Jump Start a Dead Car Battery

by Don Elliott on October 25, 2011

You know how to jump a dead car battery, right? No, really! Everybody knows how to do it. Maybe we should go over it one more time, just in case…

The car battery is the power storage unit used to start a car and run some systems while the car is turned off. There is a natural power drain that will cause the car battery to lose some of its capacity over time. Loose battery terminals can make a car battery appear dead, even though it may have plenty of charge. Always check the connections first to make sure the problem is not just loose battery cables.

When the engine is running, the alternator provides excess power to the car battery until it is fully charged. If the car battery is not getting fully charged while the car is running, either the alternator isn’t providing enough charge or the car battery isn’t good.

Most passenger cars use a 12-volt car battery. It is very easy to use the power from another car’s battery to start your car. This is the part where you have to admit to being unsure about how to do that, right?

Jumper cables are a set of wires with clamps on each end. One end of the jumper cables is coded red and the other end is coded black. Red designates the positive (+) terminal, while black is the ground (-) on the car battery. When jumping a car battery, ALWAYS connect red to red and black to black.

Here are the proper steps:

  1. With both cars turned off, connect the red jumper cable clamp to the red terminal on the dead car battery.
  2. Connect the other red jumper cable clamp to the red terminal on the good car battery.
  3. Connect the black jumper cable clamp to the black terminal on the dead car battery.
  4. Connect the other black cable clamp to a solid piece of metal in the engine compartment. Most people want to connect the ground directly to the black terminal on the car battery, which will work most of the time. However, it is possible that this connection could cause sparks. Sparks could ignite fumes from the car battery causing an explosion and other bad things.
  5. Turn on the car with the good car battery. Let it run for a few minutes to allow the charge to build up in the dead car battery. If you bought cheap jumper cables, it may take a bit longer for the charge to occur.
  6. Now it is time to start your car. If the problem was that the power was drained from your car battery, your car should start right up.
  7. Reverse the order that you connected the cables. Be careful not to touch the red and black jumper cable ends together.
  8. Let your car run for a while to give your alternator a chance to recharge the car battery.

Touching the ends of the battery cables could possibly shock you, but probably not enough to cause you any harm. Much more harm can be done by crossing the cables, red to black or black to red. Crossing the cables in this way could burn wiring and electrical components in your car.

Remember, red to red and black to black. Now you can jump dead car batteries with confidence!

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