How to Jump Start a Car
Whether you’re a seasoned driver or just starting out, getting in the know about how to jump a dead battery can be a real time-saver. And this knowledge can help you stress less so you can get back on the road faster.
Your first step is to figure out what caused the battery to die. If it’s completely drained for seemingly no reason at all, you may have to buy and install a new one. But if you simply left a light on, you can likely use jumper cables and a running car to get it started again. Take a look at this step-by-step guide to getting your car up and running when your battery’s dead.
How to Jump Start Your Car Battery
Jump starting your car battery can be tricky when you’re not sure what to do. But don’t fear! We’re here to help you through the process every step of the way.
- Travel with jumper cables in your car. There’s no jumping your car without them. If your car isn’t starting and you’re in a parking garage, you may be able to recruit the help of a staffer to help find a pair of cables. If not, you’ll have to ask around. Think about putting together a car safety kit that includes jumper cables to help you if the unexpected happens. You’ll be glad you have it in place should you ever need it.
- Ask someone with a running car to help. Look around for someone to help you jump your car or call a friend if they’re nearby.
- Park the cars engine to engine. Whoever you recruited to help will ideally park their car “nose to nose” with your car so that your jumper cables will reach from one battery to the other.
- Turn off both cars. Before attaching the jumper cables, be sure that the volunteer’s engine is not running.
- Turn on the flashers. This is extra important to improve safety if you’re jumping the car on the side of the road. This way people know you’re there and can move over.
- Engage the parking brakes. Play it safe and apply the parking brakes in both cars. That way the cars will be less likely to drift on you when you’re standing out in front of them.
- Attach the red jumper cable clamps first. Start with the red terminal (look for + or POS on the terminal) of the dead battery. Then attach the second red clamp to the battery of the other vehicle.
- Attach the black cable clamps next. This time, attach the black cable to the working car’s battery black terminal (look for – or NEG). Then, attach the other black clamp to an unpainted, metal part of the engine — preferably onto a clean nut or bolt on the engine block.
- Start the working car. Let the car run for a few moments in order to run a charge to the dead battery.
- Try to start the car with the dead battery. Turn the key and start the engine! The current from the running car should bring the dead car back to life.
- If the dead car doesn’t start, rev up the other engine and try again. Have the driver in the running car give it some gas for a few seconds and attempt to start your car again.
- Disconnect the jumper cables after your car starts. Detach the cables carefully, starting first with the black clamps. Then disconnect the red clamps.
- Take it for a spin. Drive your car for a while to charge the battery.
- If it doesn’t start, get it serviced. If your car doesn’t start after following these instructions, there may be bigger issues that need to be explored by a mechanic. Here’s where it pays off to have American Family Insurance's emergency roadside assistance program in place. With it, one call to our team and help will be on its way.
Just like that, you’ll be on the road again. And even better, next time someone asks you for a jump, you’ll know what to do. Understanding how to take care of your car can also save you money. While you’re improving your jump starting skills, take some time to contact your American Family Insurance agent who can also help you to save as well and learn about how bundling insurance products and going paperless can really pay off. You’ll have great coverage in place wherever the road may take you