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5 Easy Steps To Jump Start Your Car

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 12/8/2023

Man looking under the hood of a white car on the side of the road

Winter is here and in full swing. It's cold, it's snowy and it's icy. Dead batteries are bound to happen. We've learned that winter can be hard on your vehicle's battery, lowering its capacity and forcing it to work harder to crank your engine. It doesn't take much for the cold to zap your battery, leaving you stranded. Knowing how to jump start your car is extremely important, and as most of us can tell you, you'll need to do it at least once sometime in your life. Follow our helpful step-by-step guide to jump starting your car or truck.

Can You Damage Your Car by Giving a Jump Start?

There is an inherent risk when working with any electrical system. Fear not though, if you follow the correct steps and adhere to the below restrictions, you should never have to worry about damaging your car battery when jump starting another vehicle, or your own.

  • This is an extremely rare scenario but make sure that the donor vehicle's battery has the same voltage as the dead battery. You must jump using the same voltage battery as what's in your car. Only about 1% of all cars and trucks on the road use something other than a 12V battery so the chances of seeing this are extremely low.
  • If your battery is damaged, do not attempt to jump start it.
  • Don't attempt to jump start frozen batteries. If it is well below freezing, there is a chance that your battery could freeze. Do not attempt to jump batteries that could be frozen to prevent more damage.
  • Don't touch the jumper cable clamps together when one end is connected to a battery.

How to Jump Start Your Vehicle

Step #1 Position & Prepare Both Vehicles

  • Have the donor car (the working car) park close to the vehicle with the dead battery. Either side to side or nose to nose.
    • Make sure you leave enough room between the cars so you have space to work.
  • Turn off both cars completely.
  • Pop the hood on each car and locate the batteries.
  • Make sure your jumper cables are unwound and untangled.

Step #2 Connect the Jumper Cables

  • Jumper cables are equipped with two sets of positive and negative clamps, each set will be connected to either car.
  • 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 Cars

  • Start the working car's engine.
  • Let it idle for a few minutes to allow the dead battery to charge.
  • After a few minutes try starting the dead vehicle's engine. If it doesn't start on the first try let it sit a few more minutes while it's charging off the working battery.

Step #4 Remove the Jumper Cables

  • After 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 #5 Let the Engine Run

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

Can You Jump Start a Car without a Second Vehicle?

You can eliminate the need for a second vehicle entirely with a jump starter, often referred to as a jump pack. A jump starter is a portable battery powerful enough to jump-start a dead car or truck yet small enough to fit in your glove compartment.

Many jump starters, like our X2Power Jump Starter, will have enough power to jump a battery dozens of times before you need to recharge the battery. It comes with a pair of clamps that attach to the battery similar to a pair of jumper cables and a simple, one-button interface.

Batteries Plus has jump packs that will work with nearly any type 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

Preparing your car or truck for the bitter cold of winter is something that should be done before the first snowfall, if not sooner. If you still need to prepare for winter now, we've got a few basic maintenance tasks you should complete on your vehicle to help make sure it's ready.

Here are a few basic things to do:

  • Regularly remove corrosion from your battery terminals if present.
  • 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 they have enough tread left and/or invest in winter tires.
  • Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper air pressure.
  • Make sure that the heater and defroster are working properly.
  • Make sure 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 keep your vehicle reliable during the 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 X2Power, Duracell and Optima. Best of all, the majority of our stores offer expert battery installation on most vehicle makes and models. Fees may vary from location to location or the difficulty of the installation. 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

Keep your eyes on the Batteries Plus blog for plenty of additional automotive tips to keep you powered through the winter. 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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