Image of two cars and jumper cables.

How Do You Jump Start a Car?

Updated November 3, 2021 . AmFam Team

Knowing how to jump start a vehicle can be a real time-saver. Learn how to jump start your car battery by following these steps from American Family.
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.

Steps 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Park the car's 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.

4. Turn off both cars

Before attaching the jumper cables, be sure that the volunteer’s engine is not running.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Start the working car

Let the car run for a few moments in order to run a charge to the dead battery.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Disconnect the jumper cables after your car starts

Detach the cables carefully, starting first with the black clamps. Then disconnect the red clamps.

13. Take it for a spin

Drive your car for a while to charge the battery.

14. 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.

Keep Your Car Protected with the Right Coverage

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. And while you’re getting to know the ins and out of your vehicle, we have even more resources to maintain your vehicle! Take a look at these helpful articles for everything you need to keep your car in keep your car performing great.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.