How to Jump Start a Car

Tips for Jump Starting a Car

You know that feeling. You are in a hurry and you have to be somewhere soon so you get in your car, turn your key and…nothing. It won’t start. That is when that feeling of doom settles into the pit of your stomach. This has probably happened to everyone at some point. Having a car that, previously thought to be reliable, will not start is a big inconvenience and can wreck a tight schedule. You shouldn’t panic or curse the car gods, though. A car that will not start is not the end of the world. That is why they invented jumper cables. All you need is a willing volunteer with their own (reliable) car. But what if you have never jump started a car before? What if you don’t own a pair of jumper cables? If you have never been put through the inconvenience, here is how to jump start a car.

What You Will Need

To jump start a car, you are going to need some vital pieces of equipment. Number one, of course, is a pair of jumper cables. Everyone should carry a pair in their trunk or (even better) in a roadside maintenance kit. You should also carry a flashlight with decent batteries. You don’t plan on when your car won’t start and it may be dark. Other useful items are a wire brush and a pair of gloves. Lastly, you are going to need another vehicle with a fully charged battery to hook up to.

Before You Jump Start

Don’t hook those cables up just yet. You should check your car to make sure the battery is the problem. If you tried to start it and the engine sounded like it was slowly trying to start or if there is a clicking sound, the problem is the battery. If it is cold outside, your battery may be frozen. Batteries contain an electrolyte solution that contains sulfuric acid which can freeze in winter. If the battery has removable caps on top, pop one open and see if the liquid inside is frozen. If the solution in the battery is frozen, do not try to jump start it. The battery could explode.

You should visually inspect the battery. If there is a lot of powdery build-up around the battery posts, you will need to use the wire brush to clean that off. This build-up is an indication that your battery may not be working properly and the stuff is very acidic. Wear your gloves. You may need to remove the battery cable from the post using a socket wrench in order to clean it properly.

If you see a crack in the outside battery casing and stuff leaking from it, it is time to get a new battery. Don’t even try to jump start it or it could explode and spray acid everywhere.

How To Jump Start A Car

Once you have cleaned the battery and inspected it, it is time to try to jump start it. Here is how you go about it.

Step 1: Park the vehicle that will be boosting your dead car as close as you can get it and with the batteries on the same side. Otherwise, you will need a really long pair of jumper cables. But make sure that the vehicles are touching because you’ll need some room to get between them. The jumper cables that you use should be of a heavy gauge such as 8 or 10 gauge. The term gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. The heavier the wire, the more of a charge it will carry. Turn off the engine of the boosting vehicle and make sure the key is in the off position on the dead car. If one of the vehicles is a manual transmission, make sure it is in the neutral position so that it doesn’t leap forward, hit something, and die again. Also, make sure that all of your car accessories that use electricity are turned off. If you left your lights on and that is the cause of your dead battery, turn the light switch off.

Step 2: As you are hooking up the jumper cables, make sure they don’t dangle down where they can get caught in part of the motor such as the fan belt or pulleys. To connect the jumper cable to the battery, take the red, or positive end of the cable and clamp it to the positive battery terminal of the dead car. The positive terminal is identified by a ‘plus’ sign. Make sure the clamp is good and secure. You always want to hook up to the dead battery first because as the cable ends dangle around, they could hit together and spark. If the battery is dead, it won’t cause a spark.

Step 3: Next, connect the other positive end of the cable to the positive battery terminal of the vehicle that will do the boosting. Again, make sure the clamp is tight and secure, otherwise it won’t make a good connection.

Step 4: After the positive ends are connected to the right terminals, you will want to connect the negative, or black, ends to the battery. Take the black negative clamp on the jumper cable and clamp it to the negative terminal post on the dead battery. This is identified by a ‘minus’ sign. Some people will take the negative clamp and instead attach it to a piece of solid metal such as a bolt or bracket on their car. This also provides a solid ground for boosting. Then attach the other black clamp to the negative post on the boosting car.

Step 5: Make sure that all cable clamps are secure and then start the boosting car. Depending on how old your battery is will indicate how quickly the dead battery will start. If the battery is fairly new, it should start up immediately. If the battery is old, it may take several minutes of the boosting car running before the dead battery builds up a sufficient charge. If the battery does not start immediately, just let the engine idle for several minutes.

Step 6: If the dead vehicle does not start after around five minutes, then there may be another problem. Don’t keep trying to start it or you will wear out your starter and that is another problem. If the car will not start after five minutes, it may be time to call a mechanic or have it towed.

Step 7: Assuming that the problem was just a dead battery and the car does start, then you can disconnect the jumper cables. Remove them in the reverse order that you put them on. Start with the negative and remove the positive clamps last. Be careful not to let the cables get caught in the engine or let the dangling ends connect together.

Step 8: Do NOT turn your engine off just to see if it will start again. That is a good way to get stranded all over again. While your car is running, you should drive it to a safe place such as your home or an auto shop. It may not start again so you don’t want to kill the engine before you get it to a secure location. You can have a mechanic check out the battery and see if it needs to be recharged or if you have a battery charger at home, hook the battery up and let it charge overnight. About 8 to 12 hours should be sufficient time to charge a battery.

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