We park our Roadtrek in our driveway summer and winter. In winter we plug into our 120 VAC shore power outlet to trickle charge the battery and keep it ready to start. Three days ago Roger moved the coach to a concrete pad behind our next door neighbor's house. While there is a dump drain to the sanitary sewer, there's no electrical outlet. No problem, he thought, in a couple of days he'll move it back and plug it in. That night and for three days the temperature plunged below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Roger went to start the Roadtrek and there was no response from the engine battery. No turn over, no anything except a dead battery! Fortunately, we were prepared for what to do when your RV won't start.
Three years ago our friends with a behemoth Class A visited us. Its owner bought a jump start power unit and tire inflator at Harbor Freight. The unit was large and heavy, 18-inches high and wide by 7-inches thick. Our friends could carry it in their Class A, but it was way too big to store in our Class B. These large jumper/air compressors have been around awhile. The problem was keeping them charged up for when you needed them.
But things have changed with the lithium batteries of today. They are small and hold a charge for a long time. We found a Jump & Go Portable Jumpstart & Power Supply in a catalog — and can it be found online as well. The Whistler unit's cost is less than $100 (Amazon has them for $56 recently). The battery is rubber-covered 5-1/2″ long x 3-1/2″ x 1″ thick, about as big as a paperback book. It comes in either black or red. When fully charged it displays 5 LED lights on the side. There is a blue plug connected to a red positive + clamp and a black negative – clamp. You hook the two clamps on their respective battery terminals and switch the battery on. We wish we'd had one of these when we left the headlights on in a Kentucky Walmart parking lot. It would have saved the call to AAA and a lot of time.
Below 32 degrees Fahrenheit you wait two minutes, then use your key to start the vehicle. The small battery will start our RV 2 or 3 times before needing a recharge. The lithium battery may be charged hundreds of times. There is a multifunction flashlight at one end of the battery. The Jump & Go will jump a 7-liter gas engine or 3.5-liter diesel engine.
The kit contains a 120 VAC charger and also a 12 VDC charger for plugging into the vehicle's cigarette lighter socket. The instructions say you can also use the charged battery to recharge a cell phone, iPod, or tablet. The 2.1 amp USB port with your charging cords will restore your accessories. All of these parts and pieces fit into a furnished black nylon zipper case 8″ long x 7″ x 2″ thick.
We still carry jumper cables in our RV, but recently the Jump & Go Portable Jumpstart & Power Supply has done yeoman service providing power to jump start any dead battery. Roger has used it a couple of times on various cars and our lawnmower also. We recommend ordering such a device to tuck in your limited-space RV. You may not need it immediately, but one of these cold days you will find a friend who needs a jump, and you'll be ready!
Just after Roger wrote this article there was a discussion on the Roadtrek Yahoo group about these devices. Apparently the bigger ones are used by many road service companies now. And someone pointed out that some have adapters for charging laptops as well as USB devices. That got Lynn interested. Many times she had to end computer sessions in the evening while boondocking to save battery power for important things like running the furnace fan. Plugging into a battery like this would be perfect!
A bit of research showed quite a few options on Amazon, mostly with descriptions that should have been edited by someone who spoke English. We ordered a Spirit A8 which looks identical to a Boltpower D28, except for claiming 18,000 mAh (don't know why they don't just say 18 amp hours). Knowing the reputation of generic Chinese lithium batteries, that number is likely suspect. The unit looked nice, with a multi-plug USB (mini & micro, plus older Apple and Lighting) cable and 8 different laptop power tips. It included one that fits the X-Series ThinkPads (the big one with the yellow tip). It did not include one that fits the newer (but seldom used) little HP laptop.
The instructions were a tiny folded paper of mostly cryptic drawings with few words of questionable English. (IF you are are captured by enemy spies, you can swallow these instructions.) It was one light low on charge at arrival and took overnight to reach all 4 LED bars. The USB charger worked on our cell phones (micro USB) and Lynn's iPod (lighting). However we had no luck getting the Spirit to put out anything besides 12 volts through the laptop connector. Supposedly there is a sensor to detect what voltage is required but it didn't work with the ThinkPad. At least one Amazon reviewer reported it working fine with a Thinkpad. We still think a device like this would be great for extending computer time, but we certainly can't recommend the Spirit A8 that we received.
We have been quite happy with the Jump & Go. It is a great addition for any RVer – or for any driver. If you have a large RV, do some research to make sure the model you choose can handle your size of engine. It sure beats fishing out the jumper cables, and you don't need another car. We were so pleased last year with its performance that we gave several as Christmas gifts to our relatives.