How to jump start your car the right way

Here's what to do, and more important, what not to do

No matter what kind of car you drive, there may come a time when you need to jump start your car, or somebody else's car. Learning how to is fairly simple as long as you follow several important safety instructions. If you're good at following directions, then jump starting a car is useful information no matter who or where you are.

What you'll NEED to jump start a car:

- Jumper cables with thick wires and clean, rust-free clamps.

- Another car with a fully-charged battery the same voltage as your own battery.

- Rubber gloves

- Wire brush

- Protective goggles authorized for automotive repair.

What you NEVER want to do when you jump start a car:

- Never lean over any car battery.

- Never smoke or use a cell phone when performing a jump start.

- Never jump start a car battery where the fluids are frozen. It could explode.

- If your car battery is cracked or visibly leaking, DO NO JUMP START your battery! Again, there is a possibility of an explosion.

What you ALWAYS want to do BEFORE you jump start a car:

- Check your owner's manual before you jump start a car. Some newer cars have jump start lugs to attach jumper cables to rather than directly to the car battery terminals. Some cars strictly prohibit jump starting altogether. If you're not sure, don't jump start your car, and call a professional.

- Park cars so batteries are close to each other, but the cars are not touching.

- Turn off engine of car with live battery.

- Unplug all accessories from both cars, as the power surge from the jump start could short equipment.

- Make sure both cars have the parking brake on and are either in park or neutral.

- Make sure headlights, blinkers and radios are off in both cars.

Anatomy of a Car Battery:

Before performing a jump start of your car, make sure you know where the car battery is located first. Most car batteries are located under the hood of the car. Some smaller or older cars have the battery stored under the back seat or in the trunk of the car.

Once you located the car battery, take a good look at it. Every car battery has a positive (+) terminal indicated by red or orange wires, connections or cover, and a negative (-) terminal indicated by black wires, connections or cover. You may have to remove a battery cover or plastic cover in order to reach the battery terminals. Before the jump start, if you see any corrosion dust or excessive dirt around the battery terminals, be sure to use the wire brush to remove this debris.

Connecting Jumper Cables Properly

To be successful jump starting a car, you are going to make a circuit that will carry current from the live battery to the dead battery. As car batteries loose fluid or discharge, a buildup of hydrogen gas can occur in enclosed spaces. Loose jump start cables could cause dangerous sparking, and ignite this gas.

To minimize risk, you must connect the jump start cables IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER:

1. Connect one end of the positive jumper cable (red) to the positive post (+ or red) of the dead car battery.

2. Connect the other end of the positive jumper cable (red) to the positive (+ or red) post of the charged car battery.

3. Connect one end of the negative jumper cable (black) to the negative (- or black) post of the charged car battery.

4. Connect the other end of the negative jumper cable (black) to a solid, non-paint coated metal part of the engine of the dead car, AS FAR FROM THE DEAD BATTERY AS POSSIBLE. This is called "grounding" a circuit.

To minimize risk of explosion, do not connect this last cable directly to the dead car battery itself. Before you jump start a car, make sure cables are not touching any moving engine parts.

Get some gear: Best portable jump starters

Two Ways to Jump Start a Car

1. SAFEST WAY TO JUMP START A CAR: Start the engine of the car with the charged battery and let it idle for five minutes to charge the dead battery. Shut off the engine of the car with the charged battery. Disconnect all cables IN REVERSE ORDER being careful not to let the cables touch. Start the engine of the dead battery. OR,

2. Start the engine of the car with the charged battery and let it idle for five minutes to charge the dead battery. Try to start the dead car battery without shutting off the engine of the car with the charged car battery. If it won't start completely, allow a few more minutes of charging and try again.

If your car engine does not start, carefully readjust the positive jumper cable clamp (+ or red) to the terminal to get a better connection and retry the jump start. If possible, let the engine with the dead car battery run for 30 minutes to allow the alternator to charge the battery until you can get to a service station for a full charge. It may be a good idea to let the dead car battery engine run for a few minutes, then test to see if you can restart the car on its own power. If the car either loses power or does not restart, you will need another jump start, a tow or someone to follow you to the nearest mechanic to give another jump start in case the car battery dies again.

REMEMBER: If you're in ever in doubt, or can't remember how to jump start a car, stop what you're doing immediately. Contact AAA, your mechanic or a local service station for assistance with your jump start. If in doubt, it's better to wait for help to arrive than to attempt to jump start a car.

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