How to Jumpstart a Car

Christian Wardlaw | Mar 06, 2020

When your vehicle’s battery dies, it’s important to know how to jumpstart a car. The process is simple but requires careful attention to detail. Also, remember that working on cars can be dangerous, so its critical to take proper precautions before attempting to jumpstart a car or perform any of your own vehicle repairs.

how to jumpstart a car using jumper cables

With those warnings expressed, this is how to jumpstart a car:

  • Consult your owner’s manual. Some vehicles may not be suitable for jumpstarting and could require professional assistance.
  • Get a pair of jumper cables that are in good condition. Jumper cables look like thick outdoor extension cords, but instead of plugs on each end they have pairs of red and black clamps. The cable should be free of flaws and the clamps should be clean and in proper working order.
  • Find a running vehicle. You’ll need to attach your jumper cables to a running vehicle’s battery in order to jumpstart a dead battery. If you’re dependent upon the kindness of strangers, be sure that you remain as visible as possible to the public.
  • Position the running vehicle’s battery as close to the dead vehicle’s battery as is possible. Remember, different types of cars have the battery located in different places, so check the trunk if you don’t find it under the hood.
  • Set the parking brakes of both vehicles. Shift into Park if the vehicle has an automatic transmission, or neutral if the vehicle has a manual transmission.
  • Shut off the running vehicle’s engine.
  • Attach one of the red jumper cable clamps to the positive terminal of the dead battery. The terminals are metal nubs on the top of the battery, which may be protected by rubber flaps. The positive terminal may be marked “POS” or with a “+.” In the absence of markings, the positive terminal is usually the larger of the two.
  • Next, attach the other red jumper cable clamp to the positive terminal of the running vehicle’s battery.
  • Now, with regard to the running vehicle’s battery, take the black jumper cable clamp closest to the red clamp and attach it to the negative terminal. It may be marked “NEG” or with a “-.” In the absence of markings, the negative terminal is usually the smaller of the two.
  • Last, take the second black clamp and attach it to an unpainted metal surface as far away from the dead battery as is possible.
  • Start the vehicle that works and let the engine run for several minutes. This will supply electrical current to the dead battery. Try to start the car with the dead battery.
  • If the car with the dead battery does not start, check all jumper cable clamp connections, let the engine run for a few more minutes, and try again. If the dead vehicle does not start, you likely need a new battery.
  • If the dead vehicle does start, do not shut it off until you’ve had a chance to drive it for 30 minutes or so. Driving the car will recharge the battery. But first, once the dead vehicle roars back to life, let the two vehicles idle together for a few minutes before removing the jumper cable clamps.
  • Remove the jumper cable in the reverse order of you connected them. First, unclip the black clamp from the unpainted metal surface. Next, remove the black clamp from the running vehicle’s negative battery terminal. Then, remove the red clamp from the running vehicle’s positive battery terminal. Last, remove the red clamp from the dead (and hopefully now running) vehicle’s positive battery terminal.
  • After driving the car for a while, the battery should get charged up. If the car won’t start again later, the battery can no longer hold a charge and you’ll need to get a new battery.

Remember, understanding how to jumpstart a car is one thing. Using jumper cables and attaching them to battery terminals and metal surfaces is another. It does pose some potential risk to your physical well-being. If you’d rather not take a chance, don’t hesitate to call a professional for help.

Additional Research

Explore new car previews
2020 Subaru Outback Preview
2020 Subaru Outback Preview
Introduced at the 2019 New York International Auto Show, the 2020 Subaru Outback has been optimized to offer better fuel efficiency, a quieter and safer ride, boosted technology, and turbocharged power, which is something Subaru hasn’t given its Outback in over ten years.
Read the full review
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan Preview
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan Preview
The redesigned 2022 Mercedes C-Class sedan will be sold all around the world and produced for those global markets in Germany, China, and South Africa. The compact 5-passenger sedan arrives in the U.S. market in early 2022.
Read the full review
2021 Ford Bronco Preview
2021 Ford Bronco Preview
Designed and engineered for maximum off-roading capability, the 2021 Ford Bronco is a direct competitor to the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner. Available in 2-door and 4-door body styles complete with removable doors and roof, the new 2021 Bronco adopts a “Built Wild” ethos.
Read the full review
Read all articles
Scroll to the top
New Car Preview
2022 Volkswagen Golf R Preview
Most Dependable
2019 Vehicle Dependability: Most Dependable Coupes and Convertibles
Most Popular
10 Most Popular Luxury SUVs and Crossovers
New Model Update
New for 2019: Ford Trucks, SUVs, and Vans
New Car Preview
2022 Genesis GV70 Preview
More related
articles