Notarboca, I had a very similar experience "jumping off" my son's Bronco. He had a pair of cables that looked very suspect and were proven to be just that. We hooked them up, started my car and made an attempt to start his car. After about a minute of revving my engine I smelled burning insulation; shortly thereafter saw smoke coming from under his hood. The cables were melting before my eyes and were exceedingly hot, much too hot to remove. Not only did that experience destroy the cables but also his battery. When removed, I noticed virtually no crimp locking the cables clamp to the strands of copper wire.
Before anyone makes "carte blanche" statements about wire gauge & load, it is imperative to understand that there are several "standards" in effect when it comes to wiring practice. For example, anyone who has ever owned an electric cook range, will know that when the house was wired for it, the electrician ran a "fat" cable to the dedicated receptacle, or IF the range was direct-wired, then the cable lay on the floor behind the range. But, IF you remove the back access panel to the range, you'll no doubt see two very small gauge wires (AWG #12) running from the main terminal block. These conductors feed the entire range, so, when you're cooking that 25 lb. turkey in the oven, and all four top burners are on w/ the potatoes & vegetables, etc., the entire load of that range is being fed by those "light" gauge wires.
Now, I'm NOT suggesting that light gauge cable is OK for battery jumper cables. Quite the contrary! What I am suggesting is that one cannot apply one standard for wire-sizing for ALL applications.
In the case of the battery jumping, it's the in-rush current to the starter motor that is MOST important, since that can easily be in the order of 500 to 750 amperes for that brief transient moment to overcome all the static friction & inertial load that the starter motor must overcome.
I bought a cheap overseas set of jumper cables when I was 17 and threw them in my trunk. When it came time to jump my car, I watched in horror as the cables caught fire. Monkeys terminated the black clamp with a red clamp and vice versa.
It's a damn wonder that one or both batteries didn't explode. It did kill one of the batteries though.
There are many degrees of quality and dependability across the various price levels of hand tools. Since about 10 years, the inexpensive steel tools mace in China have been rising in quality from absolute garbage to quite-acceptable, in regards to steel properties; but even when the steel can be acceptable, dimensional tolerances could not. Some Chinese factories have learned from the quality control systems when fabricating tools for formely famous American brands (Sears Craftsman comes to mind), and are now selling perfectly usable, strong enough and more or less acceptable handtools at less tha half the price of other more recognized tools. Being that, in some cases it could be attractive to buy those in order to save some cash and still have the tools for not-so-frequent use and everyone is happy.
But as many of you know all too well, a good-to-high quality tool won't fail upon you at a critical time; knuckles and (possible serious injuries) will be saved and it is a real pleasure when you know you have the best (or close to) tool in your drawer.
I think the best description of 22ga "jumper cables" would be "fraud." One can go up in conductor size, and admittedly, relatively short cables of 10 or even 12 ga wire will often get a car started, although cold oil and a large, high-comporession-ratio engine may defeat those thin cables. Jumper cables ought to be at least 4 ga or larger, and they ought to be made of something like welding cable - very flexible cable with many small conductors. As for having a nice set of jumper cables at home, well, they are more likely to be needed out on the road somewhere, and it's better to have your own, adequate jumper cables than hope that the guy who stops to help you has adequate cables (or any at all).
Jumper casbles are particularly necessary when starting a car with an automatic transmission (most cars today) since many cars with ATs cannot be push-started, and the few that can, often require a push to a relatively high speed - 20-30 MPH. Conversely, I have push started cars with manual transmissions by simply getting out and pushing them manually across a parking lot, then jumping in and engaging the transmission and popping the clutch (it's easier if the parking lot pushing direction is level or downhill.....). And I have had a few cars - 1950's 1960's vintage Triumph Herald and Peugot 403 - that had a dog on the front of the engine for a crank (which was also the jack handle). The good old days.
Yes, I actually have an expendible toolkit with sockets & open-end wrenches that I bought for about $30 at Wally World which I toss in the vehicle for outings, and it's been useful a number of times. I wouldn't pull the head with the tools, but I wouldn't scream for blood if they were stolen, either. But I draw the line at brittle plastic handles. It's dangerous enough as it is, pulling terminals off an unfused energy source, 60-100A output, that produces hydrogen gas as well. May years ago, while pulling the +24V lead off of a jeep battery set, I contacted the chassis with the other end of the metal wrench, and it instantly welded. What a mess!
I too noticed a couple decades ago that nice-looking, "hefty" jumper cables were more plastic "filler" (3/8" dia.) than copper wire (1/32" dia.) and totally not suitable for the high current a starter motor requires. This was before copper prices surged upward, and my company was throwing out old wires as they rewired the machine shop. I salvaged two 20 foot lengths of 00 wire to make a super set of jumper cables tha would work across the garage. To travel in my family's vehicles, I made sets of No. 2 wire about 8 feet long. The hadest part was trying to wrap the two wires together in a pleasing manner and painting a pair of red clamps black for each set.
I've observed several newer vehicles in which the engine comparment did not have room for a battery, which resulted in the battery being hidden in a remote location. If one looks carefulley under the hood, one could find a positive post covered by a red plastic cap. When jump starting, use this post for the red/positve cable and some part of the engine for the black/negative cable.
Spending money on good quality tools is very good advice!
I was recently asked by a young man if I could give his car a jump start. It was not the ideal situation, it was raining, in a jammed store parking lot, and his car was an older Toyota that had seen better days. The guy produced a set of old, thin, junky set of jumper cables, with some insulation broken away.
Although I was very leery about jump starting his car under such bad conditions, I decided to give it a try. Of course, I connected his jumper cables to our cars myself, not counting on his knowledge or ability. I was careful to not ground any bare wires on metal parts of either car, and keep the bare wire portions off the wet parking lot surface. When my car with big V8 and big battery would not turn-over the little 4-cylinder engine, I told him he has more problems than a battery, and said sorry I can't get you started. I told myself I will never try that again, since I put my own car in jeopardy using such inferior jumper cables.
I own a excellent set of heavy-gage jumper cables myself, seldom used and not carried in my cars, and still in good shape after over 20 years. It really pays to purchase quality tools that can be relied upon when needed! I remember buying the most expensive jumper cables available with the thickest wire and heaviest battery clamps, rather than cheap.
This seems like an extreme case of what I have almost always found with combo emergency kits. Take a checklist of what should be in such a kit and then try to include items that nominally fill every need on the list for a combined total material cost of $2.99 or less. Jumper cables? check(speaker wire). Socket set? Check (plastic). Road flares? Check. Never mind that what are labeled "road flares" would, in any other context, be labeled "book matches."
Occasionally, I've found a kit with some decent components and a decent case. That at least provides a starting point. Replace the junk either now or over time with more robust components, and you might have a useful kit.
Was the powere strip for use in "USA" kind of 220 service or "Asia/Euro" service? Years ago I rewired a decorative lamp that we bought in Egypt. The lamp was wired for Egyptian 220/240 volt service. It takes less current at 220 than at 110 to deliver the juice to powere a 20 watt lamp, and the original conductors were too small for 110/120 volt service. In the US, we use 220/240 because we need more power than we can safely/economically get with 110. We expect high current conductors for our 220. So I'm wondering if your power strip was intended for lamps and low power electronics rather than the window air conditioner. Then again, maybe it was indeed just cheap junk.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
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