How to Jump Start a Car Safely
Truth: a dead car battery can really put a (socket) wrench in your day.
Sorry, we couldn’t help the car pun. But there’s no worse feeling than turning the ignition only to hear your vehicle’s ignition not turn over. As a car owner, a refresher on how to correctly, and safely, jump your vehicle is a useful to have up to date in your tool kit.
Before you attempt to jump-start a vehicle, be sure that you have the required tools for the job. These include the correct booster cables and a set of jumper cables (among others). The cables need to be in good condition and not frayed or cracked. Pro tip: Cables are typically well marked so you know which wire goes where. It’s like another built-in assitant on the cables.
- Make sure both car batteries are the same voltage (most batteries are 12 volts) and the same polarity (both have a negative ground). You can check this information in your owner’s manual in your glove box. (Here are more things you should always keep in your glove box.)
- Pull your cars close enough to each other to connect the cables, but never let the vehicles touch. This could cause a short.
- Shut off the ignition switch, lights, and accessories in both cars. Be sure the vehicles are in park or neutral and that the parking brake is set. Wear safety glasses.
- Don’t smoke. Sparks near a battery can cause an explosion.
- If the weak battery is frozen, don’t try to jump it! It could explode. You can tell if it’s frozen by looking through the inspection cap to see if the water is frozen. One or more sides of the battery case will bulge if it’s frozen.
- Make sure you can identify the positive and negative terminals of both batteries. Also, be sure you’ll have enough room to clamp to the cable terminals. The positive terminal is most likely connected to the car’s starting/charging system with a red cable that has a plus sign. The negative is connected to the engine of the vehicle and usually has a minus sign.
How to Hook Up The Jumper Cables and Start The Car
- Clamp the positive (red or yellow) cable to the positive terminal of the weak battery. Make sure the other end doesn’t touch any part of the car’s engine or body or you could get a dangerous spark.
- Clamp the other end of the positive cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
- Clamp the negative cable (black) to the negative terminal of the good battery.
- Clamp the other end of the negative cable to a clean metal part of the engine (like a bolt head or bracket) in the car with the weak battery. Keep the clamp away from the battery, any moving parts, and the fuel system. Caution: Don’t attach the negative cable to the negative terminal of the weak battery! This common mistake could ignite hydrogen gas directly over the battery. Battery explosions can cause serious injury. Even if you’ve gotten away with it before, use a metallic engine part instead.
- Now start the car with a good battery, let it charge the weak battery for 5 minutes, then try to start the car with the weak battery. If it doesn’t start, shut off both ignitions, make sure the cable clamps are making good contact, and then try it again. When the car with the weak battery starts, wait (about 15 seconds or so) to make sure it doesn’t stall.
- Disconnect the cables in the reverse order: First, remove the negative cable from the car you jumped, then the negative cable from the car with the good battery. Second, remove the positive cable from the car with the good battery (don’t touch a grounded part of either car with the clamp of the positive cable). And finally, remove the positive cable from the car with the weak battery. Remember, both engines will be running (with any luck!), so work carefully as you remove cables to avoid belts, fans, and other moving parts.
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Source: Reader’s Digest Canada
Pro Tip from our Gifford Carr community: never leave the good car running when you start the other car. It puts a tremendous strain on the alternator which can be damaged. It can also damage the electronics of the good car. Shut off the good vehicle after the 5-minute charge and then try.