How to Jump Start a Car

How to Jump Start a Car

We’ve all been there. You’re ready to hit the road but your car won’t start.

Hopefully, you have kept jumper cables readily available in your car for an emergency such as this. Or maybe a Good Samaritan has offered to lend theirs and their battery. Either way, jumper cables work best when you know how to use them.

Originally published in 2018 and updated in 2021, our auto experts walk you through how to test your battery and safely jumpstart it using jumper cables in 8 easy steps.

How Do I Know My Car’s Battery is Dead?

Car batteries die due to a variety of reasons, preventing your engine from starting. But before you dig out and untangle those car jumper cables, you can do a test to see if the problem is simply a dead battery or if you have a more serious issue on your hands.

To determine if your battery is in fact dead, turn the key and listen. Do you hear the engine attempting to turn over? If so, your battery isn’t the problem. Instead of whipping out your jumper cables, contact your trusted auto repair shop to take a look at your car.

However, if you don’t hear anything when you turn the key, celebrate your situation’s silver lining! Your battery has died, and it’s likely that you can start your car using jumper cables.

How to Jump Start a Car

Now that you’ve confirmed your car battery is dead, and you’ve wrangled the help of another car or an emergency jump-starter battery, follow these steps to get your vehicle up and running again quickly and safely. While hooking up jumper cables may seem easy, there is a specific way it must be done to avoid the risk of causing expensive electrical damage to your car or may even explode your car’s battery!

  1. Ensure both cars are turned off and that they can reach one another’s batteries with ease.
  2. When jumping a car, red goes first. Connect one end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal on your stalled car. The red cable is for a positive charge, so it’s very important to connect it correctly and always keep it connected to positive terminals. The positive terminal will be marked, so look for a + or POS.
  3. If you’re using the help of a second car to start yours, connect the other end of the red/positive cable to the positive terminal on the other car’s good battery. If you’re using a jump-starter battery, be sure that the red cable is connected properly to the device.
  4. Connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the good battery. If using a portable car jumper, simply check that it’s connected correctly.
  5. Connect the other end of the black cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under your dead car’s hood. The frame is a good choice. The strut supporting your hood is another viable option. This will serve as your ground, a critical step in preventing dangerous electric shock. If you connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the bad battery, you can cause an explosion.
  6. Start the good car and allow it to run for 2 to 3 minutes before attempting to start the dead car. This will allow a charge to build in the dead battery.
  7. Start the dead car. If it doesn’t start up immediately, don’t continue trying the key. Instead, turn it back off, and let it charge for another few minutes. If it still won’t start after 2 or 3 tries, your car may be experiencing a more serious underlying issue, such as a battery that can’t hold a charge. If you continue to try to start your car, you may damage your ignition. It’s best to reach out to a local technician if your car is unable to start after following the steps above.
  8. After a few minutes, your car’s battery will be charged and ready to get back on the road after the removal of the jumper cables. Keep in mind, you should let your car remain idle or drive for at least 15 minutes before shutting it off, otherwise, you may need to jump it again. Allowing it to run for a while will give your battery time to charge so your car can start again on its own.

How to Remove Jumper Cables?

Once your car is running, you’ll need to disconnect it. To do so, carefully remove the clamps in reverse order. Keep in mind that you’re dealing with live cables now, so it is very important to only touch the rubber covers on the clamp handles and to never touch the cables together or touch them to another metal surface.

To remove the jumper cables with ease, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the black ground cable from your newly started car.
  2. Remove the black cable from the negative terminal on the helper car’s battery.
  3. Remove the red cable from the helper car’s positive terminal.
  4. Finally, remove the red cable from the positive terminal on your car. Once removed, the cables should be safe to handle.

How Christian Brothers Automotive Can Help:

If you find yourself stuck or stranded because of a dead battery, or other reason, don’t worry! Call our expert technicians at Christian Brothers Automotive. We offer complete auto care solutions from batteries, to engine problems, electrical components and more. We can help get your car towed to our shop if it won’t start and get it running again as quickly and safely as possible so you can get back to the people and places that matter most.

Find your local Christian Brothers Automotive today.