How to Properly Jump a Car

Whether you drive an older vehicle or a brand-new one, you can encounter a dead car battery when you least expect it. Jumper cables give your battery the jolt it needs to get your car moving, but you'll need to know how to use them to get back on the road safely. Follow this guide to learn how to jump a car the right way.

Select the Right Jumper Cables

For a successful jump, make sure to equip yourself with the right jumper cables. These devices are usually anywhere from 10 to 20 feet long. While longer cables can offer more convenience, keep in mind that with any cable, more length can equal less power. For the most powerful equipment, look for gauge six jumper cables that are about 10 feet long.

Get Ready to Jump

To jumpstart a car, you'll need to have an operational vehicle at your disposal. Park the functional car so that it faces the dead vehicle, and position them about 18 inches apart. Make sure the two vehicles don't touch, and ensure they're close enough so the jumper cables will reach.

Put both vehicles in park or neutral, and set the parking brake on both to make sure that neither jumps forward. Place the cables on the ground without allowing the metal clamps to touch. Raise the hood of each car, find the battery, and determine the positive and negative end of each.

Attach the Jumper Cables

 How to Properly Jump A Car

Image via Flickr by Charles Williams

Once you've set the scene, you're ready to attach the jumper cables to the battery terminals. Start with the dead vehicle and attach the red clamp to the positive battery terminal. Do the same to the functional vehicle.

Next, attach the black clamp to the negative battery terminal of the functional vehicle. Instead of connecting the negative clamp to the dead vehicle's battery, clamp it to an unpainted metal component under the hood.

Jumpstart the Car

To jumpstart the dead battery, turn on the functional vehicle and give it about a minute to warm up. Then, try to turn on the dead car. It might not work on the first try, so give it another minute or so to warm up. If you try to start the car a few times but get no results, gently rev the engine of the functional car to give it a boost.

Once you have both vehicles up and running, remove the black jumper cables before unclamping the red ones. Drive the newly running car around the block a few times to warm it up and recharge the battery.

Don't Make These Mistakes

Jumping a car is relatively straightforward, but to prevent accidents, you'll need to take a few precautions. First, never allow the metal clamps to touch each other at any point during the jumpstart. Once you've successfully jumped the car, don't turn it off right away, or you'll risk having to deal with a dead battery again a second time.

If the car just won't start, don't push it. Instead, take the vehicle to your local mechanic to get to the bottom of the problem.

When you don't have time to deal with a dead battery, jumper cables can be lifesavers. Know how to use them properly, and you'll be back on the road in no time.