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How To Jump Start A Car

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

If you're wondering How To Jump Start A Car, chances are you're in a very precarious situation. You likely sat down in your driver's seat, put the key in the ignition, turned it and... nothing. Maybe you got something, but not the sound of a car engine roaring to life; probably that agonizingly slow "Whump, whump" or the classic clicking sound.

Either way, your vehicle's battery is dead. And you need to get it jump started.

This guide should help you get your engine started quickly and safely.

Things You Will Need

Before you get started, you'll need a few things:

- Jumper Cables. I prefer the thickest ones I can find, as they allow more current to pass through them. I also go for cables with strong clips on the end, since I'm not a huge fan of watching metal cables and clips fall into a moving auto engine.

- Basic Tools. Depending on your car (and assuming that you might need to remove the cables from the battery, which I'll explain later), you might need a couple of wrenches or screwdrivers. I keep a couple of adjustable wrenches, or "Crescent Wrenches" and a variety of Phillips and Flat Head Screwdrivers in my car at all times.

- Battery Terminal Cleaner. These are extremely handy, and I keep one in my tool box all the time. If you've never heard of them, they are small little gadgets that contain wire brushes for cleaning battery terminals and battery cable connectors. They're usually really cheap, and in my opinion are one of the best investments you'll ever make - at least as it relates to automotive tools.

- Eye Protection. You only have two eyes, and they won't grow back if something happens to them. It's a good idea to get into the habit of wearing eye protection any time you're working on cars. There's not point in jumping a dead battery if your next stop is the local emergency room.

Step 1

Open The Hoods of Both Cars.

If you're jump starting a dead battery, you'll need someone else to "Give You A Jump." So open up your hood and have them open theirs as well. Unless your battery is in the trunk (which does happen). Either way, establish some easy access.

It's also a good idea to park the cars so that the batteries are as close to each other as possible. Unless you've got 50-foot cables.

Step 2

Inspect The Battery Terminals

Is there a bunch of white, gross-looking corrosion all over the batter posts and/or cables? If so, you've probably found the culprit behind your dead battery. Nasty corrosion acts like a giant resister, and limits the amount of electricity that can flow in or out of the battery. So the starter won't get the juice it needs to turn the engine over, and the alternator won't get enough current back to the battery to keep it charged during starts.

Even if they look clean, it's a good idea to take the battery cables off and clean them, along with the battery posts. This is where that little tool I talked about earlier comes in handy, as it makes short work of this step. But if you don't have one, a wire brush works well. Make sure you knock off all the corrosion, and that you thoroughly clean the contact points between the cables and the posts.

Step 3

Make Sure The Jumper Car Is Running

Before hooking up any cables, make sure that the car that'll be supplying the juice is running. As a car runs, it keeps its own battery charged up, and adding the stress of charging another car is pretty rough on a battery. The last thing you want is two dead batteries.

Step 4

Connect The Jumper Cables To The Running Car

Check with your car's owner's manual in case they offer specific instructions here, but your best bet is to clamp the red (positive) cable to the positive terminal of the battery, and the black (negative) cable to a solid metal chunk of the car engine. Unless you have no other options, it's generally advised not to clamp the black end to the negative terminal of the battery, because in rare instances it can actually cause the battery to explode. Not fun.

Also, make sure that the other ends of the cables never touch each other once you've got this end hooked up to your car. If you've got another person helping you, have them hold the other end and keep the clamps spread far away from each other.

Step 5

Connect The Jumper Cables To The Dead Car

Follow the same general procedure as the previous step, taking care not to bump the two ends together accidentally.

When you hook up the fourth clamp, it's not uncommon to see a little spark. Don't let that frighten you. Instead, revel in the fact that electricity is now surging into your car's dead charging system.

Step 6

Turn Off All Accessories

Make sure your headlights, radio, heater, air conditioner, fan, DVD player, backseat toaster over and any other devices are off. These each soak up electricity, and you want every ounce of it available for starting your car.

And make sure these things are off in the other car as well.

Step 7

Rev The Donor Car

Most alternators won't produce current unless the engine is running faster than idle. So put your foot down on the accelerator just enough to bring the RPMs up to a 1,500 or so. That should be plenty. Then let it run for a while to build up a charge in the dead car.

Step 8

Start The Dead Car

It should come roaring to life if you've given it enough charging time. If it doesn't, wait a few more minutes and keep the donor car running faster than idle.

If it doesn't work even after several minutes and several tries, perhaps it's not your battery that's dead?

Step 9

Remove The Jumper Cables

Take the Jumper Cables off in the reverse order that you put them on. Again, be sure that the ends don't touch while the opposite ends are still connected to a battery.

Step 10

Thank The Other Guy

It sure was nice of that other person to stop and help you Jump Start your car, wasn't it? Be sure to thank them for their help.

If you are the one who stopped and helped someone else, be sure to wish them good luck.


Tips & Warnings

Before you work on any engine, take a few precautions to avoid losing an arm, leg, eye, life, car or even just your ego.

- Don't Let The Jumper Cable Clamps Touch. At least not when the other ends are connected to a battery. You'll not only get a sparkler show, but you could seriously damage the batter that the other end is hooked up to. And you could seriously damage yourself, too.

- Read Your Owner's Manual. It could have very important information regarding the procedure for jump starting it in case of a dead battery, and it could differ vastly from what I've just told you. If so, follow the instructions in the manual.

- Understand Your Warranty. While I've worked on cars almost my entire life, I've never worked with a car company's warranty. Manufacturers seem to find all sorts of reasons why they shouldn't honor your warranty, so make sure that jump starting your own care won't mess it up. I know it's highly unlikely, but it's best to cover all your bases and not get surprised down the road. After all, it's cheaper to hire a warranty-friendly mobile mechanic to come give you a jump start than it is to pay for an engine replacement that should have been under warranty but isn't.

- Never Reach In To A Running Engine. Seriously. Don't do it. It's hot and it's full of moving parts. Speaking of which...

- Dress Safe. Lose clothes or even lose long hair can get tangled up in the mechanical parts of a running engine. And if comes down to a tug of war, you're going to lose; and not just the game, but probably a limb. Or two. So be safe.

- Stand To The Side Of A Starting Car. When someone starts up their car, don't stand in front of it. Stand off to the side. If, for whatever reason, it lurches forward, you'd much rather be off to the side than in front. Trust me.



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