Car Battery Chargers Buyers Guide

If you have a car in storage for the winter, or your car just won't start, you might need the help of a battery charger!

Car battery chargers plug into your mains electricity socket and attach to the terminals of your car battery. They can be used to charge up a battery that has run low, or to maintain a car battery that isn't being used - for example, if you leave your car in storage over the winter.

If you want to know how to charge your car battery, take a look at our guide.

What do they do?

All chargers send electricity to your car's battery, but there are three main functions that they can perform. Make sure that the charger you buy can do what you need it to!

  • Maintenance charging: Also called 'trickle' charging, this sends a small amount of electricity to your battery to keep it healthy while it's being stored for long periods of time.
  • Conventional charging: This sends power to your battery to charge it up from a low amount of power. It takes between 6-24 hours, but normally about 10 hoursto charge a battery to full.
  • Engine start function: This is the same as jump starting your car. It takes a lot more power, so is normally seen on more heavy-duty chargers.

What types are available?

There are two main types of battery charger: standard and smart.

Standard chargers

Standard chargers have traditional styling, simple interfaces and limited additional features. While they can be a cost-effective option, they don’t tend to have the more sophisticated functionality that you’ll get in a smart charger. They’re also not suitable for vehicles with start-stop technology.

Automatic Battery Charger

Best basic charger: The Halfords Automatic Battery Charger recharges and protects batteries in 12V vehicles up to 2L.

It’s suitable for lead acid and gel batteries, and can recharge a battery in around 15 hours (based on a 60Ah battery).

Smart chargers

Smart chargers are more technologically advanced and can be used for both charging your battery and as a long-term connection for maintenance charging.

They come with various added features and provide multiple charging stages for more efficient charging, which helps to extend a battery’s lifespan.

They'll also automatically detect the fastest charging mode and will switch to a trickle charge when the battery is full, so there's no risk of over-charging and damaging your battery!

Halfords Advanced Smart Battery Charger

Best smart charger: The Halfords Advanced Smart Battery Charger (6A) is compact, easy-to-use and compatible with 6V and 12V batteries.

It comes with a 9-stage charging process and will automatically detect your battery’s condition and assign the best charging cycle before switching to maintenance mode when your battery is full.

CTEK MXS 5.0

Best smart charger for car enthusiasts: The CTEK MXS 5.0 is the world’s best-selling smart charger and it’s not hard to see why.

The multi award-winning charger provides fully automatic 8-step charging, unrivalled performance and a built-in automatic temperature compensator for battery size 1.2-110Ah.

Which one do I need?

If you know what sort of charging you want to do, there are just a couple of things to think about when picking a battery charger:

  • Engine size: How big is your engine? A bigger engine needs a bigger battery, which in turn needs a more powerful charger! Check that your charger is suitable for the size of your engine.
  • Battery type: What kind of battery have you got? Lead acid batteries work with all kinds of battery charger as long as they're suitable, but if you have a gel or calcium battery, or an AGM/EFB battery that’s normally found in cars with start-stop functions, then you’re going to need a smart charger.
  • Features: What kind of features are you looking for? Do you want a digital display that’s easy to read? Perhaps a winter mode? Specific charging cycles? Have a think about your requirements and that will help to narrow down your options.

So, there you have it - a quick guide to car battery chargers. Make sure that the charger is right for the job that you want, and that it's compatible with your battery, and you're good to go! Head over to our range for more information, or see if we’ve answered your question in our FAQs below.

View all battery chargers

Car battery charger FAQs

The best car battery charger is a charger that’s powerful enough to handle your engine size and compatible with your type of battery. These are the two key factors to keep in mind when buying!

Look out for a heavy-duty car battery charger for your van. You may find the right product is listed as servicing your engine size (i.e. 2.0L), or that it’s listed as being a suitable charger for 12 or 24V batteries.

48-amp hours is the average capacity of a standard car battery, while the charging speed of a typical charger is roughly 2 amps. From knowing these two figures, you can calculate exactly how long you should be charging your car battery for.

If your battery capacity and charging speeds are 48 and 2 respectively, it will take you 24 hours to charge a battery that is completely flat, to full. Similarly, if your capacity is 60-amp hours and your charger operates at 3 amps, you’ll need 20 hours to charge your battery from flat to full.

Be extremely cautious when looking to charge your motorcycle battery with a car battery charger. When batteries are overcharged, they lose their capacity to hold electricity, and so pay close attention to the capacity of your motorcycle battery and the charging speed of a car battery charger when looking to use them together.

That said, most motorcycle batteries are compatible with the USB connectors you’ll typically find on car batteries, so you should be okay to use them if they seem appropriate for your motorcycle’s engine size.

We don’t advise tampering with your car battery charger unless you’re a qualified electrician as the internal wirings you’ll find inside your charger are not designed to be DIY serviceable.

That said, the most likely cause of a breakage is a blown fuse, and a voltmeter could help to identify whether a charger is actually producing electricity when plugged into the mains. If a charger is producing over 12 volts, it’s probably okay; however if it’s producing below this amount, a blown fuse is most likely the root of the problem.

Yes! Smart chargers will pop themselves into maintenance mode to avoid overcharging your battery, however traditional chargers aren’t capable of this. Be careful not to overcharge your batteries as this could reduce their capacity to hold electricity.

No. A car battery charger typically won’t produce enough electricity to allow you to jump start your car as they’re designed to deliver small amounts of charge over a long period of time.

Instead, you’ll need a dedicated jump starter and you can find our full range here.

You can purchase a charger from your local Halfords store or browse our full range of chargers online.