The complex electronics in today’s cars need an equally sophisticated charger if you want to get the most out of your battery. The latest smart chargers don’t just pump in a load of power – they monitor progress and vary the current to prevent damage.
Finding a winner was complicated: we assessed how they charged and what they could do, including working when cold and at low voltages, as well as their reconditioning ability. We also checked leads and clips, and simulated misuse to gauge safety.
Winner: CTEK MXS 3.6
There’s a lot to like about the MXS 3.6, from the company that pioneered smart charging. It’s the attention to detail that impresses, like the nylon storage bag for the charger and the lead for the permanent connection. The clips are fully insulated and no amount of careless use made a spark. We also liked the clear indicator lights. It can charge quickly from very low levels – much faster than its similarly rated rivals. A class act all round.
CTEK MXS 5.0
Our winner’s larger stablemate is ideal if you have several cars to care for, as it has a reconditioning mode that keeps batteries in peak condition. It has a more sophisticated charging cycle than the MXS 3.6 and you can monitor progress on easy-to-follow LEDs. It has the same well thought-out package of bag, leads, clips and safety measures and can be permanently hooked up to rarely used vehicles. If money is no object, this is our charging kit of choice.
Streetwize Car & Motorcycle Battery Charger
It doesn’t work from as low voltages as some rivals and it’s not the fastest, but this gets the job done with all common battery types. It’s commended on account of its keen pricing and the fact it covers the essentials, like fully insulated crocodile clips. Plus, it has the protection needed to prevent accidental sparks and offers a permanent-fit flying lead and comprehensive instructions.
Battery charger Q and A
I’ve got a nearly new car. Do I really need a battery charger? Age isn’t the only reason for a battery to start acting up. Modern cars can often be the worst culprits for battery problems, as the amount of electronics in them can drain the cell quicker than in an older car if there are problems. Modern smart chargers don’t just revive flat batteries; they can also recondition them to ensure optimum performance and extend its life.
Don’t I need another car and a set of jump leads to get me going if my battery goes flat?
Not with the latest generation of chargers. As they take their power from a mains socket, they can start your dead cell in a matter of minutes. There are also emergency power packs available that can recharge a flat battery through the 12-volt socket inside your car – so you don’t have to go near the cell’s live terminals at all.