If you are looking to buy a tried and true battery charger, Schumacher is definitely a no brainer.
Originated as a drag racing team, Schumacher is now one of the world’s largest battery charger manufacturers. A good racer knows how to treat his ride, and Schumacher has been treating American cars’ owners very well in the last few decades.
But in case you are still confused about which Schumacher charger is suitable for you? This review and comparison of the three most popular Schumacher battery chargers: SC1280, SC1281, and SC1285 will help you decide which one will best suit your needs.
|Charging current||15 Amps||30 Amps||45 Amps|
|Dimension||9.96 x 4.29 x 10.03||11 x 10 x 8||12 x 7 x 23.25|
|Weight||3.06 pounds||12.65 pounds||29.9 pounds|
|Compatible Battery||Standard, AGM Deep-Cycle, Gel||Standard, AGM Deep-Cycle, Gel||Standard + AGM|
|Charging Time||4 hours||2 hours||1 hour|
|PROS||+ Great design|
+ Very compact & portable
+ Has more functions than most chargers of the same price range
|+ Powerful for its size|
+ A direct upgrade of SC1280
|+ Good money value|
|CONS||- LED display can be wonky sometimes||- Fan can be noisy|
- Clamps are quite weak
|- Lacks maintaining function
- No amp meter
SC1280, SC1281, and SC1285: What they all share
Schumacher had different users in mind when they designed and developed the SC1280, SC1281, and SC1285. However, they’re all featured with the same high-quality technology and componentry that set them apart from their competitors.
- To start, SC1280, SC1281 and SC1285 are all equipped with a Start push button (pun intended). These buttons interface with an LED indicator light system.
- The battery chargers are all compatible with standard batteries and AGM-type batteries.
- With their smart microprocessor chips, they can detect reverse polarity. In such cases where you incorrectly connect the battery charger to the battery, the charger will not release current charges. And your battery won’t be harmed.
- This also brings us around to the microprocessors’ automatic functions: they simplify all purposes and remove the guesswork from battery charging.
- And last but not least, multi-stage charging and automatic voltage detection are also added for charging precision, enhanced safety, and prolonging a battery’s life.
Where they differ
I’ve highlighted the key similarities across the three Schumacher battery charger models in my comparison review. I’ll now take a deep dive into the differences between each model so you can better understand which one is best for you.
Design and specifications
In terms of design, SC1280 and SC1281 are incredibly portable. In fact, both these models feature comfortable grab handles for convenient carrying and could easily be stored in the trunk for emergency situations.
SC1280 & SC1281: The not-so-identical twins
- SC1280 weighs just 3.1 lbs. and measures 4.25” x 10” x 10” for a compact and practical size.
- SC1281 is slightly larger at 7.25” x 10.75” x 11.13” and weighs 12.65 lbs.
These are both designed as tablet-like shapes that you can simply mount onto a car’s hood area to connect to the vehicle’s battery.
The SC1280 is a 15-amp rapid charger with a 3-amp battery maintainer function. It also boasts a 15W engine starter boost and a useful 800 CCA (Cold-Crank Amp) rating. Schumacher’s SC1281 provides double the juice: it has a 30-amp power output, a 100-amp/15W engine start function, a maintainer feature, and is rated for 1000 CCA capabilities. These two battery chargers can also power 6V and 12V batteries with different chemical types such as standard, AGM, gel, and deep cycle battery types.
The SC1281 goes a step further in providing a built-in battery and alternator tester that can help diagnose any electrical problems in your vehicle’s systems.
SC1285: The distant cousin
Schumacher’s SC1285 differs completely from the above two models regarding design and specifications. They develop this model with a heavy-duty transformer, a steel case that features a retractable steel handle, and compact wheels for easy maneuverability and storage.
It weighs 29.9 lbs and measures 12.25” x 12” x 23.25” to make this the ideal tool for your workshop. In terms of specification, the large SC1285 is very powerful as well. They rate it for a 1,000 CCA capability. It has a 200-amp/45W engine start function, and a 40-amp boost feature. It is also ruggedly designed to handle all vehicle battery types including heavy-duty batteries found in large machines and farm vehicles.
SC1280 & SC1281: Your friendly neighborhood battery chargers
The SC1280 and SC1281 score high marks for their maintenance features. The owners of the SC1280 will most likely never use their battery charger, but they would have bought it as a back-up plan for use in emergencies. Buyers of the SC1281 will most probably use this charger more frequently to maintain and prolong the life of their vehicle’s batteries.
With both the SC1280 and SC1281, you could conceivably store them in your car’s trunk or truck’s storage area for use in emergencies. This would be especially useful if you live in a cold climate where batteries tend to underperform and lose charge faster.
For car owners with a handful number of vehicles to worry about, the SC1280 and SC1281 would be best suited. As I’ve mentioned, these battery chargers can be used as preventative measures to keep a vehicle’s battery properly charged – even if not in regular use. The desulfator mode also means that the SC1280 and SC1281 can revive and repair batteries safely to return them to their peak performance.
SC1285: A mechanic’s best friend
The SC1285 is designed and developed for the home mechanic or professional workshop thanks to its unbeatable power output and heavy-duty performance capabilities. This model isn’t portable for everyday use though, despite its retractable steel handle and compact wheels. When you’re managing or running a fleet of vehicles, or your workshop sees several vehicles coming and going daily, the SC1285 will not disappoint you with its impressive performance and recharging speed. The Schumacher SC1285 is for users who frequently need to recharge vehicle batteries; this isn’t for someone who needs a battery charger for emergencies. In fact, the one who owns this battery charger is usually the person that people call in an emergency situation.
