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Friday, 05 February 2021


I had to give up my poor old original Scion xB 2005 this year, it just needed too much "non-Toyota-like" repair. It's a car I'll truly miss...

I was interested in getting into a Kia Soul, similar in format, a nice little box with flip down seats. My first non-Toyota in most of my driving life. I found a dealer that actually wanted to sell me a car, and was able to work with me to find a manual transmission at the price I calculated was correct.

When I went to pick up the car, they handed me two keys. That's it, two keys! No powered fob that costs half the price of the car if you lose it, no "auto-open" doors with a clicker, no panic alarm, no opening the doors by sitting on your keys, no nuttin'. They said "sorry, that's it with the manual model". I almost started crying, I said: "...you've made me the happiest man in the world!" I said the only way I could be happier is if it had roll down manual windows!

Why don’t you remove your car keys from your pocket when you play pool and hang them on or near the doorknob so you are sure to remember to pick them up when you leave your pool shed?

[I'm considering that, but the problem is that I know myself. Let's just say that the chances of me locking my keys in the pool shed would be on the high side. --Mike]

A possibly sub-optimal solution:

---------- One -------------
Lead-acid batteries really don't like to be fully discharged. The ones used in cars REALLY don't like it.

Even deep discharge models, such as used in boats, RVs etc., age faster if discharged below 25% ~=12.0 v.

The model of deep discharge, followed by jump, is a model of short battery life.

One of the quirks of my beloved 26 yo convertible is a tendency to randomly empty the battery. Put an ammeter on it, nada, have a shop check it overnight, nada. Use it day to day and happen to leave it unused for a few days and, the other kind of nada.

The solution that has finally freed me from this madness for the last three years is a smart Charger/Maintainer
like this

Press the button against the pool table, the battery starts going down a little, the charger starts up, bringing the battery up to 100% while happily keeping the lights (or whatever) on.

---------- Two -------------

For the specific situation, and for most "dead" battery situations, the thingie you bought sounds fine. But what about when you are out, in the dark, likely somewhere remote, and the battery is actually dead, no 2-3 amps to charge the capacitors?

Yup, been there, more than once.* The definitive answer really IS a LiIon Jumper battery. I bought this one (or an identical looking earlier model) from Costco for $50-60.

It's been excellent, also starting other cars/trucks than mine several times. People see this little thing, and smile behind my back. Then their vehicle starts right up, and I'm the hero. \;~)>

* My huge, old, clunky, lead-acid based jump starter saved those days.

If you're finding that you're invariably having the problem at home, could a plug-in car battery charger work for you? In the UK, Amazon sell them starting from about £25-30. It obviously doesn't do the job when you're out and about, but if it's always in your own garage (and assuming equivalent products are available in the USA), then it could be cheap way of dealing with the problem.

I had never heard of this technique before. I bought it. I’ll let you know.

An advantage of a real battery booster is as a portable power supply for on location time lapse work. But that "no battery" thingee is really neat.

You shouldn't keep your car FOB in your pocket anyway. You risk gumming up the contacts with pocket lint and they are not cheap to replace or easy to repair.

Well, that's very timely but, unfortunately, a bit too late for me: I just bought one of these (https://www.amazon.com/Generic-Antigravity-Jump-Starters-XP-1/dp/B07QW3QV7R/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=antigravity+xp-1&qid=1612578181&sr=8-5 ) an Antigravity Micro-Start. It's clearly got a battery in it. So I'll have to see how that goes. I do like the idea, though, of having no battery at all but what prompted me to buy this in a bit of a hurry was that I probably completely flatted the battery in my daughter's boyfriend's Honda minivan which we borrowed for the weekend to move some stuff to our new house. I seemed to have left one of the many dome lights on for, well, probably three days (oops) and, strangely enough, the tow service who came to jump start us in Nanaimo BC charged me almost exactly the same as your $62 - within a dollar or two. Must be some kind of jump-start service price point ;-)

I made a thin sheet metal “cap” and taped it over the trunk button on my key fob

Mike, I understand you have a 2018 Acura ILX, I also have one and had trouble with dead batteries. Check the clamp that holds the battery down carefully. Mine had been over-tightened and cut into the case, causing one cell to go bad, it's something to look into.

