If you are attempting to start your car on a busy day, and the car doesnt start then most likely you have a dead battery! As you insert the keys and swish, you hear some irritating clicking sound. The dashboard is entirely black, and there is no sign of hope. What to do? Should I can a tow truck? Or Should I go to an auto repair shop? What is the next step?
You never know when you may have a dead car battery, and your car fails to start. The battery may have deteriorated and can no longer hold a charge, or there could be other problems. The serpentine belt could be loose or broken, and the alternator may not be generating sufficient electricity to run your engine and keep the battery fully charged.
Consumers who find themselves in this situation may need to jump-start their battery using jumper cables to jump to another battery or use a portable jump starter. This post covers the safety procedures and the connection procedures to use in both situations to bring your battery back to life. Once the engine is started, keep it running at an RPM higher than idle to recharge the battery sufficiently.
How to Jump Start a Car Step by Step
It is essential to create a safe environment when you are jump-starting a vehicle to avoid electrocution, damage to your vehicle’s electronics, or cause a fire. Always carry jumper cables in your car. You never know when cables to jump-start a car may be needed to start your engine or to help another driver start theirs.
- Verify that your jumper cables are in good condition
- Confirm there are no flammable liquids nearby, especially gasoline
- Turn both vehicles off before connecting the jumper cables and set the parking brake
- Never allow the black and red clamps to touch each other, which would cause a short circuit
Jumper Cable Hookup Procedures
The following steps can enable safe connection of the jumper cables to your car and that of the good Samaritan that is providing their car to help you start your engine.
- Position both cars together with the batteries as close as possible
- Place both cars in park and turn the engine off
- Never allow the jumper cable clamps in the cables to touch each other
- Secure the red cable clamp to the positive post of the dead battery
- Connect the red clamp at the other end of the cable to the positive battery terminal on the other car
- Secure the black jumper cable clamp to the negative terminal on the other car (never allow the negative black clamp on the end to touch the red clamp to avoid damage and electrical shock to yourself or your car)
- Connect the remaining negative cable clamp securely to an unpainted metal surface of your car away from your battery
- Try starting the engine and let it run for a few minutes before disconnecting the cables
- Disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order being careful to avoid allowing the clamps to touch each other
While your car engine is now running, your battery may still be fully discharged and unable to start your engine once again. Take your car for a drive for at least twenty minutes to recharge the battery. Park the car at a location where you can receive another jump-start if needed. Turn the engine off and try restarting. If the engine starts, your good to go. If not, there may be other problems which should be examined. For example, missing or loose serpentine belts, a malfunctioning alternator, and other possibilities should be checked by a mechanic.
Check the Owners Manual if Your Car Doesnt Start
The first step is to check the owners manual, especially if you have a dashboard light on. You can find everything you need to know about your car inside of the owners manual. Starting from the regular vehicle maintenance intervals, references to any warning lights, and even the correct amount of air pressure for your tires.
If there are no lights on when attempting to start your car, then a dead battery is the most common problem. Try to find a donor car and some jumper cables to jump start your vehicle. Before preparing, you need to understand that the black connectors represent the negative, and the red clamp represents the positive.
How to Prepare for the Jump Starting Process
When it comes to jump starting your car, you have to do it right. All safety precautions must be put in place – as will be elaborated soon. Therefore, before attaching the jumper cables, prepare the setup. You will need a car with a good and fully charged battery, a dead car battery still on the car and jumper cables.
Follow these steps to get ready:
Bring the cars together
The jumper cables are generally short, thick and well insulated. Therefore, you have to bring the vehicles as close to each other as possible. According to Meineke, the two cars should be separated at least 18 inches or 46 centimeters from each other. Also, apply the parking brake on both vehicles, and that the donor car has a fully charged battery.
Prepare and inspect the jumper cables
Make use of standard jumper cables. You should have one black and well-insulated cable and a red one. Check to make sure that the crocodile clamps at the end of each cable are adequately secured. The cables should be insulated excellently.
Verify the lengths of the jumpers
This is a straightforward but critical step you need to take care of. If the jumper cables to jump the car are not long enough to run between both of them, you need to know. Otherwise, standard cables are generally short but long enough for the task.
Open the hoods for both cars
If you are getting ready, make sure that the hoods are opened and secured correctly. Different cars have different ways of opening and securing the opened bonnet. Ensure that you do it correctly for each of the vehicles.
Locate the batteries for each of the cars
The car batteries for each of the vehicles should be located after opening the bonnets. Sometimes we struggle to find the batteries because we are merely looking in prominent places. If it is not in front, check the user manual to see where they have hidden it.
How to Connect Cables to Jump Start a Car
Now that you have the two cars close to each other for the task, it’s time to execute the jump starting process. Before you can start, ensure that the two vehicles are not touching. I will come back to that later
Now, here is how you do it in steps:
Step 1: Connect the positive red cable
First, connect the positive red cable to the positive terminal of the dead car. Then connect the other end to the red positive terminal of the charged or live vehicle. Please, see to it that the crock clamps never touch even at this stage and all the way.
