You’re out on the road, miles and miles from home.
You stop at a convenience store to buy a drink, then make your way back to your car.
When you turn your key into the ignition to start it, your worst nightmare becomes a reality.
Your car is dead.
If this is happening to you, it’s probably a battery problem.
Don’t worry, though.
If your lights and electrical systems still work, chances are your batteries simply need to be jump-started to be brought back to life.
In this blog, I’ll show you the proper way to jump-start your car, tips on doing it properly, and how often you should change your batteries so you can avoid a dead car altogether.
Let’s get started!
6 Steps to Jump-Starting Your Car
Find yourself stranded far from home, with your car refusing to start?
All you need is some jumper cables (I hope you brought them along), and a good Samaritan who’s willing to give you 10-15 minutes of their time.
If you have those, you’re ready to follow these six steps…
1. Park the Cars Next to Each Other
You’ll want both cars to be in close range, so you can connect the jumper cables without stretching them.
Make sure both cars’ engines are turned off and handbrakes activated.
2. Connect the Jump Leads
Your jump leads will have two red ports and two black ones.
To begin, take the red ports and connect them to the positive terminals of both the working batteries and the dead ones.
Then, take the black lead and connect one end of it to the working batteries’ negative port.
Ground the other end of the black lead on an unpainted metal surface of your car. This can be the car’s body, or a surface in the engine that isn’t too near your fuel tank.
Here’s a quick diagram to show you how it’s done. (It’s important to connect the leads in the order shown below.)
3. Start the Working Car
Once the jump leads are connected, you’ll want to wait for around three minutes.
After this time has passed, go on and start the car with the working batteries.
4. Start the Car with the Dead Batteries
Wait one minute before starting the car with the dead batteries.
If it doesn’t start, do things over beginning with step #3.
5. Let the Cars Idle
If the car with the dead batteries does start, let both cars idle for around 10 minutes.
Then, turn them off and disconnect the jump leads. Remember, don’t make the end ports of the leads touch each other when you remove them.
6. Start Your Car
After the jump leads have been disconnected, try to start your car without help.
If it starts, then you’re good!
If it doesn’t, however, something may be wrong with your batteries. At this point, you’ll need to call for help and replace them ASAP.
5 Extra Tips to Help You with Your Car’s Batteries
If you’re a normal person without a mechanic’s bone in your body, you might be wondering if jump-starting your car is safe.
Also, you might never again want to find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with a car that won’t start.
To help you, here are five extra tips related to jump-starting your car and maintaining your batteries.
1. Check Your Batteries and Jump Leads Before Attaching Them
Although the six steps to jump-starting your car seem easy…
…you should never rush into them without forethought.
That’s because improperly jump-starting your car can lead to permanent damage to your engine parts.
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to inspect your batteries and jump leads first.
Make sure that your batteries aren’t bloated or leaking.
Also, check your leads to ensure that they’re in perfect working condition.
If you’ve been using the jump-leads for some time and they’ve become too hot, stop the process and make them cool down before trying again.
2. Check Your Surroundings Before Beginning the Process
Keep in mind that jump-starting your car can be dangerous.
For instance, if you touch a metal object like your ring or watch to the batteries, it could cause a spark and even an explosion.
Before starting the jump-starting process, make sure to get rid of:
- Any loose, dangling object that could touch the batteries or jump leads
- Any metal object (ring, necklace, bracelet, watch, etc.)
- Any open fire, like a cigarette
3. Remove the Jump Leads Safely
Sure, the sound of your car coming back to life is exciting.
But before you jump in and get ready to drive away, remember to safely remove and keep your jump leads.
Failing to do so can lead to extensive damage to your car.
For instance, if you remove the jump leads while the car’s engine is running, you risk seriously damaging your car’s electronics.
Also, make sure to remove the jump leads in the opposite order you installed them. First, remove the black jump lead from the grounding unpainted metal surface. Then, remove the black jump lead from the negative port of the car with good batteries.
Finally, remove the red lead from the positive terminal of the car with good batteries, followed by the red lead from the positive terminal of your car.
4. Fully Charge Your Batteries After Jump-Starting
After you’ve jump-started your car, it’ll feel good as new.
That doesn’t mean it is, though.
If you turn your car off the moment its batteries come back to life, chances are you’ll run into the same problem when you try to start it up again.
To avoid this from happening, make sure to drive your car at a good pace for around 30 minutes.
No, don’t drive it in stop and start traffic.
Find an empty bit of road where you can drive freely, and enjoy the ride for half an hour.
5. Replace Your Batteries at the Right Time
The older your batteries, the more you’ll be in danger of them dying on you.
To prevent dead batteries for good, make it a point to take your car in for regular tune-up sessions.
You’ll also want to replace your car’s batteries every 3-5 years, depending on the climate of your area and your driving habits. (You’ll need new batteries more often in a warmer climate, and if you don’t regularly drive your car.)
As long as you keep your batteries healthy and replace them when you need to, you can avoid the problem of dead batteries for a lifetime.
How to Jump-Start a Car: The Essentials
I know, getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead car on your hands is traumatic.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With the basic knowledge of how to jump-start a car, you can tackle the situation with peace of mind and confidence.
Simply follow the six steps above, make sure your environment is safe before jump-starting your car, and follow up with removing and keeping your jump leads.
Also, make sure to have your batteries checked regularly so you’ll know when the right time comes to replace them.
Screenshots taken by the author, and stock photos from Unsplash.