How to Jump-Start a Car Battery

Published on

March 4, 2024

a young woman, with her back turned to the camera, learning how to jump a car | preparing to jump start a car

Car won't start? Odds are it’s your battery - and dead batteries are one of the more annoying and common automotive pains. 

The good news is that it's fairly simple to jump-start a car and get your vehicle back out on the road. In this post, we'll cover the tools you'll need and take a step-by-step look at how to jump a car or truck.

Required Tools

Jump-starting a car battery is easy and only requires some very basic tools. All you need to jump-start a vehicle is a set of jumper cables or a portable jump starter. With your jumper cables, you'll also need another vehicle, or “booster car”, on hand to perform the jump start. The booster car isn’t needed with a portable jump starter.

Safety Tips When Jumping a Car

Jump-starting a car is fairly routine, but there are still some safety precautions to keep in mind to when doing so:

  • If you're jumping a car with cables and a booster car, make sure that the ends of the cables and the two vehicles don't touch. This could lead to electrocution and bodily harm. There's also a risk of fire or explosion from an incorrect connection.
  • Both vehicles should be off when you're placing the jumper cables. Only start the vehicles after the cables have been placed and you're ready to perform the jump start. We'll get to more of this in the step-by-step process of jump-starting a vehicle in the below section.
  • If your vehicle doesn't start and the battery is cracked or leaking, don't perform the jump. If there's significant damage to the battery, a jump isn't likely to do your vehicle any good. You'll likely need to purchase and install a new battery.
  • Ensure the battery terminals are in good shape and not corroded before securing the cables. If they are, clear the terminals with a wire brush or other tool.
  • And make sure that any pedestrians are standing clear of your vehicle when performing the jump.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake when jump-starting a car involves improper use of the jumper cables, as the appropriate clamps need to be connected to the right terminals. Incorrect cable connection isn't just ineffective for jump-starting a car, but it can also pose a significant safety hazard as well.

Another common mistake has to do with jumper cable storage when not in use. We suggest you store jumper cables in a bag in a dry place. If jumper cables become wet or are stored in an area with significant moisture or humidity, the clamps may experience surface corrosion. A good spot so they are on hand when you need them in a bag within the spare tire of your car. 

Step-by-Step Process

Here's a look at the step-by-step process for jump-starting a vehicle, assuming you have jumper cables and need a booster vehicle to carry out a successful jump. If you're using a portable battery starter and don't require a booster vehicle, jump to steps 2-4 below.

Step 1: Find a Booster Vehicle

You'll need a booster vehicle to jump-start your car. It doesn't matter if it's someone you know or a friendly pedestrian, you'll just need to find a vehicle with a full battery and someone who doesn't mind spending a few minutes getting your car back up and running. Make sure the booster vehicle is parked close to your vehicle so the jumper cables can easily reach each battery. The two vehicles should not be touching.

Step 2: Pop the Hoods and Find the Battery Terminals

Ensure each vehicle has the ignition off. Then, pop each hood and locate the battery terminals. Each should have a positive and negative terminal. The positive terminal is marked with a plus sign (+), while the negative terminal is marked with a minus sign (-). If there is any noticeable crack or leak in either of the batteries, do not proceed with the jump-start.

Step 3: Connect the Jumper Cables

Make sure the ends of the jumper cables do not touch each other, and connect the red clamp to the positive terminal on both the dead vehicle and the booster vehicle. Next, take the black clamp and connect it to the negative terminal of the booster car's battery. Take the other end of the black clamp and attach it to a bolt, bracket, or other metal piece on the other vehicle. Many vehicles have a grounding bolt that's marked appropriately for this task. Attaching it directly to the negative battery terminal could lead to electrocution or shock.

Step 4: Jump the Car

Start the booster car first and let it run for a few minutes. Then, start the other vehicle.

Leave both vehicles running for several minutes. After a few minutes, remove the jumper cables. Start with the car you jumped, removing the black clamp and then the red clamp. Ensure the clamps do not touch during removal. Repeat clamp removal on the other vehicle.

Once the clamps have been removed, close the hoods on each car and you're all set.

Troubleshooting Tips

Many drivers just assume that after their vehicle has been jump-started, any problem with the battery has been resolved. That's not necessarily the case. There could be an issue with the battery's condition that needs to be addressed if it can't hold a charge. Remember, the average car battery only lasts three to five years.

If the cause behind your dead battery isn't obvious (i.e., headlights left on), it's recommended that you have your battery inspected and any issues repaired so you don't need to continuously jump-start your vehicle.

Contact Us Today

In the world of car troubles, a dead battery can be a real showstopper. But the good news is, jump-starting your car doesn't have to be rocket science – it's a straightforward process that anyone can tackle with a little guidance and the right tools. We've covered the basics, from the tools you’ll need to safety precautions and common mistakes to avoid. Now, let's sum it up and get you back on the road.

Remember, all you need is a set of jumper cables or a portable jump starter, and a little helping hand from a friend, neighbor, or a kind pedestrian with a fully charged battery. Safety first – ensure everything is off, and double-check those battery terminals. And don't forget to avoid common mistakes like using the wrong clamps or letting your cables get wet.

The step-by-step process is a breeze: Find a booster vehicle, connect the cables, and jump your car. A few minutes of patience and you're ready to roll again.

But here's the deal: Jump-starting your car might not be a permanent fix. If you're constantly needing a jump, there could be an underlying issue with your battery. Remember, these powerhouses typically last only three to five years, so it might be time for a change.

If you're still stuck in a rut or need a professional's eye to assess your battery's health, don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to help. Contact us today for any questions, concerns, or automotive assistance you might need. We're just a call away, ready to lend a hand, and get you back on the road with a smile.