Step 2: Connect the negative cable
Now connect one end of the negative black jumper cable clamps to the live car. Next, connect the free end of the jumper to the car body, chassis, or some exposed metal surface of the dead car. According to Johnson controls, it should not be connected to the negative terminal of the battery.
Step 3: Secure the cables accordingly
When the cables are connected, it is easy to assume that they are secure. But that is not always correct. Physically test how safe they are. Loose connections on prime components like the battery can be fatal.
Step 4: Run the live car engine
With the two cables securely connected, start the engine and live the car running. To ensure that you have sufficient charging, run the car for a minute or two. While it is running, you can also rev the engine for increased charging rates.
Step 5: Run the dead car
Now that you have managed to run the car for a minute stop the engine. Disconnect the negative jumper cable clamps followed by the red positive post. Then try to run the dead vehicle. If it runs, it should have been charged by now. So it should start your engine.
If you can not find another car near you, it will be a good idea to buy a portable jump starter. The process of using a portable jump starter is the same as you use another car, but you don’t need another vehicle. Jump-starter is a big power bank that can bring the battery back to life.
When running the dead car, be patient, and know your vehicle. In some cases, this could take just a single cranking, and the car is back to life! But in other cases, this could make at least more than one attempt. Psychologically, this can be expected.
What to Do When Jump Starting Process Fails?
If this process of jump-starting does not help you run or drive the car, there are a few things you can do. First, don’t panic. Stay calm and make sure every step you take is safe. Here are some things you have to do next:
Charge for more than a minute
Some batteries have slower charging rates. With the life of a battery replenishing as it approaches its expiry date, this is expected. Therefore, to be sure, run the live car for more than a minute and rev. If you are using a portable jump starter, you should let it charge for at least 2 minutes to bring the battery back to life.
Check inspect charging system
If you start your engine and the jump starting process has failed, it could be that the alternator was unable to charge the battery. Therefore, if you have a voltmeter, check how it goes up while the engine is running. If the voltage goes up above 13 volts, then it’s okay. If the voltage remains the same, then the alternator may be faulty.
Battery life has ended
Some batteries are meant to last between 4 and 6 years. Therefore if the battery has been working for the past four years or so, it could have reached the end of its life. In such a case, the battery may need to be replaced. Check manufacturer specs before making any conclusions.
Check integrity of connections
If there are any open lines or loosely connected cables in the starting system, they may be causing the problem. One recommendation that Meineke has always talked about is to ensure that the crock clamps are adequately secured and that the black connectors can clamp to the negative pole.
If every trick you have tried seems to be failing, you could be rushing the process. Take heart and make sure you explore every option before finding other industry solutions. It is always good to try each option more than once.
Precautions to Ensure a Safe Jump-starting Process
When jump starting your car, there is always a danger of sparks causing damage. Therefore, some of the most important precautions you need to look out for are meant to prevent this damage. They are as follows:
Connect with the dead car first
When connecting the jumper cables, make sure that you start with the dead car. The dead vehicle does not have the damaging power to cause sparks. If you start with the fully charged one, the risk of things going wrong is high.
Use the correct size of cables
The right size of cables is important because an incorrect size can lead to problems. If it is too thin, there are dangers of heating up and causing other issues. If they too long, this may result in power loses.
Properly insulated cables
Jumpers that have been used for a long time have their insulators split open and exposed. When using such, make sure that they are covered with proper insulation tape before you start. This avoids any imminent short circuits.
Avoid the terminals
If within your reach, please put on the correct gloves to insulate your body against electricity. Do not touch the battery terminal with your bare hands. Also, avoid touching the metal surface of the car. Many people don’t see the danger, but especially when dealing with high bride cars, the threat is serious, especially if you need to remove the jumper cables.
Never connect the jumper cable to the dead car’s negative terminal
To complete the circuit, it is advisable that you never attach the negative black jumper to the negative terminal of the dead car. This can cause sparks and could even lead to an explosion. The hydrogen that escapes from the battery is fuel to which can ignite with any spark.
Wear goggles to protect your eyes
The last time someone saw me refer to this, he thought I was joking. Yes, wearing glasses is essential because of the unforeseen occurrences. Some sparks may fly in your face unexpectedly. You need to protect yourself.
Never connect terminals in reverse
Always countercheck before connecting. Make sure that the red cable is connected to the positive post while the black one to the negative. If they are swapped, sensitive components can be damaged easily.
Terminals of the two cables should never touch
Throughout this operation, practice the separating of the two terminals. They should never meet. I always say that as long as you are going to connect those cables, treat them carefully. You can cause a lot of damage. Never connect the black cable with the red cable together.
