When you start thinking about the "what if's" that can happen on the side of the road, it becomes obvious that you should keep at least a few items in your trunk. While a small set of tools is extremely useful, the most common type of roadside emergency is either a dead battery or flat tire. Wouldn't it be great if there was an item that could help with both of these emergencies?
Well, there is. It's called a jump box, and we ordered the Stanley J5C09 Jump Starter with 1000 Peak and 500 Instant Amps, as well as a 120 PSI Air Compressor from Amazon and put it to the test.
A lot of you probably keep a set of jumper cables in your car, which is a great thing to do, BUT jumper cables require a car. You may not have someone around to jump start you late at night, or if your car suddenly dies on a dark road. That's where a jump box becomes valuable. Its self contained and doesn't require anything but you: simply place the two (positive and negative) clamps on your battery, wait a few seconds, and start your car.
Our first impression of the Stanley J5C09 Jump Starter is that it looks better than we hoped. With so many features, we were expecting a big, clunky, ugly pseudo-tough looking box that felt generic with its over the top looks. It presents better than that. Function over form might be more important in something like a jump box, but if you use it at the camp sight or beach as a power source looks become a little bit more of a priority.
The box provides 1000 total possible amps, and 500 continuous amps. Most car batteries rate around 350 amps and 600 cold cranking amps, so the Stanley Jump Starter is up to most any vehicle you can throw at it. Also included is a built in compressor for inflating a flat tire. The compressor is loud, but you will not car if it saves you from being stranded. Now keep in mind, small compressors are slow and this one is no different. If you are a little low on air the Stanley will get you back up to operating inflation pressures in a few minutes. If the tire is completely flat, it probably will not be up to the task. Give it long enough and maybe you can fill the tire enough to limp to a gas station down the street. That's not a knock on this particular model, in fact the Stanley probably performs as well or better as any other portable inflator you can buy. It's just that portables are not meant to fully inflate a tire. Also included was a needle for inflating a football or soccer ball, and a car plug which is for powering it up as you drive I guess, or trying to jump via the cigarette lighter which is a hit or miss.
I wanted to test it out, so I let it charge overnight to make sure it was at full capacity. The Stanley jump box includes a USB port which is a nice extra feature if you plan to use it as a power source on outdoor excursions. I plugged in my android smartphone and it started charging the phone instantly. I wanted to see how it worked on an iPhone, so I borrowed one and plugged it in. It does charge an I-Phone. In fact, after about 5 minutes on the Stanley you could see the bar go up by one. Then I grabbed my deflated football from the garage and filled it.
The next day, I jumped my dead car project car and it started up. Then I inflated my tires. They lost a little air the last few months while the car was sitting. That is a big help since you cant drive to the gas station on the flat tires, so what do you do? The inflator is loud, but did the job and didn't overheat adding 5-10 psi to all four tires. Each one took a few minutes (between 2 and 5 minutes). I think if you had a complete flat, you might be there awhile but I am sure if you pulled out the stop watch this thing would still beat AAA. One negative I found is that the pressure gauge on the Stanley doesn't read correctly. It just always reads as low or high. Don't rely on this feature, maybe mine was a dud but I don't think it's worth returning over that. I use a hand held pressure gauge anyway since I have never seen a built in one work anyway .
Another feature of the Stanley J5C09 Jump Starter is a built in work light. It is not very bright but will do the job in a pinch and is bright enough for a roadside emergency. It's maybe equivalent to a couple of candles or a small key chain light. Keep a real flashlight in the glove box anyway (the streamlight microstream is great one). The work light broke on our test model after a few months of banging around in the trunk. If you actually keep a basket or box in your SUV storage area for tools, and keep the jump box in one place, it should last longer than ours did.
So far we were happy with the purchase but had one last test to put it through. Like I mentioned, the test car/ project car had been sitting for some time. The battery was very low. Normally you would need to buy a trickle charger but I didn't want to buy yet another one time use tool. So the Stanley's final test was to be a trickle charger of sorts. I plugged the unit into the house current and ran an extension cord out to the car, clamped Stanley onto the battery and put it into jump mode. Then I left it to sit overnight and by morning my car battery was full, without a trickle charger. I don't know if this is supposed to work this way but it did. It might lower the life of the unit, but for occasional use i'll make the sacrifice. Keep in mind, using the unit this way may void your warranty.
A few other reviewers have mentioned it doesn't have a shutoff where you can leave it plugged in indefinitely. I do know that when mine was full after charging, but the power button blinked to warn me. I don't want to leave this plugged in anyway. It should be in the trunk, I mean what are the chances you get a dead battery just at home? A shop might want a unit which can stay plugged in but the commuter should be less concerned about that in my honest opinion.
So overall, after a few months of use this is a great item. The size is right (maybe about the size of a case of soda), looks tough, and can inflate tires, footballs, lovedolls etc...while jumping your car several times before recharge. It can be a backup phone charger or usb power source for the outdoorsman, and function as a makeshift trickle charger for the collector car in the garage.