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Your car’s battery is the life of the car – without it, your car will not function. This is the reason why we need to take care of our car’s battery and even how we use our car. Our driving habits may hurt our car’s battery.
At some point in our lives, we need to learn how to jump start a car. Even if we properly maintain our car, you’ve not ever know when you may need to jump start your car or lend a helping hand.
Not only that but it would also be a good idea to purchase jump starter products such as a jump starter cable and a portable jump starter. Who knows when you may need to jump start your car or lend a helping hand? You’ll be thankful that you have the knowledge on how to jump start a vehicle.
However, keep in mind that if one vehicle has an electronic ignition system and the other is an alternatively fueled vehicle, jump starting the car won’t be a good idea as it will cause damage to either car. It would also be a good idea to check both cars’ battery voltage to make sure that they are compatible.
I have had the chance to plan a demonstration on how to safely jump start a car. This idea came to mind when three of my customers came in with the same question : how to jump start a car?
I thought of scheduling a time and invited people to watch the demonstration.
It was fun to see that most of the participants were ladies – they shared that they shouldn’t wait for a man to help them with it.
Based on the demonstration I have also prepared some guidelines on how to safely jump start a car. Read on to learn more on our guide to how to jump a car.
Preparing to Jump Start A Car
Before jump starting any vehicle, it is important to adhere to safety measures to prevent injury and damages. Make sure that you follow these safety guidelines before jump starting a vehicle:
- First, turn off all electrical components that may be draining your car’s battery. Remember, when jump starting, you are charging your car battery and turning off the lights, radio, and air conditioner helps charge your car’s battery faster.
- Next, park the other car close to the car with a dead battery. You can park them facing each other or side by side, just enough distance for the length of the jump starter cables. Make sure that the two cars do not touch and there is ample space for you to move around and to keep a safe distance.
- Place both cars in Neutral or Park mode and turn off the ignition switches. Make sure that the parking brakes are engaged, too.
- Use jumper cables that are of the right thickness. The lower the gauge, the thicker the cables. The recommended gauge sizes for jumper cables are 8 and 6.
- Wear protective gear such as safety goggles and face masks. This helps keep you safe from sparks, toxic fumes, and dust.
- Remove scarves and ties because they might catch fire or get caught in the car’s mechanisms. Take off your jewelry as well because gold is a conductor and might cause physical damage.
- Make sure there is nothing flammable nearby in case sparks will fly off from the battery. Extinguish all open flames, too.
- NEVER smoke while jump starting a car!
- If the battery terminals are corrosive or dirty, get a wire brush to clean them off before jump starting.
- During winter, make sure that the battery has completely thawed before jump starting. Electricity causes heat, and heat cause matter to expand. Jump starting a frozen battery may cause it to burst.
- Inspect both batteries and make sure both are in good condition. There should be no cracks, bulges, or leaks.
Now that you have learned about the safety precautions before jump starting a car, we can now move forward to the actual steps on how to jump start a vehicle.
Jump Starting a Car Using Jumper Cables
A friend of mine got into this situation where she was asked to lend her car to jump start another car. She was hesitant because she did not know anything about cars. Luckily, the other person knew a lot about cars, so she watched how the process was done. She shared that it was quite a learning experience for her.
Given the situation above, I think that every person should know how to jump start a car using jumper cables. Here are some tips on how to perform a jump start using jumper cables:
Let’s Move on to the Steps…
After you have prepared the vehicles and the jumper cables, get ready to attach the cables to the battery terminals. It is also a good idea to inspect the jumper cables for signs of wear and tear and if they are burnt.
Now here comes the crucial part. The ORDER on how you attach the cables ensures your safety and to avoid damage to your car’s electrical system.
Make sure that you are not directly on top of the car’s battery while connecting the cables.
Take one of the red clamps on the jumper cable and attach them to the positive terminal of the dead car’s battery.
The positive terminal is usually indicated with a “POS,” or “+” on it, or it looks bigger than the negative terminal. The other red clip should be connected to the positive terminal of the car with a good battery. Remember, ORDER is critical! Use this guide to help you remember: Red + positive + dead to Red + positive + charged.
