How To: Jump Start a Car

Jump Start a Car

We've all been there before: We're in a hurry to get somewhere (often in bad weather), so we get in the car, turn the key in the ignition and.....WHUH! WHUH! WHUH! The darned battery is dead! After a stream of choice expletives (that is, if you're anything like me....;o)), we open the trunk and take out the jumper cables - but what if we don't know how to use them? Even if we do, we can often forget such things in crisis situations when we're pressed for time.

Well, no worries: 

This article is going to give you the simple, precise instructions you need to jump start your car so you can get back on the road in minutes.

What causes dead batteries? Of course we all know about forgetting to turn the lights off. The other main causes are breakages of the voltage regulator or the diode bridge in the alternator, and in older model batteries, not maintaining the proper water level. 


Get the dead battery car and the one with the charged battery lined up so that their batteries are as close as possible, without the cars touching at all. Make sure both are parked. Turn off everything electrical in both vehicles (the voltage spikes in the jump starting process can fry your electronics).

Find the Positive (+) and Negative (-) terminals of both batteries. All batteries are so marked, so if you can't see the markings, clean off the battery acid or grime that may have accumulated around the terminals.


  • If the battery is cracked and leaking DO NOT ATTEMPT TO JUMP START! In such a case, the cracked battery will explode if jumped. Just go and buy yourself a new battery - and keep your eyes!
  • Clean off the terminals if you haven't already; if you have tools, loosen the wires from the terminals, clean them, and put them back on the terminal posts. Dirty, corroded terminals & wires can prevent the juice from reaching your dead battery.

Attach the jumper cables

The following clear instructions for attaching the jumper cables MUST be followed EXACTLY. Wear eye protection!

Step 1

Attach one clamp of the Positive (+) jumper cable to the Positive (+) terminal of the dead battery.

Step 2

Attach the other clamp of the Positive (+) jumper cable to the Positive (+) terminal of the charged battery.

Step 3

Attach one clamp of the Negative (-) jumper cable to the Negative (-) terminal of the charged battery.

Step 4

Attach the other clamp of the Negative (-) jumper cable to a clean, shiny, non-painted metal part of the dead car's engine. The part cannot be dirty or painted, or it won't work. When the engine is clamped, there will be a spark (this is normal). It means the circuit is now complete.

Step 5

Now that the cables are connected, start the engine of the good car, making sure that its headlights and other electrical items are off (so that the dead battery gets a maximum charge). Let the good car run for a minute or two. If the dome light comes on, you know you've connected the cables correctly. Now close all doors so that the dome light goes out and try to start the dead car. Sometimes it starts immediately, sometimes it takes a few minutes. If it won't quite turn over, give it a few more minutes, revving the engine of the good car a little, until the dead car starts.

Remove the jumper cables

It's simply a reverse process. Again: Follow these instructions EXACTLY!)

Step 6

Break the circuit by disconnecting the Negative (-) cable clamp from the engine of the jump-started car. 

Step 7

Unclamp the other end of the Negative (-) jumper cable from the Negative (-) terminal of the good battery.

Step 8

Unclamp the Positive (+) cable attached to the good battery. 

Step 9

Unclamp the Positive (+) cable from the Positive (+) terminal of the jump-started car.

That's all there is to it! Be careful on the road!

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