How to Jumpstart a Car & Keep Your Battery From Dying In the 1st place!


If the battery in your car dies, you’ll be left to seek help from another driver. However, carrying a pair of jumper cables in the trunk will make it much easier for you to restore life to the vehicle.

So, do you want to learn how to jumpstart a car? All you have to do is shut off the vehicle, attach the cables correctly, and let the car with the live battery run for a few minutes. You can also use a self-charging battery pack if there isn’t another car nearby.

Let’s say you run out to your car in the morning, and it doesn’t start. What do you do? Let’s dive into the details of jumpstarting vehicles below.

Overview

  • Always carry jumper cables, even if you have a new car
  • Print off the procedures on how to attach and remove the cables.
  • You can’t always “google” the answer if you don’t have reception or if your phone battery dies.

How to Jumpstart Your Car – At Home by Yourself

Jumpstarting a car isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are two ways to do it:

  1. Use a pair of jumper cables hooked up to two separate vehicles.
  2. Use a battery-powered jump starter kit.

Let’s breakdown both methods:

How to Jumpstart a Vehicle with a Pair of Jumper Cables

  1. Align the cars. Pull the 2nd car along side the 1st car. Make sure they don’t touch but are close enough for the jumper cables to reach. It may have to be within 12″ of the other car.
  2. Start by putting both vehicles in park. You’ll need a friend or family member or neighbor, good person to help you out unless you have two vehicles. Feel free to put the parking brakes down on each vehicle as well.
  3. Make sure the 2nd car is off.
  4. Put the red positive cable on the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  5. Place the other end of the red cable on the positive terminal of the live battery of the other vehicle.
  6. Put the black negative cable on the negative terminal of the live battery.
  7. Clip the other end of the black negative cable on a non-painted metal surface of your vehicle. This clip is used to ground the electrical current.
  8. Run car 2. Turn on the engine of the vehicle with the live battery. Let it run for three to five minutes with the RPMs above 2000.
  9. After 5 minutes, try to start car 1. If it doesn’t turn over, you might need to turn it off and let it charge for another five minutes or so. Check the battery indicator and see how many amps it has left. If it is completely drained you will need to repeat the process and let it charge for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the cables the right way

  • Start by removing the negative (black) cable from the car you were charging.
  • Then remove the negative from the 2nd car.
  • Remove the red positive cable from car 2 and the other cable from car 1.
  • You could fry your battery and the electronics in your car if you removed the positive from the battery first. This creates a surge which can really fry your battery and is dangerous.

Pro Tip: When the engine starts, drive around for about 15 to 20 minutes. The alternator needs to charge the battery all the way to prevent the battery from dying again. If you notice that the battery keeps dying, you might need to get a new battery or an alternator repair service.

How to Jumpstart a Car – with a Battery-Powered Jump Starter Kit

Battery-powered jump starter kits are sold at most auto repair shops and general stores. You can charge them by plugging the unit into a 120/220w outlet. The portability of a battery-powered jump starter kit is as good as it gets.

Here are the steps to jumpstart a car battery with one of these kits:

  1. Turn off the vehicle and put it in park. Again, feel free to apply the parking brake.
  2. Hook the alligator clips to the positive and negative terminals.
  3. Always attach the red clip first, followed by the black clip.
  4. Turn the jumpstart kit on and wait for about five minutes. Make sure you follow the instructions on the battery pack that you buy. Some of them require 10 to 15 minutes, while others demand less.
  5. Once you’ve let the battery kit run its course, try to start the engine of the vehicle. If it doesn’t turn over, you might need to let the pack continue to charge.
  6. Remove the black alligator clip first, followed by the red positive clip.
  7. Drive the vehicle around for 15 to 20 minutes to charge the battery with the alternator.

You can choose either of these methods to jumpstart a dead battery. Keep in mind that some batteries are a bit bigger than others, which means you might need to charge them for more or less time. Small car batteries often have trouble charging large batteries with jumper cables as well.