Next step is to connect one black clamp to the negative terminal on the other car with a CHARGED battery. The other end of the black clamp should be attached to an unpainted metal surface on your vehicle with the DEAD battery.
Word of caution: Do not attach it anywhere near the car’s battery. You will notice that we started attaching the black clamp from the charged battery.
As a guide, remember that: Black + negative + charged battery to Black + metal ground.
Once you have connected the black clamp to the charged battery, the cables are already live so be careful that the metal clip on the other end does not come in contact with you or any part of the car other than where it should be connected.
Another tip to help you remember is that the red clamps are for negatives and should start with the DEAD battery. The black clamps are for positives and are for the CHARGED battery. You can draw a diagram and place it in your glove compartment for future use.
After connecting the cables, turn on the ignition of the car with the good battery. This is where the charging process begins. Allow it to charge for about two minutes. You may need to charge up to five minutes during colder weather.
To check if your car’s battery has been charged, turn on one of the lights inside your car. If it normally lights up, then the battery is charged. Otherwise, you may need to wait a few more minutes.
The safer way to jumpstart a car using jumper cables is to turn off the engine of the car with the good battery first and disconnect all the cables before attempting to start the car with the bad battery. You may also opt to attempt to start while the other car’s engine is still running and with the cables still connected if you are confident to do so and an expert.
After the battery has been fully charged, attempt to start the engine. Usually, the car starts as soon as you connect the cables. In other instances, you may need to attempt two or three times and give it a few more minutes so that it charges properly.
Once the car has started after jumpstarting, disconnect the cables starting from the LAST connection and be careful that none of the ends come in contact with anything. Remember: ORDER is crucial to safety.
Since we started connecting the red clamps first, this time we will disconnect the black clamps. Start from the black clamp that is attached to the metal part then remove the other end from the negative terminal on the other car.
Next, remove the red clamp from the charged car then detach the other end from the jump started car.
Let you car idle for five minutes or drive at a slow speed for fifteen minutes so that your alternator can fully charge the car’s battery.
As soon as you can, drop by a mechanic and have your vehicle checked for other problems that may have caused your battery to drain.
When you turn off your engine and your car doesn’t start again, it’s time to replace the car batteries.
There you have it; you already know the steps on how to use jumper cables to jump start a car. Looks easy, right? But then again, do not attempt to do this on your own if it will be your first time.
Now, let’s move on to the next method which is jump starting a car without the use of jumper cables.
How to Jump Start a Car Without Jumper Cables
One time I had to jump start my car because it wouldn’t start. Good thing there is always another car owner to help me out.
But, this raises another question -- what if my car doesn’t start and I am in a deserted place? What I’ve learned is that you can still launch your car even without another car. Let me show you how it’s done.
As a safety precaution, make sure that there is no oncoming traffic in the direction towards where you will push the car. Make sure that the road is clear and avoid obstacles such as trees, posts, sidewalks, and people. It would be best if you could ask another person to direct traffic or warn vehicles.
First, gather some people who can help you push the vehicle. The more, the easier the task will be.
Now, get in your car. Step on the clutch and do not release until Step 4. Shift to second gear and turn on the ignition.
Ask the group to push the car. The car will start to stutter as it moves.
When the car is finally running, release the clutch, and the engine will now start. Let it run idle for a few minutes to have it recharged. When the clutch is released, the engine and gearbox are connected, and the wheels will turn the gears. This starts the engine’s combustion cycle and causes your car to move.
Drive your car slowly for about five minutes to let it charge properly. Don’t forget to thank the people who helped you!
As soon as possible, bring your car to a mechanic to have your car checked for underlying problems.
Easy, right? Although this method will not work if you have an automatic transmission vehicle -- you should use a jumper cable.
Also, if there are no people nearby, then this won’t work for you. That’s why it is always better to be prepared and have your stock of jump starter products stored in your car. Of course, don’t forget to learn how to jump start a car properly.
