The Basics of Jump Starting Your Car


It is not at all difficult to jump start a car with a dead battery, but the first step is to ensure that the reason your car won’t start is due, in fact, to the battery. Check your headlights – if they are dim or non-existent, that’s a good indicator that the battery is running out of juice. If, however, the headlights are quite bright that means that your car won’t start for other reasons. It’s the same for the dashboard lights. If they are dim or flickering, that’s an indication that the battery is on its way out. Finally, when you attempted to turn your car on, if it was totally dead, or if the engine was turning with a really slow crank, then it probably is due to your battery. If the engine was turning over quickly, but not catching, then jumping the car probably won’t help the situation.

Jump starting a car with an automatic transmission requires an additional battery. Usually that battery is found in another fully functioning car, but anyone can find an emergency battery that is sold specifically for this purpose that can be kept in the car, and recharged every three months. Either way, the process will be the same.

Position your neighbor’s fully functioning car nose-to-nose with your own car with the dead battery and open the hoods on both cars. Sort out and untangle your jumper cables. Note that on each end there are metal clamps with rubberized handles, color coded.

First, connect the red clamp on your end to the exposed metal bolt on the dead battery of your car with the ‘+’ sign next to it. Turn around and connect the other red clamp to the exposed metal bolt on the good battery in your friend’s car, again with the ‘+’ sign next to it. While you’re under the hood of your friend’s car, connect the black clamp to the ‘-‘ signed terminal, or exposed metal bolt. Now turn back to your own car and clamp the remaining black clamp to a piece of exposed metal on the car – not something painted, and not the battery itself.

Next, have your friend start their car and idle it. Let him or her rev the engine for 60 seconds. This charges your dead battery slightly. Next, try starting the engine of your car. If it works, disconnect the cables in the reverse order and keep your car running.

If your car doesn’t start immediately, there is still something more you can do before you have to give in and call a tow truck. Shut off all cars and wiggle the connections of the jumper cables. Make sure rust isn’t in the way, and start your neighbor’s working car once more. Let the neighbor’s car charge your battery for a solid five minutes, revving the engine occasionally. After this, try once more to start your car.

If you manage to do so, disconnect the cables in the reverse order, being very careful not to touch the exposed metal of the cables. First take the black clamp of your car, then the neighbors. Then take the red clamp of the neighbor’s car, then yours.

It is very important to keep your car running for a bit after you managed to get it jumped – this recharges the battery to its fullest extent. Keep your car running while you rev the engine for five minutes, and then another 15 or 20 minutes at least idling.

Jump starting a manual transmission is another kettle of fish entirely, and easier, if you have a friend to push you, or your car is aimed down a hill. It’s as easy as one, two, three. One: depress the clutch. Two: put the car in second gear. Three: when you get the car going up to six or seven miles per hour, release the clutch. The car will start, and you’ll be on your way. Don’t forget to run the car for 20 minutes to recharge the battery.

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