How to Jump Start Your Car

After a long day’s work, you look down at your steering wheel and reach to turn on your ignition…but nothing happens. The unforeseeable  has occurred: a dead battery. Unless you have the power to predict when such a breakdown will happen, you’re at the complete mercy of a good Samaritan. Not only will you have to arrange for someone to come to your aide, you will also have to hope that they are equipped with jumper cables. It is a sticky situation to say the least. Fortunately, you’ve overcome the hardest part of the process, because jump starting a car itself is very easy.

The following steps will tell you exactly how to properly and safely jump start your vehicle.

1. Ensure the battery is the problem

This can be done easily by checking your headlights and to see if have dimmed at all. You can also simply put your key in the ignition to see if your interior lights function. Typically, even with a low battery, there should be some light coming from the dashboard.

car battery

2. Open the hood and locate the battery

If you need to use your owner’s manual to properly find your battery — do not hesitate to do so. Pop the hood. Usually, it will be located in the front of your car on the right or left side. Take note of battery terminals: red is positive (+), black is negative (-). Knowing which cable connects to which terminal is key to a proper jump start. Inspect the battery to ensure there’s no leaking, damage, or anything of the like. It might be necessary to wipe off the terminals with a cloth before proceeding to the next step.

3. Begin attaching the jumper cables

Park the “good” car so that it is facing the dead car, leave about a foot and a half to allow general wiggle room. Make sure both of the cars are turned off with the keys out of the ignition. It is vitally important to make sure that the clamps never touch each other once the other side is attached to the battery. You can damage your battery or even worse, hurt yourself.

Follow this order:

  1. Connect red clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery.
  2. Connect red clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the good battery.
  3. Connect black clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the good battery.
  4. Now “ground” your car by attaching the remaining negative (-) clamp to an unpainted metal surface (a bolt, bracket) that is at least several inches away from the dead battery. This minimizes the risk of sparking.
jump start car

4. Start the “good” car

Before turning on the car’s engine, make sure the jumper cables aren’t touching any of the moving engine parts. Let the good car idle a little bit to charge the dead car’s battery. If the dead battery is old, you may need to rev the good car’s engine a bit to speed up the process.

Start the car with the dead battery and let them idle for a few more minutes. Remove the cables in reverse order!

  1. Disconnect black clamp from grounded metal within the dead car.
  2. Disconnect black clamp from the negative (-) terminal of the good battery.
  3. Disconnect red clamp from the positive (+) terminal of the good battery.
  4. Disconnect red clamp from the positive (+) terminal of the dead battery.

If possible, have something available to hold the wires so they are not dangling so as to not touch the cars or each other. Drive the jump started car for about twenty minutes so that the alternator can recharge the battery. Make sure that you’re somewhere safe before turning off the car again, because the next time you try and turn it on, you may need another jump start.

The process is much easier than it looks, but despite this, you must be very careful when dealing with live cables as they can seriously harm you or your car! Don’t be a helpless driver, knowing what you do now, you can go out and be a proactive Samaritan.

Previously: How to Make Your Tires Last as Long as Possible