Jumper Cables Smoking (3 Reasons + Solutions)

Charging or ‘jumping’ a dead battery using a live one is commonplace. However, if your jumper cables start smoking when used, that’ll only add to worries. 

But what are the reasons behind jumper cables smoking?

Your jumper cables are smoking due to thin wires or aluminum being the conductor. They can also smoke if you don’t align them the right way. Buying the right types of cable and some care can help resolve these issues.

We know you’re curious to know more. Thus, we’d appreciate it if you kept reading. We have organized all the details for you below. 

Let’s clear the smoke of your doubts right away!    

3 Reasons For Smoking Jumper Cables

There are a few reasons why your cables are smoking. Let’s look at one at a time and see what’ll help eliminate these issues. 

1. High Gauge Jumper Cables/Thin Cables

Many retailers sell thin jumper cables. Their gauge ratings tend to be high at around 12 or 16 gauge. Essentially, the lower the gauge rating, the thicker the wire so less resistance. 

High gauge jumper cables are thin, light, so it’s easy to be fooled. Thin cables can’t deal with the high current that a dead battery discharges. Depending on the battery it can be anywhere between 3.5 to 5 amps. 

This can overheat the wires and cause smoking. If you don’t disconnect them fast, it can melt the insulation. This can later lead to battery explosion which can cause injuries. 

Solution: Opt for Low Gauge And Thicker Wires

The solution is fairly simple for thin cables. All you need to do is buy some thicker jumper cables. It’s wise if you get lower gauge ratings as they can handle high currents better. 

The most ideal option is to get copper jumper cables. Especially with a gauge rating between 4 to 8. These are known to handle up to 5 amps of current really well. 

If you’re slightly confused about which ones to get, look at our option below. Each of these jumper cables is rated highly and will last you years. 

Once you’ve decided on the jumper cables, let’s explore the other causes.  

2. Aluminum Is the Conductor

The other issue with cheap jumper cables is Aluminum. Unlike copper, aluminum doesn’t conduct charge that well. On top of that, it has a lower melting point than copper. 

This way when the jumper cables are connected, the high current is too much. Consequently, the jumper cables will start smoking. Simply put, aluminum jumper cables won’t give you the output you desire. 

Solution: Invest in Copper Jumper Cables 

Copper is superior to aluminum in terms of electrical conduction. Therefore, stick with copper-based wires if you want the best outcome.

Here are our suggestions for copper jumper cables, in case you’re looking for one-

Using the concept of gauges from above, stick to a lower gauge. A copper jumper cable rated between 4 to 6 will certainly give you the best result.  

3. Improper Alignment of Jumper Cables

This is the scariest of the reasons mentioned. When jumping the batteries, if you don’t align the terminals right, there’s trouble. Smoke and sparks will be the first signs you see. 

Connecting the jumper cables backward can have severe consequences. Irreparable battery damage, damaged electronics, and personal injury are all possible outcomes.

Solution: Align the Jumper Cables the Right Way!

For this, you need to align the jumper cables properly. There are 4 simple steps to do this. So, let’s see them-

  • Grab the red jumper cable and clamp one end on the dead battery. Make sure you clamp it to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
  • Now, take the other clamp of the red cable. Attach it to the positive terminal of the working car battery. 
  • Once that’s done, take the black jumper cable. Attach one clamp to the negative terminal of the working car battery.
  • Lastly, take the remaining clamp. Attach it to a non-metal surface on the dead car. You can choose the dashboard for this task. 

This way, your jumper cables won’t smoke and you’ll charge your battery right. 

Tips to Help Your Jumper Cables Stay in Shape 

There are a few ways you can help with your jumper cables. This way you won’t have to worry about cable damage being an issue. For your ease, we’ve listed them out for you below:

Get a storage container or a bag to keep your jumper cables. This way you can prevent damage from excess heat or moisture.

Here are some of our recommended containers you’ll like-

Check the clamps of your jumper cables annually. Keep an eye out mainly for frayed wires and loose clamps. If you notice them, it’s wise to get the cables replaced. 

With that covered, now you know what to do with jumper cables smoking upon use. This brings us almost to the end of our piece. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is it normal for jumper cables to get hot?

Answer: It can be normal for jumper cables to get hot. Sometimes the battery you want to jump in may have oxidized terminals. So, if the battery is discharging a lot of currents, it is pretty normal if heat is generated. Sometimes you can also see occasional sparks. 

Question: Does the length of the jumper cable matter?

Answer: Yes, the length matters. Mainly for safety reasons and resistance. Longer cables have greater resistance, which reduces the chance of overheating. Additionally, a longer cable helps reduce any risk of explosions. This is because there is a big gap between the two cars.

Question: Why don’t you connect the negative terminal when jumping a car?

Answer: This is done to avoid any sparks and explosions of any kind. Connecting the negative terminal to the battery can lead to shorts. That’s why it’s always told to connect the negative terminal to the vehicle body. 


With that, you have all the knowledge needed to deal with jumper cables smoking. We’re certain that with our tips, you’ll be able to jump vehicles in no time. 

No matter what you do, your safety should be the priority. Till then, we wish you luck with your automotive adventures! 

Rob Dahm

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