Black & Decker PowerMate 400  » Housewares  »
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  • I decided I needed to be able to take care of myself, so three years ago I bought a Black & Decker PowerMate 400, which is a combination jump starter, tire inflator, and AC/DC power source
  • Unfortunately the pressure gauge never worked, or went out right away, so it was hard to tell when the tire was properly inflated
  • I have tried this several times, both on friends' cars and on my own, and I've never been able to get quite enough juice from it to actually get a car to turn over, so I consider this a waste
  • I have to admit that I have been very disappointed
  • A new PowerMate 400 now costs about $129, but I don't think I'd buy another one

    • by InfoShorts
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      I do a lot of driving on back roads. Not only are gravel and potholes really hard on tires, but there is limited cell service, so if anything goes wrong, it’s a long walk! I decided I needed to be able to take care of myself, so three years ago I bought a Black & Decker PowerMate 400, which is a combination jump starter, tire inflator, and AC/DC power source.

      Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? If you get a flat, you pull out the little hose, attach it to your tire, hit the air compressor switch, and it inflates the tire. It’s slow, taking about ten minutes if the tire is really flat, but if you also carry a tire patch kit and a couple of cans of sealant, you can cope with just about anything short of a blowout. Unfortunately the pressure gauge never worked, or went out right away, so it was hard to tell when the tire was properly inflated. I added an inexpensive handheld tire gauge to my kit so I could check the pressure every few minutes while inflating the tire. It wasn’t too much extra trouble, just annoying. The inflator itself worked for about three years and then gave up the ghost.

      The PowerMate also comes with a set of jumper cables. On a full charge, it is supposed to


      be able to jump start your car. I have tried this several times, both on friends’ cars and on my own, and I’ve never been able to get quite enough juice from it to actually get a car to turn over, so I consider this a waste. In fact, I don’t know anyone with an inexpensive jump starter who has been able to get a car going with one if the battery is all the way down. I have had a tow service jump my car with a larger more heavy-duty model that really worked, but the consumer models seem to work only if the battery just needs a minor boost.

      After either using the air compressor or jump-starting a car, you plug your PowerMate into an AC outlet over night and recharge it. You can also plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter/DC outlet and trickle charge it while you drive. In theory, the unit should hold a charge for a long time so that you can carry it around in your car and have it ready for use when the unexpected happens. There is a button you can push to display the level of charge, shown as two red lights and a green for full charge. In reality, after I had had the PowerMate for about a year, the little button jammed against the side of the case ...


      • so that the little lights display all the time. I tried everything short of dismantling the case to get the button to pop back up. The result is that the lights shine all the time, which gradually drains the battery. The only way to be sure of having a full charge is to lug the thing back into the house every few days and plug it in to the wall. In practical terms, this means that several times when I have needed the unit, it has been either undercharged, or at the house charging.

        The final use for the PowerMate 400 is as a portable power source. You can take it up into the woods or to a building site, for example, to power small tools, or plug in lights and a small TV during a power outage. Because it is only 400 watts, it won’t run serious tools, like drills, or anything that has a startup surge over 400 watts, but we have used it a couple of times as emergency power for our electric livestock fencing, or to run lights when the power is out. Unfortunately to use it as an AC power source, you have to turn on a switch for the inverter, and this is relatively noisy. Not like a gas generator, but when we used it during a power outage, we had to put it

        out in the hall and run an extension cord into the bedroom. I wouldn’t use it for camping because it would ruin the silence and nature sounds that are the whole point of being in the woods.

        I spent just under $100 for my PowerMate on sale and considered it money well spent at the time. I have to admit that I have been very disappointed. I trusted the Black & Decker name — I know that they produce tools at the lower end of the price scale, but I thought they also have a reputation for decent quality. The pressure gauge never worked, the jump starter has never actually started a car, the stuck button on the charge meter means that you have to recharge the thing constantly, and the portable power source is noisy. I probably got several dozen uses out of the inflator over three years, but that is pretty pathetic, really. A new PowerMate 400 now costs about $129, but I don’t think I’d buy another one. I’d rather spend a little more for a better unit, or try another brand and see if I have better luck. Sears has a couple of options in the same price range in their Craftsman tool catalog that have more power. Having said that, the PowerMate did pull me out of a couple of tight spots, and I’m grateful for that!




    0
    James says :

    How do I tell when the battery is fully charged?

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    John says :

    James, the battery is fully charged when the Battery indicator shows Two Red and one Green LEDs.

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    0
    eddie s says :

    Are you sure you bought an American made unit or a Chinese iminitation copy..or do you work for a competeing company and just out here trashing the competition, because I have had mine for three years now and have just the complete opposite of everything you have written from inflating tires to useing it on Camping trips. I originally bought it as a backup for my Trolling Motor battery where on certain lakes Gasoline engines are not allowed. I`ve used it three times now to power that motor to get me back to the landing..I`ve also used it to jump start a neighbors F-150, a Toyota Celica and a Toyota Tundra without any problems and numerous bicyle and wheelbarrow tires. On Camping trips I`ve used it to recharge Radios, Cellphones, Coleman Lantern, and a Portable 10 inch Fan Battery. It is still in prestine conditon and everything works on it..But I guess if you toss in the back of a pickup truck and bounce it all over the the truck bed for a few hours it just might not work the way you want it too…Go figure…

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