Now that we have learned about the steps on how to jumpstart a car – with and without jumper cables – let’s look at the signs of a dying or dead battery.
How to Jump Start your Car Using Portable Jump Starters
In addition to the two ways mentioned above, I have another way which is the simplest and most effective which you can do yourself even without another car around. The downside is you need a bit more money, but you can jump start your own car where ever.
What I’m referring to is a portable jump starter or a 12V jump starter that you can plug into the cigarette lighter socket in the car. Both are good for me, and I bought a portable jump starter because it has a lot of benefits.
Here are the Steps
Make sure that the portable jump starter is turned off.
Connect the red clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal of your car’s battery. Make sure that it is securely in place so that it will not move when the car starts.
Connect the black clamp to a metal part of the car’s chassis. Make sure that this end is far from the battery and is solidly attached, so it will not loosen up when the car starts. Another good practice is not to let the cables cross each other or touch any part of the car.
Turn on the portable jump starter and allow it to charge your battery for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn on the ignition and attempt to start the car. Do not attempt to start the car for more than 5 seconds as it might cause a power surge to the jump starter and damage it. Give it another 2 to 3 minutes to recharge your battery before attempting to start your car again.
Once your engine starts, switch off the jump starter.
Remove the clamps starting from the last connection you made. Therefore, remove the black clamp from the “ground” first then remove the red clamp from the positive terminal. Again, be careful that the clamps do not touch each other or any part of the car to avoid short circuits.
Let your car run idle for about 5 minutes or drive slowly for 15 minutes to allow the alternator to charge up the battery.
Bring your car to a mechanic to have it checked for underlying problems or have your battery replaced.
Don’t forget to charge your portable jump starter as soon as you use it to keep it fully charged.
Most portable jump starters have a safety chip that stops circuits or warns the user when the connections are incorrect. However, it is still best to exercise precaution and connect the cables properly and to avoid damage to the portable jump starter.
Video of this Guide
How to Check if Your Battery is Dead or Dying
Have you ever wondered how long a car’s battery lasts?
Well, it only lasts 3 to 4 years.
Based on experience, I accidentally forgot that my car’s battery was nearing the end of its lifetime. When I checked the battery, it was already 3 years old! Time to get a replacement then.
I would highly suggest you don’t wait for your battery to expire though.
So, how can we tell if our battery is already towards the end of its life?
If you’re not sure of what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to bring your car to a mechanic or ask an expert to do so. Being a responsible car owner means that you also know how to prevent problems.
Here are some warning signs that you need to look for:
1.The Engine Cranks but the Car Doesn’t Start
In some cases, it could be the starter, a loose wire, a burnt up fuse, or something else. But, most of the time you can attribute it to a dead battery.
You can still recharge your car’s battery using jumper cables, but chances are you need to have it replaced as soon as possible.
Continuously running on a dead battery could damage the alternator.
2. No Crank, No Lights
Apart from the engine not starting when you crank it, you will notice that no lights turn on, not even the internal lights.
Listen carefully and you'll hear a clicking sound on the engine when you turn on the ignition.
Using a jump starter cable may do the trick, but if the battery is dead, it won’t hold a charge.
3. Intermittent Engine Start
When you have problems starting your car every time you turn it off, there could be some problems.
It could be a loose or broken terminal.
It could also be due to parasitic drain wherein one of the electronic components should be turned off before stopping the engine.
If you have ruled out the problems above and you still have problems starting the car even after jump starting, then the culprit is the car battery.
4. Difficulty in Cold Cranking
A battery has a number label that shows the “Cold Cramping Amps.” This indicates the energy that your car needs to start the car.
In cold weather, it is normal for cold cranking to be difficult.
However, if this happens in normal weather, then the battery may be nearing its dying stages or has gone bad.
If cold cranking is difficult almost every day that you start your car, no amount of jump starting can bring back your battery to life.
Also, if your battery is too small for your car, you need to purchase a larger one the next time. It may not be providing enough energy for your car which is another reason for its short lifespan.