[Mine was actually *delivered* with that problem. One dead cell. Right off the showroom floor!

You know Honda just got demoted to fifth on Consumer Reports' list of the most reliable brands. Surpassed by Buick, believe it or not. Buick is having a mini-renaissance apparently because it's the "it" American car to have in China. --Mike]

As someone who worked all his life in electronics, I was used to dealing in microfarads, nanofarads and even, commonly, picofarads (1 millionth of a millionth of a Farad).

The idea of capacitors with values of whole Farads or even tens of whole Farads boggles my mind. It feels like picking up massive boulders when you're used to sand.

Just one thing - be very careful about safety. Don't accidentally short the clips unless you want to do some arc welding and see sparks. It's low voltage, but huge energy.

Aren't plain old jumper cables much cheaper?

[Yes, but then you need something to jump from--a power source of some sort. --Mike]

Starting a car engine requires 400 or 500 amps, not 12. Also, if the car battery is fully drained, the capacitor---assuming you've pre-charged it---will give you one try. If you ever need more than one try, the capacitor jump starter probably isn't a good idea. Go for a battery one. IMO, YMMV.

I just flashed back to high school auto class. There was always that one guy who would leave a charged ignition condenser lying on a bench for someone to pick up.

You should go ahead and buy the jumper cables (4 to 6 gauge) too. The cables are cheap and you will be covered in any situation. You can’t go wrong with a four way lug wrench either. The lug wrench that comes with the car is just about worthless.

No, no, no! Clete is my uncle—Bob's my brother-in-law.

I live in California. I have relatives from Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Baja-Oklahoma (aka Texas). While in The US Army I served in Maryland, DC and Virginia. I had to Google Bob's your uncle to ascertain the meaning—I'd never heard the term before.

Mike, you might want to amend your numbers. A starter draws way more than 14 amps when cranking an engine. 200 amps would be more in the ballpark. Do a search for car starter current draw with your favorite search engine.

This batteryless jump-starter looks like a good idea and you could keep it in the car. But having a battery charger as well would cover you for the times that doesn't work.

Meanwhile, why don't you keep your car keys in the house? I tend to mislay keys, so the four bunches of keys (two bikes, the car, the house and sheds) that I use regularly are all kept in the same place.

I know it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I would ask why your car keys are in your pocket at all?
I suspect that, like many folks, you have one giant key chain, linked by mountaineering-grade carabiners to at least 25 keys (including some you haven't used for decades), a Nalgene water bottle (I've seen it!), and a case carrying your emergency pool cue chalk supply.
With much respect, that is not ideal. As someone already mentioned, when you carry your car key in your pocket you increase the risk of damaging it, and as someone else mentioned a replacement is expensive. What you might not know is that when you have a giant key chain hanging from your car ignition you also risk damaging that (also expensive). Long, dangling key chains can also be a driving hazard.
Would it be any harder to have two key chains? One, which you grab every time you leave the house, containing the key(s) you need to access your house or pool shed and a second, which you grab when you drive your car, containing only the key(s) relevant for the act of driving your car. It's a pretty simple habit to get into and means you're carrying less in your pocket most of the time. Especially this year when many of us are barely using the car.

Get a push button door lock for the shed and leave your keys in the house.
Get a real pair of jumper cables. They never go bad. I’ve had the same set for 40 years. I bought garage sale ones for my daughters, which are better than mine, for pennies on the dollar. Get a used battery charger.

Project Farm is an extremely interesting and useful site. They've tested jump starters:


Needs more than 12A to start a car: a lot more. Car starter motors are often over 1kW (for small 1.5-2l car probably about 1kW, for large behemoth car-lorry probably much more). So for 12V battery this is 83A. Probably will in fact be more as battery voltage may drop under load. Certainly is safe to assume that a car battery can deliver 100A for few tens of seconds without worrying much, and for big car perhaps closer to 200A or even more. This is why car battery leads are made of thick wire.

As someone else said: using last gasp of exhausted battery to charge supercap is very likely a receipt for short battery life.

