You’re walking out to your car after a long shopping trip or day at the office when you suddenly realize you left your lights on. After scrambling to test the ignition with no response, you feel your stomach drop. You realize that you’re stranded, and it’s quickly growing dark. Hopefully you have jumper cables in your trunk, where you stashed them away for an emergency such as this, and maybe you’ve even found a Good Samaritan who has volunteered their car’s battery to help.
You’ve done all the right preparation, but do you know the steps to safely get your car started again? If not, there’s no reason to worry.
Find the Source of the Problem
In all likelihood, your battery has died, preventing your engine from starting. But before you dig out and untangle those dusty jumper cables, you can do a test to see if the problem is simply a dead battery or if you have a more serious issue on your hands. To check the state of your battery, turn the key and listen. Do you hear the engine attempting to turn over? If so, your battery isn’t the problem. Instead of whipping out your jumper cables, contact a professional mechanic to take a look at your car.
However, if you don’t hear anything when you turn the key, celebrate your situation’s silver lining! Your battery has died, but fortunately, it’s likely that you only need a jump start to get back on the road again.
Jump Start Your Car
Now that you’ve confirmed your car battery is dead, and you’ve wrangled the help of another car or an emergency jump-starter battery, follow these steps to get your vehicle up and running again:
- Ensure both cars are turned off. This means your keys should set to the OFF position. Be sure to check your car, too.
- Connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal on your stalled car. The red cable is for a positive charge, so it’s very important to connect it correctly and always keep it connected to positive terminals. The positive terminal will be marked, so look for a + or POS.
- If you’re using the help of a second car to start yours, connect the other end of the red positive cable to the positive terminal on the other car’s good battery. If you’re using a jump-starter battery, be sure that the red cable is connected properly to the device.
- Connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the good battery. If using a jump-starter, simply check that it’s connected correctly.
- Connect the other end of the black cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under your dead car’s hood. The frame is a good choice, if it’s clean. The strut supporting your hood is another viable option. This will serve as your ground, and is critical in preventing a dangerous electric shock. If you connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the bad battery, you can cause an explosion.
- Start the good car, and allow it to run for 2 to 3 minutes before attempting to start the dead car. This will allow a charge to build in the dead battery.
- Start the dead car. If it doesn’t start up immediately, don’t continue trying the key. Instead, turn it back off, and let it charge for another few minutes. If it still won’t start after 2 or 3 tries, your car may be experiencing a more serious underlying issue, such as a battery that can’t hold a charge. If you continue to try to start your car, you will damage your ignition.
- Once your car is running, you’ll need to disconnect it. To do so, carefully remove the clamps in reverse order. Keep in mind that you’re dealing with live cables now, so it is very important to only touch the rubber covers on the clamp handles and to never touch the cables together or touch them to another metal surface.
- REMOVE THE BLACK GROUND CABLE FROM YOUR NEWLY STARTED CAR.
- REMOVE THE BLACK CABLE FROM THE NEGATIVE TERMINAL ON THE HELPER CAR’S BATTERY.
- REMOVE THE RED CABLE FROM THE HELPER CAR’S POSITIVE TERMINAL.
- FINALLY, REMOVE THE RED CABLE FROM THE POSITIVE TERMINAL ON YOUR CAR. ONCE REMOVED, THE CABLES SHOULD BE SAFE TO HANDLE.
- Get back on the road! Now that you’ve gotten your vehicle started again, say thank you to the person driving the other car, and get on your way. Keep in mind, you should let your car idle or drive for at least 15 minutes before shutting it off, otherwise you may need to jump it again. Allowing it to run for a while will give your battery time to charge so your car can start again on its own.
Get Back on the Road
Now that you know how to jump start your car, it’s time to get out there and plan your next trip, whether it’s across town or across the country. Before you go, don’t forget to get your battery checked and your car inspected by our expert technicians. We’re invested in making your car care experience easier and more honest than ever before. Let’s discuss your car’s needs today, so you can drive with confidence.