5. Frequent Jump Starting
If you jump start your car at least three times every week and you have difficulty starting your engine, that’s a sure sign that your battery needs replacement. Also, regularly jump starting a battery also shortens its lifespan. It’s like “shocking” your battery and forcing it to hold power when it has technically reached its peak performance.
Looking out for warning signs will help you isolate the issues with your car’s battery. Since you already know the steps on how to jump start the car, it should be easier for you to diagnose as well. Now, let’s move forward to frequently asked question about jump starting a car.
Mistakes to Avoid When Jump Starting a Car
No matter how expert you are, we should still need to exercise precaution when jump starting a car. The tips above will serve as a guide for every car owner.
What about things we need to avoid?
Here are some mistakes that you should avoid when attempting to jump start a car:
- Don’t stay too close to the car’s battery. Avoid leaning over it as soon as you connect one of the jumper cables. Keep a safe distance.
- Never smoke while jump starting a car or when someone nearby is jump starting. Sparks may fly out and may cause injury and damage.
- Don’t jump start a frozen battery. Frozen fluids may get “shocked” and cause the battery to explode.
- Don’t attempt to jump start or use a cracked or broken battery. Again, this could explode when energy surges through it.
- Do not park the cars too close that they come in contact with each other to prevent electrical surges or short circuit.
- Don’t wait for your battery to reach the end of its life before replacing it. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery and no help.
- Don’t leave accessories plugged in when you exit the car. This causes parasitic drain and can also cause power surges that damage the device.
- Avoid getting the electrical parts and battery terminals wet. Always wipe off moisture on the engines.
- Don’t hesitate to bring your car to a mechanic for signs of any car trouble.
- Don’t force your car to start after jump starting. It could be another problem and forcing it to start will just add damage.
- As an afterthought, never attempt to jump start a car when you are under the influence of alcohol or heavy medication. These substances may affect your senses and slow down your reflexes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most people who have or don’t have experience jump starting a car using jumper cables may have a lot of unanswered questions about the process. We researched and interviewed some people and asked them to share with us their questions.
In the following sections, we compiled a list of the frequently asked questions about jump starting a car using jumper cables.
Why do we need to follow the correct order in connecting and removing the jumper cables for the car? Isn’t it enough that we correctly connected them?
When jump starting a car, we are creating a circuit to transfer energy from the good battery to the dead battery.
If we do not follow the correct order, either there will be a surge in energy that causes sparks or the battery will not charge properly and gets damaged. Also, removing the last connection ensures that the circuit is “broken” and avoids further charging.
Can electric vehicles such as the Tesla S be used to jump start a car?
A Tesla is an example of an ICE car. ICE means Internal Combustion Engine wherein combustion of fuel occurs inside a combustion chamber using an oxidizer (such as air). As mentioned earlier, an electronic ignition system is different from an alternatively fueled engine.
Therefore, a Tesla S has a different battery than a Honda Civic. Electric vehicles such as a Tesla S have a high powered and low powered voltage system. If the other electric vehicle is not compatible, the DC/DC could be damaged.
Therefore, a Tesla S can be jump started with another Tesla S or a very similar electric vehicle. However, practice extra precaution when attempting to perform the latter or consult with an expert.
Can electric vehicles jump start another car?
As mentioned in the previous answer, electric vehicles can only be used to jump start another electric vehicle of very similar voltage. The high powered voltage of an electric vehicle charges the low powered 12v battery so that a higher voltage will damage the battery.
Again, if you aren’t sure, ask an expert to check and perform the jump start for you.
If a car’s battery is dead, can it be completely recharged after jump starting and driving around?
Technically, yes, but it also depends on some circumstances. Even if a car battery is “completely dead” a voltmeter will tell you that it still has 9 volts left. It also depends on the battery’s condition. If it has been jump started many times, it will eventually cause the battery to fail.
The battery is completely charged. However, this will cause additional stress to your alternator. The alternator helps power the car’s battery but is not meant to be a battery charger. So, driving around will recharge the battery but will cause damage to it and the alternator.
