Best Battery Charger/Jumper Ever

The car dealership I worked at was founded in 1926 and was selling many times more vehicles in the ‘80’s than it did in the first half of the twentieth century.  Even with expansions from purchasing adjacent properties over the years, vehicles were still crammed into the lot, sometimes four and five cars deep.  

When a customer wanted to test drive a particular car, it was invariably buried behind at least two others, and chances were, that least some of these vehicles had dead batteries.  That’s just what happens when even a brand new car, sits for weeks without being driven.  What the heck do you do then?

How do jump start one of those cars in the center rows?

The obvious answer is to give the vehicles with dead batteries a jump start, right?   Well, there’s a couple of problems with that.  First of all, since the longest jumper cables are about 25 feet, jumpstarting a car that is blocked in by two or more others is all but impossible.  I suppose you could move the line of cars next to the car you are interested in getting out, so you could pull a vehicle with a good battery within reach of it, but that would involve moving more cars (at least some of which also will have dead batteries) in what is very congested area to begin with.  This not only creates a circus, it takes a lot of time, and makes the customer impatient and question the reliability of your product.

Car dealerships need a way to start cars with dead batteries without making a scene.  Enter the Volt Wagon.  (If you wanna see one, You're gonna have to click that link because I couldn't find any pictures.)

 With this, one person can easily maneuver between rows of cars and jump start any vehicles necessary.  There is a drawback though.  The price.  The ridiculously high price.  $40 - $50 per month?  Are you kidding me?  That’s about $500 to $600 per year.  Notice how they don’t mention that you can just purchase one.  Maybe you can, but they’re obviously pushing the lease, so they can keep on charging the customer indefinitely.  

The dealership I worked at, leased one of these things and it was a godsend, but the monthly charge was outrageous. I think it was just about the same, way back in the ‘80’s as it is today.  The dealership could easily afford it, but they didn’t like the idea of being overcharged.  After all, overcharging people was supposed to be their gig, so they started looking for alternatives.  They experimented with making their own “volt wagons” out of a hand truck, small battery charger, and a set of jumper cables with the clamps cut off of one end and hooked up to a car battery.  These worked OK, but they looked kind of crude.  Eventually we came across these:

You can still get one of these for about $450.  Why would anyone pay $40/month or more for a Volt Wagon?  It looks like they still need the modifications I made to mine about 25 years ago.

They looked more professional and didn’t cost much more than a homemade unit.  In fact, they were so cheap that I bought one myself.  I got it with the idea that it would be the ideal thing to jump start my boat.  After all, you can’t just drive your car out on a pier.  To this day, I have never had to jump start my boat, but the Kwik Start has been invaluable to me in so many ways over the years.

Here's the one I got.  On either side of the ammeter, you can see the indicator light and on/off switch I added.  I also slid a rubber hose over the steel handle.

If you look at the upper left of this picture, you can see the relay that I added.  I also turned the front panel into a door that's hinged at the bottom for easy access to the battery. 

For the sake of convenience and safety, I made it so I can turn off the power to the positive cable by adding a continuous duty relay.  I also added an indicator light to let me know when the cable is “hot”.  This way, I never have to hook up a “hot” cable to a battery, and I can turn on the juice a safe distance away, virtually eliminating the possibility of a battery blowing up in my face.  

It’s the ideal thing for jumpstarting a car that’s parked in a garage where there isn’t room to pull another vehicle along side.  It’s more convenient than conventional jump starting, because you only have to deal with one vehicle, and hooking up cables to one battery.

The battery charger component of this unit is mainly for maintaining its on-board battery, however it still can be used for charging other batteries, in fact, I usually use this unit for charging all my batteries since that charges the on board battery simultaneously.  Since this unit contains its own battery, it delivers many more amps than any conventional battery charger, even those with the highest boost capacities.  The on-board battery also allows you to jump start cars that are farther away from the nearest electrical outlet than all of your longest extension cords.  

It’s also handy source of twelve volt power for bench testing electrical automotive components, like starters, wiper motors, lights, horns, etc.  Finally, it’s great for lighting cigarettes when you can’t find a lighter.  Just hook up a short piece of steel wire between the cables, flip the switch, and it instantly becomes red hot. Turn off the switch before you melt the wire, and you got yourself one hell of a redneck lighter.

For the money, this is one of the best specialty tools I ever purchased.


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