How to Jumpstart Your Car

“Stranded at the Drive-in” may be a classic song, but it’s definitely a less-than-ideal situation to actually find yourself in.

A dead car battery in any situation is a massive inconvenience.

Luckily, jumpstarting your vehicle is easy as long as you have the right equipment and are careful while doing it.

What You’ll Need to Jumpstart Your Car

In order to jump your car you’ll need a pair of jumper cables. It’s a good idea to keep these in your vehicle at all times. In most cases they can fit under a seat or in the same place you have your spare tire. You’ll want to make sure your cables are thick and insulated. The metal clamps on either side should be kept clean.

You’ll also need another car with a battery that can lend some charge to yours. Call a buddy or ask a stranger (if you feel safe doing so) to give you a jump.

Safety Note

Some quick safety tips before we get started:

  • It’s vital to keep the clamps on the cables from coming in contact with each other or anything metal under the hood besides the battery terminals. If the clamps touch on accident it could short-circuit the electrical system of the car giving the jump.
  • Make sure that the batteries are the same size and voltage before getting started. Serious damage can happen if one battery is different than the other.
  • Check for battery discharge or leaks. If there are leaks, do not jump the car. This could lead to a fire.
  • If you smoke, put any cigarettes out before jumping your car. The smallest spark can light highly flammable liquid on fire and cause an explosion.

Jumping Your Car

If you’ve done all of the safety checks and things look good, proceed with these steps:

  1. To get started, park both vehicles so that the batteries are as close as possible. This will make it easier to connect the cables between cars. Note: Make sure that both cars are off and that the keys are not in the ignition. Once the cars are close, put them in park and open the hoods.
  2. Identify where the batteries terminals are in both cars. Usually, battery terminals will have identifying (+) and (-) signs to correspond with the charges those terminals are used for. The red cables correspond with the positive terminal. The black ones correspond with the negative terminal.
  3. Once you’ve identified the terminals, separate your cables. As we stated earlier, be sure to keep the clamps from touching. The easier way to ensure there’s no contact is to stretch the cables out and put them on the ground.
  4. Take one clamp on red cable and attach it to the positive terminal of the dead battery. Especially if you don’t have any help, make sure to leave the rest of the cable on the ground while you attach the clamp.
  5. Clamp the other side of the red cable to the positive terminal of the booster battery.
  6. Next, take one end of the black cable and clamp it securely to the negative terminal in the booster battery.
  7. Take the other end of the black cable. Do not clamp it to the negative terminal in the dead battery. This is a last-resort option. Clamping the black cable to the negative terminal can increase risk of sparking and fire. Instead, look for an unpainted surface in the car. A clean bolt or bracket more than 3 inches from the dead battery will work just fine. Don’t overthink it. If there is an unpainted metal piece of the car body nearby, go ahead and use that. Clamp your end of the black cable securely to this surface. This will help ground your current and mitigate risk of sparking.
  8. Double check that all clamps are secure and aren’t near any moving parts. Then, start the booster car up. Let it idle for long enough to build up a good charge (this usually takes a few minutes). After a few minutes, start the car with the dead battery.
  9. If the car starts, let it idle for a few minutes. Then, carefully start removing the clamps the opposite way you first attached them. Start by removing the black clamp attached to the unpainted metal and work backwards. The last clamp you remove should be the red clamp on the booster battery. As always, make sure that these cables don’t touch each other or any other metal during this process.
  10. Once the jump-started car is disconnected it’s critical you don’t turn it off. Drive around for at least 20-30 minutes. This give the alternator time to recharge the battery. If you cut engine too soon there may not be sufficient juice for the battery to restart the engine later on.

If you cut the engine later and your car doesn’t start again it may be time to look for other causes. If you’re having unidentified engine or battery trouble come visit us at Superior Auto Service in Seattle. We’ll help diagnose you problem and get you back on the road. Check out our services page for more information.