In addition to that, if your battery has reached its lifespan, it will not hold a charge even after driving it around. It would be best just to replace the battery if it’s gone bad to avoid further damage and expenses.
I have seen some people jump start their car even when it’s raining – is this safe? I am just fearful that they might get electrocuted.
Yes, this is safe. A car has a low voltage electrical system and is not enough to electrocute a person.
However, you still need to exercise precaution because water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Just make sure that the cables and any electronic components won’t get in contact with the water to avoid a short circuit.
How long does it take to jumpstart a car? If it takes too long, maybe I should just call roadside assistance.
Jump starting a car usually takes one to two minutes. For colder weather, especially during winter, it may take up to five minutes. On top of that, you need to drive your car around for about fifteen to twenty minutes before stopping so that your battery recharges completely.
Moreover, since you mentioned roadside assistance, if you signed up with them, you can also call them if you need help in jump starting your car.
If a car’s battery only has 12 volts, why do we need to use jumper cables instead of regular electrical wires?
Jump starter cables are thicker than most electrical wires. The wires should be thick enough to handle the surge of energy. Otherwise, the wires will either overheat or burn. This is one reason why portable jump starters are not really recommended in jump starting a dead battery.
The jumper cables that come with portable jump starters are thinner than the regular jumper cables. The energy that is needed to jump start a car can reach up to 500 amps, and thick jumper cables should be able to handle this.
The recommended jumper cable gauge sizes are 8 and 6 for cars. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the jumper cable. If you are jump starting a larger vehicle or a truck, better to use the gauge 4.
I have already jump started my car, but it still doesn’t start. What do I do? What could be wrong?
There are a couple of possible reasons why your car still won’t start even after jump starting. The first reason is there could be a problem with the starter. As the name suggests, a starter helps start the car or ignite the engine. If your engine makes a clicking sound and the lights turn on, the starter could be the problem.
Other possible reasons are frigid weather, battery already needs replacement, blown out fuse, ignition switch problem, loose wires, or electrical problems. The jump start may have just recharged the battery, but if there is no problem with the battery, your car still won’t start.
One way to check is to turn on an internal light or the headlights. If they turn on, the battery is good.
I recently jump started my car when it wouldn’t start in the parking lot. How soon should I get it replaced?
Going back to the warning signs, it depends on some factors.
If your battery needs to be jump started many times in a week, or it has been 3 years since you last had the battery, then you definitely need to replace it as soon as possible.
However, if your car’s battery was drained because you accidentally left the lights on, then it is just a parasitic drain and does not need to be replaced. If your battery is still in warranty and is showing signs of being bad, have it replaced by the manufacturer right away. You never know when it could really be a manufacturer’s error.
What happens if you accidentally attach the wrong cables to the wrong terminals?
This is very dangerous so do not even attempt to experiment. Incorrectly connecting the cables, even an incorrect order, may cause sparks and burn the battery and other components in your car. It will also cause physical injury. It can damage your car’s electrical system, too. It could also cause a small fire in your car.
There is a negative terminal on the battery. Why can’t we attach the last connection to it?
The metal part that we attach the last clamp to serves as a “ground” that completes the circuit. This also helps prevent overcharging the battery. When a battery is overcharged, the sulfuric acid inside the battery boils. We cannot see the signs right away.
The lights do not become brighter nor does the radio become louder when a battery is overcharged. You will notice the signs on the battery itself when it shows signs of leaks or cracks. The problem is that when the connection causes a spark and ignites the vapors coming out of the battery – this may cause the battery to blow up.
We hope that we were able to answer all your questions above. As a reminder, incorrectly connecting the cables and not following the order is extremely hazardous to you and your vehicle. Always practice extra precaution or consult an expert before attempting to jump start a vehicle.
Those are my experiences that I’ve learned over the years and I hope that you learned the same from me. After this, you can confidently handle situations when your beloved car suddenly fails to start one day.
Please share this article with others as they may never have encountered this. But you know what? Anything can happen, and then they can totally smile, right?