Jump Starter vs. Jumper Cables: What’s the Difference and What Should You Carry in your 5th Gen 4Runner?
There’s no need to explain why the 4Runners (in all its generations) are so highly regarded. Rugged, reliable, and capable” are the words that come to mind when off-road enthusiasts like us talk about them.
However, we’re not here to laud more credit onto this SUV model. Instead, this article is to help you prepare when your 4Runner just won’t start with a dead or nearly dead battery. Because unfortunately, that could happen. Even to the almighty 4Runner.
If you’re running an upgraded battery, it might help to prevent that old Panasonic from dying but even brand new AGMs like the Northstar 27F or the Odyssey Group 34 can die if you drain them hard enough.
As you already knew, jumper cables are the tried-and-tested, decades-old method of kick-starting your engine back into life lead acid or AGM. But do jumper cables still provide the best option for your vehicle today and beyond? Are portable jump-starters like the NOCO GB50 worth the money?
Let’s jump into (pun intended) why you should consider both jumper cables and jump starters for your 5th Gen 4Runner.
Find one online:
As long as cars have been around, so have jumper cables. In fact, they invented jumper cables in 1863, long before the invention of the first automobile and much further than when the car battery as we know it today was created (1920). Jumper cables are the simplest and most basic way to boost dead and nearly dead car batteries. They’ve worked for 100 years on vehicle batteries, and other drained circuits as well.
There’s not much to jumper cables, really. You can buy them at just about every gas station for the price of a slushie or bag of beef jerky. They’re the perfect low-tech solutions for our vehicle’s high-tech batteries and electrical systems.
How do jumper cables work?
Essentially, jumper cables are a pair of insulated wires with alligator clamps at each end. These clamps are used to connect a vehicle’s dead or nearly dead battery to an auxiliary source (which can be another vehicle or another battery type of the same voltage).
Now, as with SUVs, jumper cables aren’t all created equal. While they may all look alike and perform the exact same function, jumper cables vary in their construction and the amount of power they can transfer. Using the wrong type of jumper cables or incorrect size may cause damage for your 4Runner and/or the second vehicle. A battery can explode or fry both vehicles’ internal electrical circuits because of an overloaded electrical system.
Vehicles with as large and powerful engines as 4Runners 4.0 V6 require jumper cables marked as heavy-duty. Now, there is no definitive classification of when jumper cables are qualified as heavy-duty. But generally, you should look for ones with thicker wire gauges. The thicker the wire gauge, the higher the amps it can handle and transfer without voltage drops and irregular resistance changes.
What size AWG (Gauge) Jumper Cable for 4.0 V6 5th Gen 4Runner?
For the 4Runner, you want to use at least a 6AWG jumper cable and if you can, buy a 4-2AWG jumper cable. You don’t “need” a 2AWG cable but you may want one just in case you need to jump a v8 5.7L or super duty, for example. I wouldn’t recommend going down to a 10 gauge jumper cable. I think a 4-6AWG jumper cable is perfect for the 5th Gen 4.0 V6.
Companies actually make sizes in the double digits for jumper cables. You can actually find 14AWG – 16AWG jumper cables out there for very small batteries. Never use a 14-16AWG jumper cable on a 4Runner engine. It’s just not enough amperage to power the 4.0 V6 engine that we run.
What to consider when buying jumper cables
We’ve used many different jumper cables and wire gauges over the years with our own 4Runner. In our experience, a 6-gauge jumper cable set is perfect. Anything with a lesser gauge rating is simply too thin to recharge your 4Runner’s battery safely, while a thicker gauge will prove more stable, but it means it will take longer to charge up your drained battery.
Another aspect to consider is the length of the jumper cables. Usually, parking head-to-head is the only way for jumper cables to reach between two vehicles’ batteries. The longer the cables are, the easier it is to use them. Think of situations in which you may not be able to park two vehicles head-to-head, such as parking lots or confined spaces.
Jumper Cables’ Drawbacks and Potential Dangers
The biggest drawback of jumper cables is that you need a good samaritan’s vehicle to jumpstart yours. Also, a small family hatchback may not be able to provide enough juice to jumpstart your 4Runner. When it rains, it pours. If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing and no one around but your jumper cables, you’ll be in for the possible long game.
A set of connected jumper cables could also spell disaster. Don’t forget that jumper cables were invented in the 60s, and not much has changed about their design since then. Once a dead battery is connected to a second vehicle with jumper cables, those alligator clamps come alive with electrical power. Sparks and shocks are the two biggest concerns when connecting and disconnecting alligator clamps. There are simply no built-in safety mechanisms for jumper cables – apart from the rubber insulation around the wires and grips on the clamps.