The two cars should never touch
The idea is to bring the two cars as close to each other as possible. But they should not touch. Allowing them to touch would be dangerous to the whole circuit you are making up.
Select the correct live car
When we are desperate, we quickly make mistakes. If you are using a light truck which could be running on 24 volts, make sure the other car has the same arrangement. A 12 volts battery should not jump start a 24 volts size.
Who Should do the Jump Starting?
A common question I get whenever this matter arises. Jump starting your car, as you have seen, always needs all safety precautions to be done. No shortcuts and no trial and errors. Therefore, who should carry out this task?
Is this a task for men?
Naturally, many recommend that this should be carried out by men. This could be right only if they are technical men. Therefore, it is not about being a man but having the right knowledge and skill for the task. The gender does not matter as long as you follow safety instructions.
Can anyone do it?
As earlier stated, it does not matter as to who is at it. Following the instruction above does not require exceptional people. It only requires the person who is attentive to detail. Whether male, female, young, or old, the one following the above instructions can manage. If you feel insecure, you can always call roadside assistance.
As the preceding shows, the bottom line is ensuring that the instructions are clearly understood. If anything is not clear, the user should not resort to personal opinion. No chances should be taken here because lives and expensive equipment are involved.
What if I am Jump Starting a Complicated Modern Car?
When a modern car has given you battery problems, don’t just rush to jumpstart. First, if you have any owners manual, read it carefully. Within the manual, you will be shown the right point to connect your negative from the live car.
Otherwise, most of the cars coming on the market are not supposed to be jumpstarted the way other ordinary vehicles are done. The danger is that many small and delicate components would easily get damaged in the process.
Look out for any alternatives or industry solutions to the problem as specified by the manufacturer. Additionally, it could be even safer to bring in a new battery from another source. Otherwise, you can also replace the dead car battery in your vehicle before cranking.
Portable Jump Starter
With modern technology, a portable jump starter has become a handy tool in such emergencies. Ensure that they are fully charged whenever you have finished using them. You connect it via a cigarette lighter, and its power will do the rest.
If everything else has failed, there would be nothing wrong with getting a second opinion from an expert. It could be a small thing you might have been overlooking all this time. But with the expert that works in a car care center, your failing attempts will easily be corrected.
How to Use a Portable Jump Starter
Portable jump starters are a handy tool to use to start a car engine, especially if there is no other vehicle around. There are many different styles of portable jump starters. Read and follow the manual before using and follow all of the safety instructions regarding charging, connecting to the car battery, and starting your car.
Safety always comes first. Follow the safety precautions outlined below:
- Turn off your car and the jump starter and set your parking brake before connecting any cables
- Always keep the red and black connector apart. Never allow the clamps to touch each other or connect through a conductor of some kind
- Remove all liquids and flammable materials from the vicinity of the car
Portable Jump Starter Hookup Procedures
The car and the jump starter should always be turned off when attaching the jumper cables for these steps.
- Take one clamp in each hand and do not let the clamps touch each other
- Connect the positive red cable clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery
- Connect the black clips securely to a metal surface on your car
- Make sure the cable clamps are attached tightly and cannot accidentally touch each other if one slips.
- Recheck your attachments
Turn on the Portable Jump Starter
Turn the device on and wait a few minutes for the jump starter to charge up your battery. Your car engine should be off at this point.
Starting your Engine
Allow it to crank for a maximum of five seconds to avoid overheating and burnout of the starter and battery. In most cases, the engine usually starts immediately. If not wait up to three to five minutes and retry starting the engine. If the engine fails to crank, recheck your connections.
Once the car engine has started, shut the jump starter off and remove the cable connections.
Always remove the black cable first and then the red cable, while never allowing the cables or clamps to touch. Operate your car engine for at least twenty minutes at higher RPM than idle to recharge your battery. Keeping the car running gives the alternator a chance to charge your battery enough to restart the engine.
If your engine fails to start regularly and needs a jump start, have a mechanic verify that the battery is still healthy, and also that the alternator is working correctly.
If you see yourself using the portable jump starter consistently, maybe is a sign to take the vehicle to a local car care center to get a full diagnose. To start the dead battery, you will need either a powerful jump starter or a donor car with some jumper cables. Also, try starting the car after charging the battery. If the car wont start after the fact, then you might have an alternator problem.
Always remember to connect the red clamp to the positive pole and the black clamps to the negative or ground. Also, if you are stuck in ditch and you need a tire change you can call road assistance. A flatbed towing crew will come to help you even if you need exotic car towing to take you car to the auto repair shop. Sometimes your auto insurance will cover the charges of the road assistance.
Last if you have tried jumping the car several times without any success, then most likely your car has an alternator problem or a car engine block. Make sure that the terminal post of the dead battery is not rusted, and the parking brake is on. Never connect the black cable to the positive terminal pole, and be careful whenever you are going to remove the jumper cables.