Jump Starting a Vehicle: How to do it Safely
Most of us have been there. We come out to our vehicle, stick the key in the ignition, go to start the engine, and nothing. Your stomach drops and frustration starts to set in. Your battery is dead. What do you do next? If you have a roadside assistance service, you give them a call, explain the issue, and they send someone out to help get you started. However, what if you don’t have a roadside service, or for some reason you can’t reach them? In this article, you’re going to learn how to safely jump start your vehicle so that you can get yourself out of a potentially sticky situation.
Plan Ahead: Have the Right Tools for the Job
In order to get your vehicle started again, you’re going to need a good pair of jumper cable. Timothy Dahl of Popular Mechanics explains, “Any pair of jumper cables is better than not having any at all. But if you are buying new cables, look for ones that are 4 to 6 gauge in size and at least 20 feet in length. Beefier cables and heavy-duty clamps will be more durable and provide a better connection. It’s not always possible to place vehicles right next to each other, so having longer cables will ensure the batteries can reach each other.”
Step 1: Make Sure You’re in A Safe Location
Safety should always be your most important concern. If your battery is dead, your vehicle is most likely parked somewhere out of the way of traffic, however that’s not always the case. If necessary, your first task should always be to navigate your vehicle to a safe location out of harm’s way. Once there, you can assess the situation and continue to step 2.
Step 2: Find Assistance
Unless you carry around a portable jump starter kit, you’re going to need the power from another vehicle’s battery to boost yours. You’ll likely want to call a relative or friend in to assist, however, if you’re in a pinch, you’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers to lend you a hand. Find someone willing to help and ask them to park their vehicle next to yours in a manner that will allow your jumper cables to reach from their battery to yours.
Step 3: Prepare Your Workspace
With the vehicles parked near each other, you’ll want to start to prepare the area. Make sure both vehicles are placed in park, and the keys removed from the ignition. Pop the hood of both vehicles and secure it upright. Being careful not to allow the clamps to touch each other, lay the cables out to ensure that they’ll reach. You’re now ready to begin the battery jumping process.
Step 4: Identify the Battery’s Positive and Negative Terminals
This step is crucial as mixing up the terminals could have dire consequences. All car batteries have two terminals: a positive and a negative. If you look closely, you’ll usually be able to denote which one is which by the presence of a “+” or “-“ symbol next to the terminal. Often times, there will also be red and black wires coming from the battery. The red wire denotes the positive terminal, and the black wire denotes the negative terminal.
Step 5: Attach the Jumper Cables
With both vehicles still off, you’ll want to attach the cables in the following order:
- Your red jumper clamp to the Positive Terminal of the dead vehicle’s battery
- Other red jumper clamp to the Positive Terminal of the working vehicle’s battery
- Other black jumper clamp to the Negative Terminal of the working vehicle’s battery
- Your black jumper clamp to an unpainted, metal part of the car, such as a shiny, clean nut on the engine block.
The final configuration should look something like this
Step 6: Start the Working Vehicle and Let it Run
Now that the cables are properly attached, start the vehicle with the working battery and let it run for a minute or so. Depending on the age of your vehicle’s battery and how long it has been dead, the amount of time you’ll need to idle the working vehicle will vary. However, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
Step 7: Start Your Vehicle
After letting the working vehicle run for a minute or two, get in the driver’s seat and start your vehicle. It should start right up, however, if it doesn’t give it another minute or two before trying again. Slightly revving the engine of the working vehicle while charging your dead battery may help as well.
Step 8: Disconnect the Jumper Cables
Just like when connecting the cables, you’ll want to disconnect the cables in a specific order. Disconnect the black cables on each vehicle first, then go ahead and disconnect the red cables. Be sure to keep the clamps from touching while any part of the jumper cable is still connected to either vehicle.
Step 9: Take a Drive
Once your vehicle is running, you’ll want to take a drive to allow the alternator to recharge your battery so that it doesn’t die again when you turn off the vehicle. It doesn’t have to be a particularly long drive, 15-20 minutes should suffice.
Following these steps should get you out of a jam, however if the Jump fails, or if the battery doesn’t hold a charge, then you’re unfortunately going to have to contact a tow truck to bring your vehicle to a mechanic for a proper diagnosis.