That being said, not everyone needs or wants such a large and powerful battery charger. For the average American car owners, the SC1285 is overkill in size and power for what will be infrequent usage. The biggest selling battery chargers actually produce a lower power output, but make up for that with increased portability and convenience features. Besides, a battery charger equipped with a battery maintainer feature offers more usability and practicality for those types of buyers.
Extra features – SC1285 goes a long way
The SC1285 features a heavy-duty mode: it can charge small hatchback vehicles’ batteries right up to heavy-duty battery types found in larger vehicles and machinery. It is through the heavy-duty transformer that higher power outputs can be achieved. With 6 inches long power cables, it makes things easier to reach these larger batteries. Another feature that sets it apart from other battery chargers in this review is its steel case and wheels that enable the SC1285 to be transported and stored more easily. This Schumacher battery charger model also features a temperature overload protection that the other two don’t.
How long do they take to charge on an average?
- An average American car battery is about 50 amp-hour capacity. With this in mind and the automatic charging rate, the Schumacher SC1280 can recharge fully a completely dead battery in 4 hours at a 15-amp charging rate.
- The SC1281 speeds up that process to cut the charging time in half to 2 hours thanks to its 30-amp charging output.
- With the SC1285’s 45-amp charging power output, it can recharge a regular vehicle’s battery in less than 1 hour. As I’ve mentioned, these are high-powered battery chargers like no other on the market.
You might be thinking, “SC1285 seems like the superior choice when it comes to fast charging”. Well, you are not wrong. But car batteries are a little more complicated than the average phone batteries. Charging a phone quickly is harmless and convenient. But for a car battery, it will affect its longevity.
Trickle charging is a thing because of the same reason. You want a slow and steady current that goes through your battery when charging it. That way, it will prolong the battery’s age and save you some money in the future.
Read more: How to read battery charger amp meter »
How do they fare on prices?
- Of these three units, the Schumacher SC1280 presents the best performance, portability, and value for money.
- Its bigger brother, the SC1281, is only 25% more expensive but has almost double the power when compared with the SC1281.
- The most expensive model here is the SC1285. It is double the cost of the SC1281 and triple the price of the SC1280. However, it does offer twice as much power as the SC1281 and three times that of the SC1280.
For the average person looking to buy a high-quality Schumacher battery charger, the SC1285 doesn’t offer enough value for its heftier price. The SC1285 makes much more sense if you making money for your services as a vehicle mechanic or technician. And in that case, the SC1285 pays for itself with its increased power and faster charger times.
Which one should you buy?
“What is the best battery charger that was ever made?”
As a mechanic, I don’t really have a definite answer to these kinds of questions. Because the words you are looking for should be “most suitable”. There is no “best”. My best battery charger would be a little bit overpriced for you. And your best battery charger might be underpowered for me.
If you want a well-rounded charger for your daily uses
- Has a very slick design
- Slightly more affordable than SC1281
- The money value it brings is good
- LED display sometimes goes into ‘sleep’ mode too soon
- Lack of jump-start function
SC1280 offers the best performance, portability, quality, and value-for-money in this list. It makes for a powerful battery charger that is compatible with a wide range of vehicle batteries while being small enough to store in your vehicle’s trunk. It also boasts features you’ll use more than you expect, such as the battery maintainer and desulfator modes.
If you want to improve it just a little bit
- Automatically shuts off to prevent overcharging
- Maintainer mode automatically kicks in to keep battery fully charged
- Digital display screen handily shows state of charge
- Quick start boost is helpful
- Automatic function makes it easy for anyone to use
- Fan can be noisy
- Clamp springs are a bit on the soft side
SC1281 claims the runner-up position in my comparison guide. It offers nearly the same number of features as the SC1280 but almost doubles the power and only 25% more expensive. With that being said, I don’t find the power improvement affects their everyday performance much. You can always count on SC1280 to get the job done so it’s up to personal preference in the end.
If you are a mechanic, or you want to flex…
- Extra-long power cables
- Heavy duty transformer makes a big difference for working with wider variety of batteries
- Can recharge dead batteries in less than 30 minutes
- Powerful engine start modes
- Simple, easy 2-button operation
- Lack of amp meter
- Also makes a lot of noise
Even though SC1285 is the most powerful charger on this list, it doesn’t suit the average vehicle owners. It will be fantastic for a professional mechanic or vehicle technician. And if you just want to look cool to your neighbor whenever you open the garage door and roll this bad boy out, SC1285 certainly won’t let you down.
1. Can you use a battery while you’re charging it with a battery charger?
While it is possible, it isn’t good practice. It can lead to over-charging of the battery or damage the cells of the battery.
2. Does the maintainer feature damage the battery?
No. If anything, it actually keeps your battery healthy if not being used for a long time.
3. On a deep cycle or AGM battery, can you overcharge them with a battery charger?
No. The automatic voltage detector of the Schumacher battery chargers detects the type of battery and its state of charge to correctly recharge it.
4. What is the voltage reading for a fully charged 12V battery?
A 12V battery should read 12.9V when full.