Jump starting a car is an auto skill every car owner should have. It comes in really handy and saves you money you’d probably spend using the services of a mechanic. Moreover, some love stories start with a young man or woman helping out a stranded driver. Sure, that sounds more like what you’d see in the movies but…alright we derail.
Whether you find yourself in a situation where you need to help yourself or a stranded stranger, this guide has the information you need. But first…
Understand the Situation
Sometimes, when a car isn’t starting, the battery may not be the problem. First, confirm if you have a dead battery or not by performing the following actions:
- Attempt to start the car and pay attention to the sound of the engine. If it gains momentum quickly then your battery is not the culprit but if it cranks up slowly or doesn’t at all, you probably need to jump start the car.
- Insert your key into the ignition and see if the dashboard lights come on. Normally, this should happen automatically. If it doesn’t, your battery is probably dead.
- Test your headlights. Dim or dull lights might mean your battery is dead, bright lights signal nothing is wrong with the battery.
If after carrying out any of these tests you arrive at conclusion that your battery is dead, you can then go ahead to jump start your car.
Jump Start Your Car with Cables (Automatic Transmission)
Unlike cars with a standard transmission, you cannot push start an automatic car. You need jumper cables and a car with a good battery. It is best practice to carry in your car at all times a jumper cable along with other handy tools. You never know when you’d need them.
DIY Car Jump Start Step by Step Process
- Begin by parking the jumper car just in front of the car with a dead battery and open the hoods of both cars. Make sure both cars are turned off and the keys removed from the ignition.
- The next thing to do is to identify the negative and positive of the batteries in each car, do the same for the cable you’re to use. The positive is usually in red while the negative will be black.
- Now connect the red (positive) jumper cable to the red or positive battery terminal of the dead battery, then connect the other end of the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
- Now attach the black (negative) end of the cable to the good battery’s negative terminal, and attach the black end of the cable to a non-painted metal part of the car (under the hood) close to the dead battery. Ensure this cable does not come in contact with the battery unless you want to find out what a small explosion looks like.
- Go ahead and start the car with the good battery and allow it to run for a few minutes. You can also rev the engine but do so lightly.
- Move over to the car with a dead battery and start it. If it responds, leave it to run for a few minutes. if it doesn’t start on the first try, give it a short time with the good car still running. Try again.
- Once the car battery is ‘back to life’ remove the cables in reverse order, starting with the last connection you did – black end of the cable on the metal part of the dead car.
- You have successfully jump-started a car by yourself.
Jump Start Your Car without Cables (Standard Transmission)
If you own a standard transmission car, it’s arguably a lot less complicated to jump start your car. You don’t need jumper cables or another car battery to jump yours.
- To jump start a standard transmission car, it has to be in motion. You can make this happen either by finding a hill where your car can just glide slowly downwards, or have someone help push it from behind. Both ways work.
- Next thing to do is to depress the clutch and switch to second gear. Turn on the ignition but don’t start the engine. Do this by inserting the key and turning one step to the right.
- Take your foot off the brakes slowly and your car should begin to move down the hill or as a result of people pushing it.
- Keep at it until car speed reaches about 8km/h and then release the clutch. Your car should start immediately. If it doesn’t, push down the clutch again and release.
Another way to jump-start your car without using cables, pushing the car, or using another car’s battery, is by using a portable car jump starter. It offers a less stressful way to get your battery up and running again.
Safety Measures to Take While Jump Starting Your Car
As you can see, jumping your battery is relatively easy, still, there are real hazards to grapple with. How to protect yourself:
- Ensure both cars are not touching at all. Close contact can result in a discharge of electric current as soon as you attempt to jump the battery. There must be a small distance between both cars for this to work without incidence.
- Wear safety gear such as goggles and gloves. Goggles to protect your eyes in case there is a spark, and gloves to keep from getting electrocuted.
- Ensure the car battery isn’t cracked or leaking or has any visible anomaly before jumping it. If you find any of these, do not go ahead to jump-start the car. Have the battery replaced or call a tow truck.
- Once you’ve connected the jumper cables to the batteries, ensure the red and black cables don’t come in contact. Contact will create an electric arc and can damage both cars.
- After connecting the black end of the cable to the negative terminal of the good battery, avoid attaching the other black end to the negative terminal of the dead battery. There is a potential risk of igniting hydrogen coming off the battery with this connection.
In a situation where you are unable to jump-start a car, check the connections or consider contacting an auto shop to have it towed. Avoid trying hard to get it right as something could go wrong. But if you follow the steps here, you should be able to jump-start any car and be proud of yourself for doing good work.