What’s worse than turning the key in your car and not hearing anything? You can’t just cancel your plans for the day until your car is fixed, you need to safely jump start your car. In this guide, we’ll explain how to jump your car using the traditional method then we’ll talk about our favorite method which is way easier.
When Do You Need a Jump Start?
When your car isn’t starting, it might be thanks to a dead or dying battery. Start by going through our guide to troubleshooting your battery. If the verdict is that your battery is the reason why your car isn’t starting, you’ll need a jump start.
In the following sections, we’ll outline two ways to jump your car. The old style involves using a friend’s car to help, but our favorite (and the easiest) method can be done on your own.
What Does a Jump Start Do?
The simple idea behind a jump start is that it gives your car’s battery the juice it needs to run. It’s no different than charging your phone, but the scale of things is larger in this case.
A jump start won’t fix a broken battery, but it might give you enough power to drive home, to an auto shop, or to your destination.
In cases where a car is simply sitting around for too long, a jump start can bring it back to life and revitalize the car.
Are Jump Starts Safe?
As long as you perform the jump start correctly, it’s a perfectly safe process. People run into issues if they do the process wrong or misuse the tools.
A car’s battery has a little over 12 volts coursing through it. It probably won’t kill you, but if you get shocked by it you’ll definitely feel a little pep in your step. The battery on its own can’t shock you, but if you touch the jumper cables incorrectly when you’re jumping, you can get shocked.
In addition, it’s important that the jumper cables go on the correct terminals of the battery. There’s a negative and positive terminal (just like a AA battery), and the jumper cables are designed for each specific terminal.
A jump start is safe for your car’s battery. You’re not overloading the battery or doing any lasting damage.
When NOT to Jump a Car
We mentioned that jumping a car could be dangerous, now it’s time to tell you some times you should definitely avoid jumping a car.
- If the manual says no. Some cars have sensitive circuitry which causes manufacturers to suggest against jumping the car. Always check your owner’s manual before busting out the jumper cables.
- Frozen battery. When it’s way below freezing, it’s best to avoid jumping the car.
- Corroded battery. If there’s any sign of damage on either battery, don’t even think about jumping your car. This could take the form of corrosion, cracks, visible damage, or anything leaking.
- Dry batteries. If the fluid level is too low, then you shouldn’t jump it.
- Donor battery is low. If the donor car doesn’t have enough juice, you’ll wind up doing more damage than helping.
How to Safely Jump Start a Car with Jumper Cables: 3 Steps
We’ll start by outlining the traditional way to jump-start a car then we’ll introduce a quicker and simpler way in the next section. In this section, you’ll need standard jumper cables and two cars.
Understanding the Terms
Before getting into the steps, let’s explain some of the key words we’ll be using.
Donor = the car doing the jumping. The car that is running.
Dead car = the car that needs the jump start.
Terminal = the poles of the battery. It has a positive and negative terminal at the top of the battery.
Alligator clips = the black and red jumper cables. The mouths open when you depress them and look like an alligator’s mouth.
Step 1: The Set-Up
The first step is all about setting up the vehicles. At this time, you should check to make sure the battery voltages match up. They should both be 12V or 6V batteries to ensure the jump start actually works.
Park the donor car near the dead car and pop both hoods. This is also the step where you check out the batteries and make sure that there’s no damage and neither one is frozen. Both cars should be turned off and in “park.”
Step 2: Hook It Up
Now it’s time to hook up each car’s batteries to each other. Please note that the order that you perform this step is very important. If you do it incorrectly, you could really damage one or both of the cars involved. It should always be performed in the following sequence:
- Red to dead. Start by clipping the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the dead car’s battery.
- Red to donor. Next, hook the other red cable to the donor’s battery on the positive terminal.
- Black to donor. Take the black jumper cable and hook it to the negative terminal of the donor’s battery.
- Black to metal of dead. Complete the process by attaching the other black cable to any exposed metal on the dead car. It’s best to hook it in the engine bay on any piece of supportive metal. Often, you’ll find something to use near the battery itself.
Step 3: Start Your Engines
Before turning any keys, double-check that everything was hooked up correctly. The donor vehicle should have a red and black cable connected to the positive and negative terminals of the battery. The dead car should only have a red cable connected to its positive terminal and a black cable connected to exposed metal.
When you can confirm that’s the case, start the donor car. Let it idle for a few minutes. Now, go into the dead car and turn it on. If it doesn’t work, wait a few more minutes and try again. If the dead car is refusing to turn on, there could be another problem that isn’t related to the battery.
If the dead car does turn on, then let it idle for a few minutes. It’s also suggested to take it for a slow 15-minute drive around the block to put some load on the battery and alternator. By the end, the battery should be juiced up and strong enough for the car to turn on by itself.
A Quicker and Simpler Way to Jump Start a Car (No Second Car Required)
What happens if your car dies in a sketchy part of town, late at night, or in an area where you don’t have any friends or family? If you want to avoid taking a tow truck back home, you can just use this tool that we swear by.
It’s a self-contained jump starter that takes out the need to use a second car. There are a few options on the market, but this is the one that we highly recommend for a number of reasons: it’s reliable, durable, portable, and works when you need it.
It’s not that expensive for the luxury that you get in this tool.
How Does it Work?
The unit itself holds a charge. The charge is powerful enough to jump your car just like a buddy’s car would. As long as the tool is charged, you’ll be ready to jump yourself.
It comes with black and red jumper cables that are attached to a plastic body. The body acts as a second car battery. Simply hook the red cable to your positive battery terminal and the black cable to your negative. If you’re not sure, your battery probably has a black and red indicator on the terminals, or you can look for a (+) and (-) symbol near the terminals.
Keep the tool running for about 15 minutes and voila, you’re all set.
How Many Jumps Per Charge?
This tool in particular is rated to provide 20 jumps on a single charge. If you wind up jumping your car 20 times, you should probably check the health of your battery.
The Best Jumper Case
The only way to truly protect your special jump starter is with a high-quality case. This prevents damage as the unit rattles around your trunk between uses.
We recommend this jumper case because it’s rugged, durable, and actually protects the tool. It’s a low-cost way to keep your tool safe and it also protects against the elements. The last thing you want is to drop your jumper tool and break it while you’re stranded on the side of the road.
As you can see, it’s a lot easier and quicker to buy our suggested self-contained jump starter. It takes away the need for a second car and allows you to get a quick jump no matter where you are. If you want more car advice, check out the rest of our blog. Also, see what other products we recommend.