave it running for at least 15 minutes to let the battery charge up again otherwise you could run into the same issue again.
  7. Take the clamps off in the opposite order that you put them on to ensure your safety!

Congratulations! You just boosted your own vehicle!

Expert Tip: If your car doesn’t start after trying to boost it there are a few things that could be wrong with it. The two most common are the battery really is dead, or the charging system (alternator) isn’t working properly anymore. Get your battery/charging system tested at your local auto shop to diagnose what the problem is.

Consequences Of Error

There are a few things that can happen if you put the jumper cables on the wrong terminals and turn the engine over.

  • The jumper cables could get damaged. This is fairly minor, you will have to replace the cables.
  • Reverse charging the battery will lead to damaging some of the cells, overheating them, and creating hydrogen gas inside the battery that will swell and crack the battery casing causing it to leak out. At this point, you need to replace your battery.
  • When your battery gets overcharged, it can cause damage to the electric components connected to it. Cars are very techy now and have all kinds of electrical components and sensors that could get damaged. If this happens, you might have a large bill on your hands!

Alternative Ways to Boost Your Car

Jumper cables are definitely one of the most reliable ways to get your car started again when the battery is dead. But there are other methods and ways to get it boosted again that might be more convenient or the only option you’ll have at the moment!

Pushing the Car

This is an old-school method that has been used for a long time. Most convenient when you are on a hill sloped downwards, have a friend push your car to get moving, and once you start rolling, put the vehicle into gear and try turning it over!

You might need to try it a few times, but this simple method really works in a pinch. It also doesn’t have to be on a hill, you simply need to get some momentum and the wheels turning for it to work!

Use a Booster Pack

A portable jump starter to boost the car’s battery.

What is a booster pack? It is a portable battery that has a pair of jumper cables attached to it that you can use for the same effect as your jumper cables. They can be costly, but are very handy in the happenstance where you can’t find someone else to help give you a boost!

You maneuver the boost pack near your vehicle, pick the correct setting for starting a car, attach the cables and use the same method as we discussed above!

What Was the Best Jumper Cable Gauge?

By now we know what jumper cables are and how to tell the differences between gauges and their effectiveness. We also learned what gauge is effective for each vehicle type and how to boost your vehicle safely if you ever find yourself with a dead battery!

The overall best gauge for jumper cables is dependent on what vehicle you drive, but if you were to pick one that would work on all vehicles; choose a twenty-foot, four gauge cable rated for 400 amps to use!

If you have any questions about the information above please leave me a comment below!

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About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!

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