Course real girls start car with the handle. Remember to retard the ignition though or will have a bad experience: big engine can easily break your arm that way.

Don't buy one of these before checking out the Project Farm review:

As an aside, I used to hang at a cigar lounge in Indianapolis when I was living there a couple of years ago, and we knew people with brand new BMW's that would go on week long trips out of state, and on return, they'd have to get a jump at the airport parking for their cars! Can you imagine someone building a car that has so much stuff running in the background after the car is shut off, that it runs down the battery? It's true and I knew people it happened to!

I always preferred AAA. I have probably used them to charge my battery 3 or 4 times over the past 10 years. They always show up in about an hour and get the car started. Its part of the annual fee, which also includes repairing flats. It's come in very handy on some of my photography day trips.

Have you considered carrying the car keys in a back pocket? Or perhaps leaving the car keys in the house? Odds are you won't be doing any drive-thru trick shots.

This is why I have a road-service. I know it costs me the same as your jumper every two years, but they change also tires, refuel, tow, and a bunch of other services for all my vehicles at no charge. I have made use of the service several times and figure I am still on the plus side.

@Crabby Umbo: I bought a 2016 manual Toyota Yaris new. Real keys + roll-down manual windows, all analog, no video games on dashboard. I know what you felt.

A bit of somewhat random info from my notes...

1 - Winplus Car Jump Start & Portable Power Bank

Type S AC56789-AM | 400A Peak |10000mAh Winplus Jump Starter Portable Car Jump Starter | UL Listed | 12V Lithium Battery Booster Power Pack with Type-C USB-C Port & Built-in LED Light

Available through Amazon.

2 - Weego Jump Starter 22s

This works, as verified by me one morning several miles south of Overton, NV, about 100 yards off the highway, parked on soft ground, all alone, in December 2019.

Got started, got into town, left the car running for about two hours until I decided that Cal's Auto Service (one of two shops in town) felt better than the grease pit across town, had Cal himself look at it, and then ordered a new battery through him, and more than glad to give him my money. Great little old-school shop. Great. I was almost happy I'd had a problem that day.

Mentioned at: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-gear-for-your-road-trip/

Available through Amazon.

The power to start cars and midsize SUVs, as well as sturdier clamps and better safety features than most other models offer. Can also recharge your phone, tablet, and other devices in a pinch.

3 - Super Capacitor Jump Starter. (autowit 12V Portable Batteryless Car Jump Starter)

Captures the energy that is still in your mostly dead battery and stores it to be released in a burst.

User Review: https://www.cheaprvliving.com/forums/showthread.php?tid=36396

Looks like an interesting device, and a good idea. As an alternative that is a LOT less expensive (usually under $50 bucks is an old fashioned Battery tender -a low amperage battery minder/conditioner that you simply plug in. There are higher power ones also but you really don't need them. They will recharge your battery from a much deeper discharge as well.
The capacitor can stay in the car and might be helpful while traveling.
You should have one of them.

Do you have an Automobile Association that provides complimentary road side assistance including towing, wheel change, jump starting, minor fixing to get the vehicle back on the road?

The real problem is that you are trying to treat the symptoms, not the cause.

Mike, you probably have roadside assistance coverage through a credit card, an insurance policy, cell phone service or some other subscription. My sister has a 1967 VW 21 window bus that is so unreliable (but beautiful) that it gets flatbedded about 600 miles a year on various free roadside assistance plans. She has a couple cards that she never uses other than for included roadside assistance. She’s quite the fine print reader.

Good evening, Mike, re: portable jump starters. I've been using this for 1-1/2 yrs. In the 70+ age range, and some mobility issues, and this has jump-started my mini-van battery 3 times (the last time I finally bought a new battery to replace the 10-yr-old original one). It also charges cell phones and an iPad Air 2. It still holds a charge quite well, but if needed, can be recharged even in the car, all adapters included. I also have a $230 jump starter but this works better because it's so much lighter. Our 79-yr old lady neighbor recommended it to us, and she has no trouble using it either. And her brother bought one after we did, and is still quite pleased (he's never been a "car guy"). Oh, and it will operate a 60-watt light bulb for reading for well over an hour.


