It’s midwinter, freezing cold outside and the sun is barely up. You’re already 30 minutes late for work. You hustle to your car, jam the keys into the ignition and proceed to start the car, but it responds with nothing but dead silence.
Just then you realize you left your interior light on all night and your car battery is dead. Not a big deal though, jump starting a car is easy. At least that’s what you’ve told yourself. But now that you actually have to take care of business, you’re not so confident. After all, you don’t want to send sparks flying, or worse, cause explosions.
Jump starting a car is one of those skills that absolutely everyone should have, and everyone thinks they do have until the situation arises. Fortunately, to prevent yourself from ever being in the above scenario, all you need to know are a few simple steps.
Many jumper cables aren’t very long so you’ll have to get the cars close enough to be able to connect the two. However, make sure that the two cars are not touching.
Not only will you want to turn the cars off, but also make sure that there aren’t any accessories running. Turn off the headlights, blinkers, air, radio and interior lights, and unplug cell phone chargers, mp3 players, etc. Not only will these suck power while you’re trying to start the stalled car, but too much current being pushed through the car’s electrical system could potentially damage the equipment.
Positive is almost always the red cable/terminal, but check with the markings on the battery and on the cables to be sure. Don’t let the positive cable touch anything metal other than the battery terminal.
Again, don’t let the positive cable touch anything metal other than the battery terminal.
Negative is almost always the black cable/terminal, but as already mentioned, you’ll want to check the markings to be sure.
Don’t connect the other end of the negative cable to the dead battery, carburetor, fuel lines or moving parts.
Note: Be prepared for your car alarm to go off the moment the circuit is complete. This happens occasionally.
Allow the car with the good battery to run for 3 to 5 minutes, and then turn it off before moving on to the next step. Leaving it on could ruin the alternator.
Keep the jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give the battery sufficient time to recharge itself. You may want to drive around for a bit to aid in the recharge.
If the stalled car doesn’t start, clean the terminals of the battery with a rag to remove any rust and/or dirt. Then go back to step 7 and let the battery charge for a few more minutes.
If after a few tries the car doesn’t start, you may need a new battery, or there may be other issues such as a bad alternator or ignition switch.
You can do this as soon as the stalled car has started, but be sure that the red and black clamps of the jumper cables don’t touch while they’re still connected to one battery.
If your car has a manual transmission, you may be able to jump-start it without cables.