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Jump Packs . . . Non-traditional Uses

Todd K., AW Direct Technical Product Support

Over the years experience has taught me one thing for certain: jump packs are not just for jump-starting vehicles anymore.

The first out-of-the-ordinary use that comes to mind is bench testing 12-volt components. I was in my home shop one night trying to find a good CD-radio to install in my neighbor’s farm truck. I used my jump pack to bench test some of the six or so radios I’ve acquired over the last few years to make sure I had a good one before doing the work to install it. This way, I could stand upright at my workbench, get the wiring correct and make sure the radio was functional before lying upside down (wedged under the dash) on the floor of an unpleasant-smelling farm truck.

When I towed for a living, I used the pack to get dead cars out of park. When you get to an accident scene, sometimes the vehicle you are assigned to pick up has the battery smashed or the battery cables cut by the fire department. Getting the car into neutral to roll onto the carrier or for using skates can be both a bit of a problem and time consuming. Plugging the jump pack into the car’s accessory plug supplies you with enough power to operate the vehicle system and release the electronic parking lock system. After that, it’s easy to winch the rolling car onto the bed.

As my mind again wanders back to my towing days, I remember towing a car with a blown engine into our yard. Three weeks later, the owner stopped in to sign the title over and collect his belongings from the trunk. After walking the customer to his car I realized the battery was dead. This was one of the cars with no trunk lock and a touch pad release only. I simply went back to the shop, grabbed the trusty jump pack and accessory plug cord, then powered-up the vehicle system enough to push the trunk release on the key fob. What a time saver! It would’ve been far more complicated to go grab the shop truck, pull up close, open the hood, retrieve the jumper cables from the toolbox, hook them up to the car’s battery and THEN open the trunk.

I most recently used a jump pack in a non-traditional way when I went to purchase a Cobra Mustang. I drove my truck and trailer, since the belts and alternator were no longer on the Mustang’s motor. I couldn’t get the trailer close enough to the garage to use the electric winch, which left everyone there to check their batteries to see if we had a “close enough” match. After finding out that none of us had a top-post battery that would fit the Mustang, I again reached for my handy jump pack. I strapped the pack under the hood of the car, making sure to keep it clear of any moving parts. I then used the pack to power the electrical system. It kept the car running long enough to get it up the steep driveway to where the trailer winch could be used to get the car loaded.

I have mentioned just a few of the scenarios I recall, but the list is nearly endless in the automotive repair and recovery world (not to mention home and hobby use). I have seen jump packs strapped to 12-volt coolers to keep things cool while camping and “jeeping” in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve seen a jump pack used to save radio presets when changing batteries, or when unhooking batteries during a welding job on a vehicle. I’ve even seen a jump pack used as a back-up power source on a diver’s 12-volt compressor system.

The usefulness of the standard jump pack has grown steadily as more and more items are powered by 12- and 24-volt systems. However, there are a few things to remember when enlisting your jump pack for projects: 1) make sure your pack voltage is correct for your application 2) keep the polarity correct – positive to positive and negative to negative and 3) keep the route of current as short as possible.

Finally, let’s not forget that we can even use these wonderful little jump packs in the way they were originally intended – to jump-start vehicles. Just keep in mind that they don’t always have to be used that way!