What happens when you plug a jumper cable in to a cigarette lighter?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

There are jumper cables being advertised for use between cigarette lighters. They look great. Are they?

TOM: No, they're not. It's another case of something that sounds too good to be true...and IS too good to be true.

RAY: The people who sell these things have a very good understanding of what people DON'T like about conventional jumper cables. People don't like to open the hood and get their hands dirty. They don't like having to worry about mixing up the positive and negative terminals and ending up as a headline on the front page of tomorrow's Metro section. They want something that's essentially fail safe. And these "lighter to lighter" cables ARE. They're simple to use and all but impossible to use incorrectly.

TOM: The problem is it takes forever to charge your battery with them. Think about it. You're trying to send piles and piles of electricity from one battery to another. To do that, you really need big, thick cables (like conventional jumper cables). But instead, you're using teeny-weeny wires that plug into your cigarette lighter. It's like trying to fill up a swimming pool with a garden hose. You can do it, but it'll take you all afternoon.

RAY: So if you feel tempted to buy a set of these cables, we suggest you take the money, and buy a membership in an automobile club instead. Then, when your battery dies, call them, and let them try to figure out how to avoid blowing themselves up.

TOM: Or if you decide to ignore our advice and buy a set of these anyway, at least throw a copy of War and Peace in your trunk too, so you'll have something to read which you're waiting for the battery to charge.

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