How to Properly Jump Start a Car

April 12th, 2019 by

A set of jumper cables connecting two vehicles and charging a dead battery.

Even if you’ve never had a problem with your vehicle, knowing how to jump start a car can save you time and money if the need ever arises! Relying on a jump start car service can be costly, and if you already have a pair of jumper cables on your person, the process itself only takes a few minutes. Below, we’ve broken down everything you’ll need to know!

Step-By-Step: How to Jump Start a Car

If you want to jump start your car, you’ll usually need to recruit another driver to help you, and you’ll also need to have a set of jumper cables on hand. Once you’ve found someone who’s willing to lend a hand, have them drive their car to face your vehicle’s hood. Make sure that your vehicles are not touching one another. Then, have the other driver turn off their vehicle.

With both vehicles in position, remove both sets of keys from their respective ignitions. Once you’ve retrieved your jumper cables, you’re ready to get started:

  1. Take the red (positive) cable in one hand and the black (negative) cable in the other. Throughout the process, take care to make sure they don’t touch!
  2. Take the red cable and attach it to the red (positive) side of the dead battery. Make sure that you have a tight connection on the post. It’s dangerous to connect the live battery first, so you’ll definitely want to start on the car that isn’t working properly.
  3. For now, set the black cable down on a piece of plastic to ground it. Make sure it’s not sitting on bare metal or at risk of falling.
  4. Take up the other end of the jumper cable, making sure these red and black ends don’t touch. Going over to the live battery, you’ll want to attach the red (positive) lead to the red terminal first. Then, attach the black (negative) lead to the black terminal on the live battery.
  5. Now, go back over to the vehicle with the dead battery. Pick up the black (negative) lead, but don’t connect it to the dead battery. This could cause a spark, which could lead to an explosion.
  6. Now you’ll need to find a bare metal ground for the black cable-end. Some vehicles may have a designated jump spot, so you might want to start by checking your owner’s manual. If you can’t find a designated point, just look for a piece of bare metal that’s far away from your battery, your electrical components, and your belts. We recommend the strut tower, as it’s out of the way and possesses many bare metal bolts which provide a solid, secure ground.
  7. Now that you’ve found a good bare metal grounding point, secure the remaining black (negative) cable.
  8. With all four cables connected, start the vehicle which possesses the live battery. Let it run for at least two minutes to charge the alternator.
  9. Try to start the car with the dead battery. If everything’s gone according to plan, it should fire right up.

How to Remove the Leads

You’re not quite out of the woods yet though! You still need to remove the leads carefully and safely:

  1. Remove the black (negative) cable from your chosen grounding spot. Make sure to do this first, as you could cause a spark if you start with the red end.
  2. Keeping the black cable at a safe distance, remove the red lead from the formerly-dead battery. Now you can set both down on the ground, but make sure that they never touch!
  3. Now you’re ready for the good battery. With this one, you’ll want to remove the red cable first, then the black. Once everything is disconnected, you won’t have to worry about the cable-ends touching. You can wrap them back up and return them to your trunk.

What to Do If Your Car Won’t Jump Start

If your car doesn’t start after you’ve let it charge for two minutes, there are a couple of things you can do to troubleshoot:

  • Let the car sit for five more minutes to give the powered car more time to charge your battery. Then try to start your engine once more.
  • If you think you’re close, you can avoid this wait by asking the other driver to rev their engine to about 2,000 RPM while you try to start your car again. It should go without saying, but make sure both vehicles are in park!
  • If you’re still having trouble, your battery may simply be dead. However, before you call a tow truck, you should double check your connections to make sure that everything’s hooked up properly. Choosing a better grounding location can often be a big help!

If you can’t tell whether or not your battery is completely dead, follow our guide to testing a battery with a multimeter. You might also want to test your alternator. Most batteries last an average of four years.

How to Start Your Car Using a Portable Jumper

In most cases, using a portable jump starter is quicker and easier than asking another driver for assistance. To jump a car battery using one of these specialized tools, just take the following steps:

  1. Take out your portable jumper, and bring it around to the hood. Make sure the device is set to the off position.
  2. Connect the positive lead to the red terminal, and connect the negative lead directly to the black terminal on the battery. There’s no risk of a spark since the starter is in the off position and therefore not sending out any charge. You don’t need to find a grounding point.
  3. Make sure the jump starter is in a safe, stable position. Then, get behind the wheel and turn the key. Your car should start up right away.
  4. Turn the starter back to the off position, and then remove both cables! Once again, there’s no risk of a spark as long as the system is turned off.

Rely on CarHop for Service Tips and Advice

The experts at your local CarHop know a great deal about maintaining and servicing vehicles, and we’re always happy to help when you have problems. Build up your knowledge by finding out how to put a stop to squeaky brakes, how to change automatic transmission fluid, or how to clean up old headlights with toothpaste! If you decide that it’s time to trade up for a new-to-you vehicle, we can help with that too!

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