With so much of our focus on portable power units, we sometimes fail to address the important category of commercial starters for heavy-duty jump starting environments. Does your service operation repair box trucks, construction equipment and other heavy-duty vehicles? Perhaps you are trying to keep a barn full of farming implements in good working condition? These are the situations where a high-powered roll-around unit is necessary. In this month’s “Breaking It Down”, we take a look at commercial starters and the features that most impact unit performance and operator satisfaction.

 Maximizing Power

A shop that services fleet vehicles, heavy-duty construction equipment or farming implements needs serious starting power, often more power than is available from a portable, handheld unit. In fact, the need for greater power is the main reason to move up from a handheld unit. The most important determinant of a commercial starter’s ability to deliver power is its battery capacity.

Many commercial starters come equipped with battery(ies) installed. A prospective purchaser should assess any unit’s battery capacity (and its corresponding starting power) to ensure that it will be adequate to meet the expected requirement. The SOLAR HT1224 comes equipped with (2) Group 31 flooded acid batteries, enabling it to provide 1400 CCAs of 12 Volt starting power and allowing the operator to service multiple vehicles between charges. Would this be enough to meet the starting need?

In some instances, a commercial starter may depend on a user-installed battery. In these cases, one should be sure to understand exactly how large of a battery(ies) the unit can accommodate, as this directly impacts the unit’s power potential. For example, the SOLAR 2001 can accommodate a single battery to Group 31 (we recommend installation of a 1000 CCA Group 31 battery). It is important to determine if the unit can accommodate a battery or batteries of enough capacity to meet the starting need.

Like portable jump starters, any unit’s power producing capacity is not solely dependent on its battery capacity, but also upon the quality and robustness of the power path components (primarily the unit’s output cable leads and clamps). This is even more important when dealing with the extreme power potential of commercial units, as substandard power path components can greatly diminish a unit’s ultimate power delivery. Output cables should be sufficient to carry the unit’s power with minimal resistance. Our SOLAR HT1224 employs leads made of 1/0 welding cable to ensure the starting capacity of the (2) installed 1000 CCA Group 31 batteries reaches the disabled vehicle.

Getting Around The Shop

Commercial starters are heavy pieces of equipment, so it is important that they are designed in a way that supports mobility for the operator. Convenience of mobility and ability to maneuver are essential for navigating large, crowded service environments.

What is the means of transport of the various commercial starters under consideration? Will each unit work when used on the surfaces you will encounter in your operation? The SOLAR HT1224 features 10” pneumatic tires on split rim hubs for excellent maneuverability both in the service bay and on a variety of surface types. Commercial starters should also have a small enough footprint to be able to squeeze through tight spots in in repair facilities, crowded implement yards and barns.

Ease of Use For All Operators

While commercial jump starters are about power, first and foremost, ease of use and operator convenience are still important. All units considered should feature automatic recharging of the onboard battery(ies). Automatic charging enables the starter to be left plugged in and charging without risk of overcharging. This makes it far more likely that the starter will be ready when you need and will support longer useful life for the onboard battery(ies). All SOLAR commercial starters incorporate this feature, with a dedicated channel for each battery if the unit uses more than one battery (such as our HT1224 and FMB1224 units).

Other ease of use features of importance in a commercial starter include cable reach, operator feedback and overall unit durability. A commercial starter, by definition, is used on larger vehicles/implements, many of which have difficult to reach starting points. As a result, cable reach is a critical factor. The SOLAR FMB1224, designed for permanent mounting on a service vehicle, features crazy-long 16’ 4/0 cables. But, a technician assigned the task of jumping a logging truck on a remote service road would really appreciate the extra-long reach these leads provide.

An easy-to-read control panel, with large gauges or displays that can be viewed from a distance, is important for operator and vehicle safety. Finally, a well constructed case/cabinet that utilizes robust materials is important for operator ease of use. Commercial starters have an expected lifespan of many years, so the ability to stand up to harsh working environments brings improved efficiency and increased operator safety.