Picture this: you woke up late on the day of the presentation that’s going to get you promoted to your dream position, so you rush through your morning routine, run to get inside your car, you turn it on, but it doesn’t start. That’s right, you forgot your lights on and now you’re stuck with a dead battery. Along with some colorful words, I remember thinking: I wish I knew how to jump a car. It’s not like I had no idea what to do, I just couldn’t exactly remember what cables go where. To help everyone who ended up in such a sticky situation, we’ve put together a complete guide to show you how to jump a car safely, with and without cables.

How to Know if Your Battery is Dead

Before you try to jump-start your car, you should first determine whether or not your battery is, in fact, dead. So how can you tell if your car isn’t firing up because of the batter? Well, if you turn the key and hear the engine cranking, then your battery isn’t to blame. In this case, jump-starting the car won’t fix your issue. On the other hand, if you turn the ignition and your car doesn’t do anything, chances are your battery is dead. Jumping your car in this situation may just get you back on the road.

Things You Should Know About Car Batteries before Jumping a Car

Any car battery has two large nubs known as terminals. One terminal is positive and the other is negative – they should both be clearly labeled. The positive terminal is usually the bigger of the two terminals, marked with “+” or “POS”. It connects to the positive clip on the jumper cable that’s typically red. As for the negative terminal, it’s usually labeled with “-” or “NEG”. It connects to the other clip that’s typically black. To complete the circuit and bring your battery back to life, you must connect the jumping cables to the right terminal.

Safety Instructions for Jumping a Car

Avoiding accidents should be your number one priority when jumping a car, so stay safe and abide by the following instructions:

  • Read the owner’s manual carefully. Some cars have sensitive circuitry, so jumping them isn’t advisable.
  • Do not touch clips together. This is dangerous when connected, but make it a habit to never touch the clips together anyway.
  • Do not jump start a battery that’s cracked, corroded, leaking, or visibly damaged.
  • Do not jump dry batteries.
  • Do not jump frozen batteries.

How to Jump a Car from Another VehicleHow to Jump a Car from Another Vehicle

The most common way to jump a car is from another car, but you can also do it from a jump battery. The basic idea is that you’ll connect the batteries of both vehicles, so make sure the cars are parked in a suitable distance to let the jumper cables reach each battery. The cars should be pulled over either nose-to-nose or side by side. Here are the steps you should follow to jump a car from another vehicle using jumper cables:

1. Take Out Your Jumper Cables

For the sake of emergencies, it’s a good idea to keep a set of jumper cables in your car’s trunk. If you don’t have these, you’ll need to find a fellow driver who isn’t just willing to help you, but also has jumper cables.

2. Check the Compatibility of Both Batteries

The battery that’s giving the jump should be compatible with yours. So, make sure that the donor battery isn’t low and match its voltage system with that of the dead battery. For example, a 12V and a 6V shouldn’t be used together.

3. Get Both Cars Ready

Put both vehicles in neutral or park, shut off their ignitions, and engage the parking brakes as well. Then, open the hood of each car.

4. Attach the Cable Clips

Connect the clips to terminals in the following order:

  • Red to Dead – connect the red positive clip to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  • Red to Donor – attach the red positive clip to the positive terminal on the donor battery.
  • Black to Donor – connect the black negative clip to the negative terminal on the donor battery.
  • Black to Metal – attach the black clip to an unpainted part of the metal of the dead car that’s not next to its dead battery. A good spot to do this is one of the metal struts that hold the hood open.

5. Start the Donor Car

Proceed to start the engine of the working car and let it run for a few minutes.

6. Test for Enough Power

Test the interior light of the dead car. If it turns on, then there’s probably enough power.

7. Try to Start the Dead Car

If the jump is successful and your car starts, don’t turn off the engine right away. Drive the car for at least 15 minutes to recharge your battery. If the car doesn’t start, make sure all the cables are connected properly and run the engine of the donor car for 5 minutes then try again. If the car still doesn’t start, chances are your battery is beyond help. If the car doesn’t start the next time you use it, this indicates that the battery can’t hold a charge and you need to replace it.

Can You Jump a Car without Cables?

If you own a standard transmission car, then yes you can. You’ll need to fully depress the clutch, put the car in first gear, turn on the ignition, then take your foot off the brake and start rolling off a clear downhill road (or get some of your buddies to give you a push). Once you reach 5-7 mph, release the clutch quickly. The engine should turn and start. Otherwise, depress the clutch and release it again.

Wrap Up

There you have it, a step by step guide on how to jump a car. Hopefully, this article will help you get back on the road the next time your car battery plays dead.