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6 Easy Steps To Jump Start Your Car

Power - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 10/18/2022

putting clamps on a battery to jump start it

With winter around the corner, it's time to start prepping your vehicle for the cold weather ahead. Low temperatures can be especially hard on your vehicle's battery, lowering its capacity and forcing it to work harder to turn over your engine. If the charge drops low enough, it can even kill your battery completely, leaving you stranded. If you do find yourself in a situation where your car won't start, you can jump start your vehicle with a pair of jumper cables and a second vehicle. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to jump starting your car or truck.

Can You Damage Your Car by Giving a Jump Start?

Jump starting a car is a relatively safe process, provided you follow instructions. Here are a few safety tips you should consider before attempting to jump start a vehicle.

  • Make sure that the donor vehicle's battery has the same voltage as the dead battery - If the stalled vehicle has a 12-volt battery, the donor vehicle must have a 12-volt battery too.
  • Don't jump start a damaged battery - If you notice leaks, cracks or corrosion on either battery, do not attempt to jump start the vehicle.
  • Don't jump start dry or frozen batteries - If you have a flooded battery, you can check the electrolyte in the battery's cells. Use a putty knife or screwdriver to pry the lids off the top of the battery's cells and use a flashlight to check the liquid levels inside. If you see any ice in the cells or find that the electrolyte has dropped low enough to expose the plates, do not attempt to jump start the battery. Note: if you have an AGM battery or one labeled "Maintenance Free," you should not attempt to open the cells.
  • Don't touch the jumper clips together - When the jumper cables are connected, touching the clips together creates a risk of shock, so keep them separate at all times.

How to Jump Start Your Vehicle

Step #1 Position & Prep the Vehicles

  • Begin by parking the donor car close to the stalled vehicle.
  • Make sure that both vehicles are turned off completely and that the 2 vehicles are not touching.
  • Pop the hood on each car and locate the batteries.
  • Be sure that your jumper cables are unwound and untangled.

Step #2 Connect the Jumper Cables

  • Jumper cables feature 4 different alligator clips: 2 positive red clamps & 2 negative black clamps.
  • First, connect one red clamp (+) to the positive terminal of the dead battery
  • Next, attach the second red clamp (+) to the positive terminal of the working battery
  • Then, connect one of the black clamps (-) to the negative terminal of the working battery
  • Finally, attach the remaining black clamp (-) to an unpainted metal surface of the dead car.

Step #3 Start the Donor Car's Engine

  • Start the working car's engine. Let it idle for a few minutes to allow the dead battery to charge.

Step #4 Start the Dead Car's Engine

  • Try starting the stalled vehicle's engine.
  • It might take a few tries before the engine turns over.

Step #5 Remove the Jumper Cables

  • Once the dead vehicle's engine is running, remove the jumper cables in the reverse order of how you attached them.
  • Start by removing the black clamp (-) from the metal surface of the dead car.
  • Then, remove the black clamp (-) from the negative terminal of the donor vehicle's battery
  • Remove the red clamp (+) from the positive terminal of the working battery
  • Finally, remove the remaining red clamp (+) from the positive terminal of the dead battery.

Step #6 Let the Engine Run

  • Once the jumper cables have been disconnected, drive the vehicle for a minimum of 15 minutes, preferably at highway speeds, in order to charge the battery back up.

How to Jump Start a Car with Keyless Ignition

If your vehicle has keyless ignition, you can jump-start it using the same method described above. Just be sure that your key fob is inside the car when you attempt to turn over the engine.

Can You Jump Start a Car without a Second Vehicle?

You can eliminate the need for a second vehicle entirely with a jump pack. A jump pack (also known as a jump starter or portable power pack) is a portable battery powerful enough to jump-start a stalled car or truck. It comes with a pair of clamps that attach to the stalled battery similar to a pair of jumper cables.

Batteries Plus has jump packs for nearly any kind of vehicle. Need help using one? Find step-by-step instructions in our blog article entitled "How Do You Jump a Car with a Portable Power Pack?"

How to Winterize Your Vehicle

Before winter hits, it's a good idea to perform some basic maintenance on your vehicle to help make sure it's ready. Here are a few basic things to do:

  • Have the battery tested for free at your nearest Batteries Plus.
  • Check to make sure your windshield wiper blades are still good. Wiper blades should be replaced every 6 months to a year.
  • Check your tires to make sure there is enough tread left.
  • Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper air pressure.
  • Make sure that the heater is working properly.
  • Make sure that your headlights are properly aligned.
  • Make sure you've kept up with regular oil changes.

Have Your Auto Battery Replaced at Batteries Plus

Batteries Plus has everything you need to get your vehicle ready for winter. Stop in today and have your battery tested for free. If you need a new battery, we have replacement car and truck batteries from top brands like Duracell, X2Power and Optima. Best of all, the majority of our stores offer free battery installation on most vehicle makes and models. You'll also find additional essentials in our Automotive Center, including replacement headlight bulbs, jumper cables and more.

Learn More About How to Care for Your Car in Winter

Our online blog features plenty of additional automotive tips. If you're wondering what to look for in a pair of jumper cables, check out our article entitled, "What are the Best Type of Jumper Cables for My Car or Truck?" Not sure what type of windshield wipers you need? You'll find plenty of answers in our article, "What Wiper Blades are Best for Winter?" For tips on how to care for your auto battery in winter, you can read "How to Prevent Winter Weather on Your Car Battery."

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