When looking for the best car battery charger, there are a couple of things that every model should have. The ability to charge 6 and 12 volt batteries is important, since lawn tractors and yard equipment often uses a 6 volt system, and a float charging system that will not overcharge the battery can prevent damage. It is nice to have a car battery charger that can be set to different current levels, and look for a product that is compact enough to take with you on extended trips.
One of the smallest and most innovative models on the market, the Genius G3500 is the top-ranked pick for both versatility and performance. It can be used as a battery maintainer for infrequently used batteries, and includes a built-in computer system to give you more reliability and improved safety protection, including spark-proof technology to minimize the potential for electrical arcing. This may be the most compact battery charger you have ever used, but it is still slip resistant, water and UV resistant, and capable of charging up to twice as fast as conventional battery chargers. This is a smart charging system, and has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a top of the line model, including a battery repair mode that can potentially bring batteries that have been tested as “bad” back to life. If you have fought with clunky battery chargers in the past, this unit is going to surprise you with its versatility and functionality.
The most common problem reported with the NOCO Genius is that it is extremely sensitive to power fluctuations. The slightest surge or power blink will send the unit into reset mode, preventing it from functioning until it has been disconnected from the power source for a few minutes so the internal systems can reset. While this can be annoying in rural areas where fluctuations are common, it is not a true flaw as it is designed to prevent damaging the battery it is connected to. All in all, the Genius line of “smart” chargers from NOCO are fantastic at what they do and once you use the G3500, you’ll wonder how you’ve gone all these years without it.
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The Schumacher Charger/Maintainer is more basic than the top rated model, but it carries a lower price tag and features automatic switching from full charge to maintenance modes, which can preserve battery life. It works on both 6 and 12 volt batteries, includes overcharge protection, and includes clamp and post connectors for easy hook up. For boats and motor homes, the SEM 1562-A-CA is the perfect battery maintainer so your pleasure craft or work equipment is always ready to go when you need it. The most notable disadvantage is that the charger only puts out 1.5 amps, so charging a dead battery may take a long time. In charge mode, the unit will shut off after 12 hours, so a completely dead battery may require you to reset the system for a complete charge.
The SC 1200A-CA Charging System is the more reminiscent of traditional battery chargers, but it has state of the art technology under the hood. It can be used as a charger, battery maintainer or battery tester, and operates at 3, 6 and 12 amp outputs to give you more control over the charge time. The built-in microprocessor charges up to 2x faster than traditional chargers, and automatically switches from charge to maintainer and back again as the battery is charged and discharged. Even better, the amp rate is set internally to provide the fastest, safest charge for the battery it is connected to, so you can hook it up and walk away without worrying about choosing the appropriate amp setting. On the down side, this charger is not as well suited for charging dead batteries, and may not even recognize that a fully discharged battery is connected. You can circumvent this by holding down the “display” and “type” buttons after connecting the battery and while plugging the charger into a wall outlet, but be careful not to hold the buttons longer than a couple of minutes or the battery could be permanently damaged.