These options work for some of the most popular vehicles around, including the following:

  • Ford Escape
  • Chevy Equinox
  • Nissan Altima
  • Honda Odyssey
  • BMW non-electric vehicles
  • Non-electric trucks
  • Toyota Prius

Vehicles that are electric shouldn’t use jumper cables because they can damage the battery sometimes. There isn’t enough power to supply the other dead battery, which can short the components of both cars.

Keep Your Battery From Dying In the 1st place

Finding out that your car battery is dead can be very frustrating. You’ll end up late for work or a doctor’s appointment just because it won’t turn over.

There are primary reasons that a car battery dies:

  1. The most common problem is that the battery died because it’s too old. The average car battery lasts about five years before it’s time to replace it. If your battery is beyond the life expectancy, it might not hold a charge long enough. You’ll have to get a new one soon.
    • Solution: Check your battery with a battery charger if it is over 2 years old. If you don’t have a multimeter you can go to Autozone or Advance Auto Parts and they will check it for free.
    • Solution 2: Get a new battery at Walmart or through Amazon. You can get a strong, reliable battery for around $120 depending on the car you have.
  2. There are several battery-consuming parts in a vehicle. Leaving the door open can cause the lights to stay on. If you keep the music playing, leave the headlights on, or keep your phone charging overnight, it can drain the battery until it’s fully depleted. Try to keep a mental checklist every time you turn off the engine of your vehicle.
    • Solution: Make sure your doors are shut and interior lights are off every time you close your doors and leave your car.
  3. Finally, the alternator could be the culprit. If you have a bad alternator in your car, it won’t charge your battery enough each time you drive. This results in a dead battery over and over again. Unfortunately, it could permanently damage the battery since it’s being drained all the way numerous times.
    • Solution: Get a yearly car inspection. Many states have mandatory safety inspections. Make sure the mechanic checks your battery and alternator if your battery if over 3 years old and your car is older than 5 years old.
  4. Battery cable loose. Another final possibility (though it’s not common) is that the battery isn’t secured in place. When the connections are off a bit, or they’re corroded, the electrical charge won’t complete. The battery will end up losing power randomly, preventing the engine from starting.
    • Solution. Make sure the connections are tight.
  5. Battery terminals corroded.
    • Solution. Use a wire brush to remove any corrosion and keep the metal to metal contact clean – so you have a strong connection to your battery.

Keep the Battery Clean & From Dying: Using Baking Soda

You don’t need to spend money on chemical solutions if you have baking soda at home. Using only one tablespoon of baking soda and one cup of water, you can make the best mixture for the job.

Stir the baking soda into the water to create a paste. Use a small sponge or a toothbrush to apply the mixture onto the battery terminals. Scrub away until all of the green, white, and brown corrosion gunk has been removed completely.

Stir the baking soda into the water to create a paste. Use a small sponge or a toothbrush to apply the mixture onto the battery terminals. Scrub away until all of the green, white, and brown corrosion gunk has been removed completely.

When you’re all finished, use a damp rag to blot the surface and remove the baking soda paste. Dry it off with another dry rag and replace the terminal covered back onto their respective terminals.

Note: You should never clean a battery when the vehicle is turned on. This miscalculation could cause sparks, explosions, and everything in between. Don’t start the engine until you’ve thoroughly dried the battery and its terminals, as well as the terminal covers.

Summing Up

Whether you’re trying to jumpstart a dead battery right now or you want to know for future reference, it’s not too complicated. 

If you can keep a pair of jumper cables and a spare battery-powered jumpstart kit in the trunk of your car, you’ll always be prepared for any scenario. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to help someone else along the way!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what you should’ve learned in this article:

  • Positive jumper cables and terminals will almost always be red or yellow.
  • Negative jumper cables and terminals will almost always be black.
  • Don’t forget to attach the negative alligator clip to an unpainted metal surface of the vehicle with the dead battery, not the negative terminal.

Sources

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D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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