Reverse polarity is another problem. When people mistakenly connect the jumper cables in the wrong order or incorrect manner, it can cause the battery to leak acid, explode, or fry your vehicle’s internal electric systems. It’s rare when this happens but it can happen due to user error and a general lack of experience.
Find it online:
Jump starters are the latest solution to boosting a dead battery in a vehicle. They are safer, easier, and quicker to use than using jumper cables. As lithium-ion battery technology advances, so do the field of jump starters: they become more powerful, smaller, and more reliable.
There are jump starters on the market that are almost the size of an iPhone that packs more than enough battery juice to boost your 4Runner a few times, as well as charge up your smartphone and other USB-powered appliances.
If you are debating between jump starters, I would start with this quick guide to the top 5 NOCO battery jump starters on the market. The NOCO battery jumps are tried and tested. Many guys have run these on Trail4Runner.com and throughout many automotive circles for years with awesome feedback.
How do jump starters work?
A jump starter works in pretty much a similar way as jumper cables.
Jump starters also feature two cables with color-coded clamps (red for positive and black for negative), but it has its own power source from which to jump-start drained batteries.
To charge a dead or nearly dead vehicle’s battery, simply connect the jump starter’s clamps to the corresponding terminals on the battery, i.e., red-colored clamp to red-colored post and black-colored clamp to black-colored post.
All you need to do then is turn on the jump starter with its power button. Once switched on, allow the power to flow for a few moments from the jump starter to the dead battery before trying to turn the ignition. Your vehicle should start up on the first or second attempt. Once the engine’s running, allow it to idle for 30 minutes to charge up its battery.
The downside of jump chargers?
They lose their charge over time. The GB50 for example quotes that it can hold a charge at 70% of its rated capacity for one year. That would be nice but it’s not always the case.
Let’s say you charge your GB50 to 100% and leave it in your 4Runner in the hot heat of New Mexico or Sacramento for the summer. Well after a few months in the heat, they can drain pretty quickly. This has happened to us. We carried a charged GB50 in our 4Runner for about 4 months and needed it. It ended up jumping the 4Runner but only carried about 50% of its charge – definitely not 70%. I can guarantee that not all battery jump rated capacities will live up to their intended specs but for the most part, they do work.
Why for The 4Runner?
To start with, jump-starters don’t require you to rely on the goodwill of a passing driver or using jumper cables that could damage your vehicle’s battery or ruin its electrical internals.
Jump-starters have built-in safety features. Most of them are equipped with spark-proof technology, on/off buttons, and reverse polarity protection. This means that they’re essentially fool-proof: if you incorrectly connect the clamps to the wrong battery posts, the jump starters will usually indicate an error via LED lights on the device and won’t discharge any power. This prevents sparks and shocks from occurring.
So what should carry in your 4Runner?
There are many brands, designs, specifications, and features you can choose from in the market today. In our experience, any jump starter with at least 700 to 1000 amps is enough to start a 4Runner’s engine.
NOCO GB50 – The tried and true portable jump starter
NOCO is no stranger to anyone who ever looked to buy a jump-starter. Their range of products is impressive, and we’ve found their mid-tier NOCO BOOST XL GB50 is more than up to the task of jump-starting your 4Runner. It provides 1,500 amps and can jump-start vehicles with gas engines up to 7.0 liters, or diesel engines up to 4.5 liters.
It can revive around 30 vehicles before needing to be recharged although this is a bit of a stretch as sometimes one battery can drain a NOCO GB50 depending on how discharged the battery is. Take all the battery jump specs with a grain of salt. It really depends on current battery voltage and much more.
Additionally, it has 2 USB ports to allow you to power up your smartphones, which my wife and kids definitely appreciate. The NOCO Boost GB50 XL is ideally suited to jump-start your 4Runner’s battery a few times.
Being prepared means making plans and having provisions in place for when something unexpected happens.
When is your vehicle’s battery going to fail on you? When you least expect it!
Having a jump starter will help save your worst day. You may never need to use it (and we hope you never have to), but when you do, you’ll be thankful you spent the money on one.
To be honest, even though I have a NOCO GB50 in my glove box, I still have my jumper cables in the trunk. Because even though I don’t like to rely on strangers, I’m still more than happy to lend a hand to those who need one. And that’s how all 4Runner owners should be, in my opinion. Perfectly capable, and also reliable.
So what’s best for the 4.0 V6 4Runner? Both. Carry both jumper cables and a jump starter because you never know when you will need either one. For the 4Runner engine specifically, grab at least a 6-gauge set of jumper cables (4-gauge if you can afford them) and at the bare minimum a 1000amp NOCO GB40 (NOCO GB50 if you can afford it).