What is the Difference Between a Battery Charger and a Jump Starter?

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Milwaukee, WI

There are some people who want you to believe there really is no difference between battery chargers and jump starters. In their minds, they both accomplish the same task of getting a vehicle started. While it is true that they can get a vehicle started, they couldn't be more wrong beyond that. Jump starters, jumper cables, jump packs or whatever other name they are being sold under are great tools to use in emergency situations, but none of them are battery chargers and they should only be used in emergency situations.

An example of an emergency situation would be if someone's car is in a parking lot and a blizzard is coming and they need to get home. Get that car jump-started and get home, but don't forget about the battery in the car! The car battery is still deeply-discharged and needs to be fully-recharged to at least 12.6 volts with a battery charger as soon as possible. DO NOT RELY ON THE VEHICLE'S CHARGING SYSTEM TO RECHARGE A DEEPLY-DISCHARGED BATTERY. If you ignore this warning and hope the vehicle's alternator or charging system will somehow fully-charge the battery, this "emergency" scenario is likely to repeat itself over and over again, until either the battery completely fails (expensive) or the charging system fails (even more expensive).

You might think alternator companies would be the only ones who would want you to believe you can fully recharge a battery with an alternator, because you'll ruin your alternator trying to do that and they'll just sell more alternators. In fact, alternator manufacturers will warn you right on their packaging that using an alternator to recharge a deeply-discharged battery will void your alternator warranty.

The only companies we've found who seem to directly suggest that the singular act of jump-starting a battery will resolve your battery issues are those who sell jump-starters. That may be good for their business, but it's not good for your battery, your car or potentially, your safety and well-being. Think of it like you ran out of gas and only had a one gallon can to get you out of a tight spot. Your very next destination would be a gas station. Treat your battery the same way and get it fully-recharged with a battery charger as soon as possible.

While we'd like it if you used an OPTIMA charger to fully-recharge your deeply-discharged battery and they will do a great job at it, the bottom line is you need to use some kind of battery charger as soon as you can, after you jump-start a battery with a jump pack or jumper cables.