It’s okay to forget how to jump start a car. It might mean that you and your loved ones keep well-maintained autos and never leave the lights on overnight! But it’s always nice to be able to help out a damsel (or fellow dude) in distress and be a good Samaritan with a pair of jumper cables and the know-how to use them. You’ll certainly save time on waiting around for AAA or another auto service.
Here’s your guide to jump start your car in case of an emergency.
What You Need to Jump Start Your Car
All you need to jump-start a car is a set of jumper cables and another car with a working battery. You may be wondering if the process changes with different types of cars. Basically, it is the same for all car types, with a few exceptions as noted.
How to Jump Start Your Car: The Steps to Take
- Park the car with the good battery head to head with the car with the dead battery. Pop the hoods of both cars.
- Start with both cars turned off.
- Unwind your jumper cables and connect one of the clamps with a red handle (it should have “POS” or “+” marked on it) to the positive (+) terminal on the dead battery.
- Then connect the other red positive clamp to the positive (+) terminal on the working car’s battery.
- Next, you will connect the black-handled negative (-) clamp to the working battery’s negative (-) battery terminal.
- Now connect the other negative (-) clamp to an unpainted, metal part of the disabled car, like the engine block. Do not attach the negative cable to the dead car battery.
- Start the car with the good battery. Run the engine for 2-3 minutes. Then start the dead car.
- When it starts, remove the cables in the reverse order: negative on the dead car; negative on the starter car; red positive on the starter car; and finally, red positive on the dead car.
- Keep the jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give its battery time to recharge.
How to Jump-Start Your Car Without Cables
What if you find yourself in an area that doesn’t have much traffic and you need to get a jump start or in case of an emergency? Here’s what you can do if your car has a manual transmission.
If you have a standard transmission car, you may be able to jump-start your car without using a jumper cable.
- You need to be near a clear stretch of a road with a downward slope or have a few people to push the car from behind.
- Seated in the driver’s seat, depress the clutch fully and shift the car into first gear.
- Turn on the ignition.
- Remove your foot from the brake and either start rolling down the slope or have your helpers push the car forward, while you keep the clutch depressed completely.
- When you get to over at least 5 miles per hour, release the clutch quickly. If it works, you’ll feel the engine start. You may be able to depress and release the clutch again on the same run if it doesn’t turn over the first time.
Jump Start Your Car With a Battery Jumper Device
You can also buy a device called a battery jumper. These are portable devices used to jump a car without connecting to another vehicle, and they come with their own attached jumper cables. They can be found on Amazon from as low as $40 to several hundred dollars for higher-powered units–many of which have extra features like air compressors, voltmeters, built-in flashlights, and power banks which can charge other devices like mobile phones, tablets, etc.
Tips on How to Jump Car Batteries Safely
For safety’s sake, there are some things to keep in mind when jump-starting a car:
- Never try to jump-start a car if the battery is cracked, and it is visibly leaking acid.
- Don’t try to jump-start a frozen battery.
- Before jumping a battery with another car, check to see that both cars have matching voltage systems. For example, while a 6V and a 12V should not be used together, most cars today have 12V batteries.
When Your Car Won’t Jump Start
You may wonder if all cars can be jump-started. You should be able to jump-start a car of almost any make with a few caveats. Only manual transmission cars can be jump-started by pushing only. Also, it’s a good idea to read your car’s owner’s manual, as some newer cars have sensitive computers and circuitry that could potentially be damaged by jump-starting. Some batteries may be too dead to jump start. If your car won’t jump-start, it may be that the alternator is bad.
Tip: Be Proactive About Learning How to Jump Start Your Vehicle
You can find many videos online to watch about how to use jumper cables or even how to paint your car. It’s not a bad idea when you get a new car to search for one or two videos that show how to jump start your particular model of car because some makes of cars have oddly placed batteries or can be more difficult to jump start. Proactively learning how to jump start your car is always a good idea even if you are not interested in cars and your professional goals are different.
If you don’t want to have to remember how to jump a car, you can just print out a clear reference document of your choice and keep it in a clear plastic sleeve in your trunk or glove compartment if you forget any steps. We suggest either this simple diagram or this retro-style 1-page guide at the Art of Manliness.