How to Jump Start a Car

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Home & Garden Car Repair How to Jump Start a Car By Deanna Sclar If your battery has died, you may be able to use jumper cables to jump start it from some good Samaritan’s vehicle. If you can safely use jumper cables on your vehicle, make sure that the […]

By Deanna Sclar

If your battery has died, you may be able to use jumper cables to jump start it from some good Samaritan’s vehicle. If you can safely use jumper cables on your vehicle, make sure that the battery on the good Samaritan’s vehicle has at least as much voltage as your own. As long as you hook up the cables properly, it doesn’t matter whether your vehicle has negative ground and the GS’s vehicle has positive ground, or your vehicle has an alternator and the GS’s vehicle has a generator.

©iStockphoto.com/Jari Hindström

If either vehicle has an electronic ignition system or is an alternatively fueled vehicle, the use of jumper cables may damage it.

To safely jump a start, follow these steps:

  1. Take out your jumper cables.

    It’s a good idea to buy a set of jumper cables and keep them in the trunk compartment. If you don’t have jumper cables, you have to find a good Samaritan who not only is willing to assist you but who has jumper cables as well.

  2. Place both vehicles in Park or Neutral and shut off the ignition in both cars.

    Engage both parking brakes as well.

  3. Attach one of the red clips to the positive terminal of your battery.

    It has “POS” or “+” on it, or it’s bigger than the negative terminal.

  4. Attach the other red clip to the positive terminal of the other car.

  5. Attach one of the black clips to the negative terminal on the other battery.

  6. Attach the last black clip to an unpainted metal surface on your car that isn’t near the battery.

    Use one of the metal struts that holds the hood open.

    The cables should look like this.

    To jump start a car, you'll need to make sure you connect the jumper cables in the proper order.
    Make sure to connect jumper cables in the proper order.
  7. Start the working vehicle and let the engine run for a few minutes.

  8. Try to start your vehicle.

    If it won’t start, make sure that the cables are properly connected and have the good Samaritan run his or her engine for five minutes. Then try to start your car again. If it still won’t start, your battery may be beyond help.

If the jump works and your car starts, don’t shut off your engine! Drive around for at least 15 minutes to recharge your battery. If the car won’t start the next time you use it, the battery isn’t holding a charge and needs to be replaced.

If your car doesn’t start, check out these tips for troubleshooting a car that won’t start.

About the Book Author

Deanna Sclar is an acclaimed auto repair expert. She has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including NBC’s Today show and the NBCNightly News. Sclar lectures internationally on the ecological impact of vehicles and is active in promoting residential solar energy programs. Sclar is also the author of Buying a Car For Dummies.

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