How to Jump Start a Car

Car batteries can lose their charge for many reasons. Leaving the lights on is the main culprit — though a battery can die for any number of reasons.

To jump start a car properly, you’re going to need a few things:

You should keep your own set of jumper cables around, because asking someone to help you jump your car AND to let you use their cables is kind of a bit too much to ask. Buy a solid set of heavy gauge copper jumper cables at least 10 feet long. No matter the cost, the first time you get an easy jump start the cables will have paid for themselves.

Jump Starting a Car Battery

Your first step when jump start a car is to check the battery.

Batteries contain sulfuric acid. If that sulfuric acid is frozen, don’t try to jump the battery. This is a serious safety hazard and can cause an explosion.

Another no-no — don’t jump a battery that has a cracked case. You’re just going to have to buy a new battery.

Cleaning the Car Battery

Some batteries will have a buildup of material around the terminals — usually, this stuff is white, green, blue, or even black. If you have a wire brush, it is safe to clean this stuff off — you don’t want to touch the powder, as it can burn and hurt your skin. This is the step during which you’ll want to be wearing gloves. Take note — when this battery junk starts to form, it may be time to buy a new battery anyway.

How to Jump Start a Car

How to Jump Start a Car

Once you’ve found a car to jump start you, thank the person, and line up the cars with both engines facing each other (but not touching). Make sure the ignitions are completely off.

Connecting the Terminal

Each car battery has two terminals, one is marked with a + and the other is marked with a -. The positive terminal usually has a cover over it and a bunch of other wires sticking out of it. The negative terminal is typically a plain uncovered black thing. Check the symbols to make sure.

Now attach the cables in the correct order. This step is very important.

  1. Attach one end of one cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal.
  2. Attach the other end of the same cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  3. Attach one end of the other cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  4. Attach the other end of that cable to the engine block of the car with the dead battery. How do you know what to attach it to? Look for any unpainted bare metal and attach the cable to that. Whatever you do, don’t attach the negative cable to the dead battery itself.
  5. Stand back from the hood areas of the cars. This is also the point at which safety goggles are called for, just to be safe.
  6. Start the car that’s providing the jump start.

This should do the trick. You may need to wait about five minutes before you try to start the car with the dead battery. If it does not start, stop trying and wait a few minutes longer. Try again for no more than thirty seconds. If the car still doesn’t start, chances are that the battery is dead for good. Re-check your connections, or just call a tow truck.

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