How to Jump Your Vehicle in 10 Steps

How to Jump Start Your Car

It’s the sound drivers dread when they turn the ignition: clicking while the key is turned and engine silence.

After a few more tries and a quick check beneath the vehicle’s hood, the sinking realization hits you that a dead battery is to blame for your lifeless vehicle.

Ideally, you are wise enough to have a pair of jumper cables stashed in your trunk but, do you know how to use them?

Here at Suburban Toyota Scion of Troy, we want stranded drivers to know this very basic skill, so we devised this 10-step guide.

  1. Find a live vehicle. Take stock of your surroundings to locate another driver who has a vehicle with a live battery to boost your dead one. Have the individual park the vehicle close to yours, typically with the hoods facing one another or the cars parked alongside one another, but not touching.
  2. Shut off both vehicles. Cut the engines on both vehicles and turn off stereos, headlights or other electronics to prevent a voltage or electrical surge from harming either vehicle. (Yes, pull your smartphone or MP3 player out of the charger, too.)
  3. Determine the battery’s positive and negative terminals. Most jumper cables identify red as positive, or “+,” and the negative cable, or “-,” with the black cable. To be certain, we recommend reading the instructions that come with your jumper cable set to be certain you know how to properly connect the cables. “Jumper cables or cables on a portable battery booster should be connected properly to avoid sparks, which can cause an explosion of the hydrogen gas emitting from a battery. Beyond this, an incorrect hook up can damage critical, and expensive, electronic components,” notes car experts from Midas.
  4. Roll out the cables. Unwind the cables, separating the red and black cables so their respective clamps do not accidentally touch one another.
  5. Protect your hands. Some batteries may have plastic coverings you must remove to connect the jumper cables. Be sure to wear gloves or use a rag to touch anything on either vehicle’s battery in case of corrosion, which can be toxic to skin, eyes and the respiratory tract. If the battery is leaking or cracked upon inspection, do not attempt to jump the car. Replace the battery entirely.
  6. Connect the positive cables. Firmly clamp the red (positive) cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal marked by a “+.” Then connect the corresponding red or “+” cable to the live battery’s terminal, also marked with a “+.”
  7. Connect the negative cables. Connect the black or “-” jumper cable to the live battery first. Then, clamp the other end to unpainted, grounded metal and as far away from the dead battery as possible, such as the engine block or a metal fixture, like a screw. This will ground the charge so neither vehicle is harmed. Connecting the jumper cable to the dead battery’s negative terminal could produce a spark strong enough to ignite hydrogen fumes from the battery.
  8. Start the vehicles. Start the vehicle with the live battery first, letting it run for at least one minute. Then start the dead vehicle, and—if the engine turns over—let that one also run for at least a minute. Occasionally give each vehicle a little gas. Allow the cars to run for a few more minutes.
  9. Remove the black cables. Unclamp the black cable from the once-dead vehicle, and then remove the black cable from the vehicle giving the battery boost.
  10. Remove the red cables. Unclamp the red cable from the originally live car, then remove the cable from the once-dead vehicle.

Keep your car running for a while before turning it off. It is best to drive several miles to help keep the battery charged.