You’re late for an important meeting. You jump into your car and turn the key, only to hear your engine clicking. That’s the sound of a dead battery, and it happens when you least expect it.
Whether commuting, running errands, or simply enjoying the scenery, most of us spend a significant amount of time in our cars. However, many of us are unaware of the fundamentals of automobile maintenance and repair. You can learn how to do almost anything on a car with a little do-it-yourself mentality and a few tips.
A dead battery can be a real pain in the neck, especially on a cold morning. If your car is stranded on your driveway, consider yourself lucky, as you could head back inside, make a hot cuppa while you call a mobile mechanic to inspect and repair your car. Or, if you are lucky, you could call your neighbor or a friend to come over and help jump-start your car with a pair of jumper cables.
However, to jump-start a car comes with its own set of perils. Since the battery in most cars is located in the engine compartment, where your fuel lines are, a spark could set off an uncontrolled fire. But don’t let that scare you because, with a little bit of knowledge and patience, you could quickly learn how to jump-start your car in a matter of minutes.
How to jump-start your car with five simple steps
Essentials needed to jump-start a car
Before attempting to jump-start your car, make sure you keep the following items in your car at all times:
- Jumper cables
- Heavy-duty gloves
- A flashlight
- Owner’s manual
Once you have all the essentials in place, it’s time to jump-start your car. The easiest way to go about it is to call a mobile mechanic or roadside service assistance. However, that involves paying out of your pocket for repairs. If you don’t want to spend a dime to get your car back on the road, you could request your neighbor or a good friend to drive over in their car. If that’s not possible, you could summon other drivers to help you out. However, be cautious and use sound judgment when seeking help from strangers. Be sure to phone a friend or your family and let them know your whereabouts and what’s going on.
Step 1: Line the vehicles up close to jump-start a car
By lining up your vehicle close to the one you plan to jump-start your car with, you can ensure that the jumper cables can easily reach each vehicle’s battery. The ideal method, according to mechanics, is to park the car with the healthy battery nose-to-nose with your car. Now, it’s time to pop the hood and locate the two batteries.
Step 2: Locate the battery terminals
The second step to jump-starting your car is to locate your car battery’s terminals. Every battery has a positive and a negative terminal, typically indicated with a “+” or “-” sign. More often than not, you will find a plastic cap covering the positive terminal of the battery. Flip this cap and connect the red cable to the positive terminal and the black cable to the negative terminal. Ensure that this step is done correctly, as connecting the cables the wrong way could cause a short circuit in both cars.
Step 3: Connect the cables to the battery
While connecting the clamps to the battery, make sure that the cables aren’t touching each other as that could cause sparks. The easiest way to do this is to lay one end of the jumper cable, along with the red and black clamp, on the ground while connecting the other end to the car with the dead battery.
Caution: Only the red clamp must be attached to the battery (positive terminal), while the black one should be connected to a piece of bare metal under the hood of your car. An unpainted bolt or a bracket in your engine compartment should suit the job fine.
Once the red clamp is attached to the dead battery’s positive terminal, it’s time to connect the clamps you set on the ground earlier to the healthy battery. Again, make sure that the two clamps aren’t touching each other. Finally, it’s time to connect the black clamp to unpainted metal in your engine compartment. Now, check if all the clamps are biting into the metal part of the battery by wiggling the clamps around. Improper contact will not let charge flow from the good battery to the dead battery.
Step 4: It’s time to start your engine to jump-start a car
Once the four clamps are attached properly, it’s time to ensure that the cables aren’t touching any movable bits in your engine compartment. Ensure the cables are clear from the fan belt, timing chain, and the fans behind the radiator.
Start the car with the good battery and let it idle for 15 minutes. This allows the charge to trickle from the good battery to the dead battery. Now, you may attempt to start your car. If your engine doesn’t fire up right away, turn off the ignition and let the other vehicle continue to idle for ten more minutes before trying again. If it still won’t start, it’s likely that your car’s battery is beyond repair and may need an immediate replacement to get back on the road.
Step 5: Allow your vehicle to idle to charge the dead battery
Let the two vehicles idle for a few minutes once you manage to fire up the vehicle with the dead battery. If the vehicle with the dead battery won’t start, but it does crank quickly, look for other issues, such as a faulty alternator or an empty gas tank. Next, it’s time to make sure the car with the once dead battery is operating properly. If all seems fine to you, you can disconnect the cables in the reverse order.
So unplug the black clamp attached to an unpainted surface in your engine compartment first, followed by the black and red clamp connected to the other vehicle’s battery terminals before unplugging the red clamp from your car battery’s positive terminal.
Again, make sure that none of the clamps are touching each other or any other metal surface on both cars while you remove them. Now, you can thank your mate for bringing their car around and be on your way to work! Once your car is up and running, we recommend driving it for at least 20 minutes so that its alternator can recharge the battery to a healthy level.
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