I recommend this one to anyone who will listen as it doesn't require much in the way of TLC, just check the battery level every six months or so just for peace of mind.

--Just George


Maybe you'd have better luck with a 2015 Chevy Impala. It has a limit of 10 minutes that the lights will stay on. (I haven't checked the owner's manual to see if the headlights will stay on longer if manually activated.) Open the trunk inadvertantly? No problem; the trunk light will go off soon.

I must admit that the Impala's original battery died on me, so a backup plan is smart. Luckily, I had jumper cables.

How quickly do you need to start the car after you find the battery's gone flat?

I've done a stupid many times: I sit in a picturesque spot waiting for a photographic opportunity while listening to the radio and keeping my parking lights on, for example, and when I try to start the car after taking the pictures I was there to take or giving up waiting... [tick][tick][tick][tick][tick] from the starter relays and no vroom. Usually this is in some place AAA won't go, at least not without charging me an arm and a leg, and at a time when nobody I know would be awake to come rescue me.

What solves it for me is letting the battery recover on its own. If I turn off all the loads I can turn off - radio, lights, and so on - and let the car sit for twenty minutes or half an hour, usually there's just enough juice in the battery to get it started. And then of course I take it for a nice long drive to charge things up again. My battery's nearing the end of its service life - it's a little over six years old - so it's not a new / old thing.

Might be worth a shot.

I bought a NOCO GB40 Boost Plus to carry with me in case my car battery dies. But its main use has been when the house power goes off. Then I bring it inside to power my iPhone and any other USB devices until power is restored by the utility company.

This might be helpful, but won't solve a battery "run down" problem.

When I got tired of the American Car merry-go-round in the 70's I bought my first Toyota, and decided to get the cheapest model, and do all the recommended factory maintenance at the dealership. I figured in order to afford it, I had to get the cheapest model and do this to get away from the idea of fixing a car when it breaks instead of preventative maintenance.

One of the things I decided on, living in Chicago and Milwaukee for half my life, is replacing the battery automatically after every four winters. I would do it automatically in the fall approaching the 5th winter. It's virtually eliminated battery problems of any kind. Now a days, with the better batteries available, I might extend that to 5 winters.

I salute people on here getting 10 years out of a battery, but unless you're trying to extend your use of a car to make it to a certain trade-in or "junkin" point, it's a false economy. What you'll most likely do is end up getting frustrated and having to get a new battery a year or two before getting rid of the car anyway, while putting up with a bunch of aggravation!

It’s definitely worth joining a vehicle rescue association. Here in the UK I’m in the RAC and they’ve saved me from a flat battery twice in the last couple of years. First replacement battery was faulty so they replaced it free second time. I know upfront costs might be high but you’ll be grateful (as I was) on that cold dark night when you’re miles from home with a broken down car.

It looks like modern car batteries last usually a little more than three years, then they die without warning. It usually happened to my wife, of course.

About ten years ago I decided to replace the batteries as soon as they become three years old. They would not last much more so I didn't lose much money and I didn't have dead cars any more.

I used to start my ‘71 Citroen DS21 Safari spaceship by the front crank once in a while just to see if I could, but now mostly use a combo jump battery starter by Harbor Freight that’s kept up to charge by being plugged into the rear socket and normal driving on my CRV. As I understand it, heavy-duty capacitors are really dangerous if used incorrectly, and must be charged as well every now and then, and left with a charge like external camera flash units...

Why not get a second set of keys without the car keys that you keep in your pocket when you are around the house. Switch to the set with the car keys only when you need the car.

Is stashing the key in the garage an option?

Most of my situations receiving jump-starts involve very low temperatures. That both reduces battery output, and increases starter current and time reuierd (the oil gets thick). I will say that cars today are vastly better about this than the cars my parents had in the 60s and 70s. Still, at -20F, it take ssome extra cranking!

A Noco Genius 1 or 2 battery tender/charger (they make larger, costlier units, but not required for your application) will bring a dead battery back in 24 hours, and is safe for extended use. Very small, and doesn't draw much current. It is also something that should be used on cars that are typically not run for more than 1-2 weeks at a time, or only run for short bursts.

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