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How To Jump Start A Car

If you leave your lights on overnight or all day, your car might not start and in that situation it's good to know how to jump start your car.

How To Jump Start A Car

Have you ever left your car’s lights on while you were at work and if so, when you came back did it fail to start? In this case your lights probably drained your battery, and therefore it doesn’t have enough charge to spin the starter motor or start the car in any way.

The solution is to jump start it, and if you don’t have a set of jumper cables then your task is that much harder to achieve. You’re then faced with the extra hurdle of trying to find a nearby motorist that not only has a set of jumper cables but is also willing to help you.

A set of jumper cables has a big red cable alongside a black cable, and on both ends of both cables are leads, or clamps, designed to chomp down on battery terminals. Some newer cars have leads sticking out of the battery so you don’t have to hook up jumper cables directly to the terminals, others require that you remove a fuse or two before jump starting.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual before proceeding to jump start your car. Once you find someone willing to help, it’s a very easy process. To make this situation easier, investing in a set of jumper cables is a good idea because not all motorists are likely to carry a set of their own.

It’s always best to have the appropriate safety gear, like gloves and safety glasses, but not everyone stores those in their glove box. The key to being safe is to not touch anything metal, once the hood is up. When the jumper cables are hooked up to the good battery, don’t let the opposite ends touch or it could cause damage to the good car.

How To Jump Start A Car
  • Have the other driver park their car in front of yours so the batteries are as close as possible, then lift both hoods.
  • Turn off the good car, use one end of the jumper cables to connect the red lead to the positive terminal of the good battery. Sometimes this is indicated by a red cap on the terminal.
  • Connect the black lead on the same side as the positive lead you just connected, to the negative terminal.
  • Take the other end of the cables, connect the red lead to the positive terminal of your own battery, and connect the black lead to either your car’s frame or a piece of bare metal.
  • Start the good car, let it run for a little while (30 seconds or so will do), and then go start your car

After it starts, remove the cables in reverse, so remove the grounded cable first and so on back through the original procedure. Leave your car running for at least 30 minutes before turning it off again, to give the battery enough time to charge.

Car Maintenance
Repair Tips
How To Push Start A Car

Sometimes in a car with a manual transmission you can push start it, and if you aren’t facing downhill you may want to get someone who can help push the car.

  • With your foot on the brakes and facing downhill, put the dead car in a gear. Second gear is generally recommended by experienced motorists, as it will make the car easier to control upon starting.
  • With the clutch still depressed from changing gears, turn the car to the “on” position
  • Let go of the brakes
  • As the car rolls downhill, release the clutch and the car should start.

Be ready to give it some gas as needed, and if it doesn’t start when the clutch is fully out, depress it, put the brakes on and try again.

The point of going downhill is so that gravity provides the speed you need, so if you’re on a flat surface and are able to push the car up to the correct speed, that works too. While it is technically possible to push or “bump” start a car with an automatic transmission, it’s not recommended as those require much higher speeds in order to start, in the vicinity of 30 mph.

That’s all there is to jump starting and push starting a car. Be careful with the live electricity, and if you do the procedure correctly there shouldn’t be any problems. If this is a recurring problem, you may need to replace your battery.

If you suspect as much, take your battery into an auto parts store like Autozone or O’Reilly’s and have it tested. If your battery fails the test and shows as not able to hold a charge, it’s time to replace it.

Brian GrabianowskiBrian Grabianowski

Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.

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