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How to Jump Start a Car

Updated on June 5, 2011
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When your car battery dies it is generally a huge inconvenience. Maybe you left your lights on overnight by accident or your battery just decided to choose a Tuesday morning right before work to cease operating. Whatever the case, there is a quick and easy procedure to jump starting your car.

It’s important to note that some vehicles, specifically vehicles that use an electronic ignition system or are alternatively fueled, can be damaged by jumper cables. If you are using a vehicle that can be damaged by jumper cables there is usually a warning in the owner’s manual or under the hood.

Step 1 – Make sure your battery is actually dead. If you turn your key in the ignition and the car does nothing it most likely has a dead battery. If you turn your key and you hear the engine making a clinking or clanking noise it probably doesn't have a dead battery.

Step 2 - Find or call a good Samaritan or a friend who is close to you distance-wise and has a vehicle. Make sure the battery on the other person’s vehicle has at least as much voltage as your own car’s battery.

Step 3 – Place both vehicles in park or neutral. Make sure the ignition switch is off in both vehicles. Also make sure each vehicle has its parking brake on. Take out a set of jumper cables.

Step 4 – Now it’s time to connect the jumper cables to each car. On a set of jumper cables the positive cable has red clips at either end and the negative cable has black clips. Attach one red clip to the positive terminal of your battery and then attach the other end of the positive cable to the positive terminal of your friend’s/the good Samaritan’s battery (the positive terminals will usually have a “+” or “POS” on them). Now attach one black clip to the negative terminal of your friend’s/the good Samaritan’s battery and then attach the other black clip to a metal surface that isn’t near the battery (anything will do as long as it’s unpainted and metal).

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Step 5 – Try to start your vehicle. If it won’t start after a couple of tries the cables may be improperly connected (refer to Step 4) or you may simply need a new battery altogether.

Step 6 – Carefully disconnect the jumper cables without turning either car off. Disconnect them in this order: negative black clip from metal surface, negative black clip from your friend’s/the good Samaritan’s battery, positive red clip from your battery, and finally the positive red clip from your friend’s/the good Samaritan’s battery.

Step 7 – Drive around for 5-10 minutes to recharge your battery and then take your car home. If your car won’t start the next time you attempt to start it your battery isn’t holding a charge and needs to be replaced. If you replace your dead battery and your vehicle still won’t start or if you need another jump start your alternator most likely needs to be replaced.

If you have additional problems with starting your car you should check your accessory or fan belt to make sure it is tight enough to run your alternator properly.

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