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How to Jump Start A Car

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How to Jump Start a Car - Jumper Cables

While we all hope for the best, we should still plan for the worst. That means making sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Whether you left a light on, the key in the ignition, or your car battery is just plain old, all car owners are likely to be faced with a dead car battery sooner or later.

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Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to jump start a car, just in case.

  1. How to Jump Start a Car - Red Wire and Black WireFind someone who can help. You’ll need a friend, family member, co-worker, or Good Samaritan to help you out. Ask them if they can pull their car close enough to yours so that your jumper cables can reach from their battery to yours. Make sure the cars and all electrical components are off and the cars aren’t touching. (Note: It’s a great idea to always keep jumper cables in your car.) 
  2. Find the battery. In most cars the battery can be found under the hood, near the front of the car on the left or right side. In some cases it may be in the trunk or near the firewall between the engine and passenger compartment. Identify the positive and negative terminals on each battery.
    Usually, the positive terminal will have a plus sign and a red cable attached to it. Likewise, the negative terminal will be marked with a minus sign with a black cable attached.
  3. Put on safety gear. If you happen to have gloves and goggles lying around, use them. Do a quick check for leaks, cracks, or other damage to the batteries. If you find anything, do not attempt to jump the car – call it a day and get a tow truck involved. 
  4. Connect jumper cables. Make sure your cables are untangled and attach in the following order: 
    1. Connect one red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
    2. Connect the other red clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery.
    3. Connect one black clamp to the negative terminal of the good battery.
    4. Connect the other black clamp to a piece of grounded metal on the car with the dead battery. Look for a bolt, nut, or other protruding shiny metal. If you can’t find anything acceptable, you can connect to the negative terminal of the dead battery, but this may risk igniting hydrogen gas coming off the dead battery. 
  5. Start the working car. Let it run for a few minutes, and rev the engine slightly for 30 to 60 seconds – this will charge the battery in the dead car.
  6. Try to start the dead car. If the dead car does not start, disconnect the last negative connection, and make sure all other connections are secure by wiggling or twisting each clamp slightly. Replace the final negative clamp, and repeat step 5. If the dead car still won’t start, you may need to have it towed or replace the battery. 
  7. Remove the jumper cables. Once the car starts, remove the cables in the reverse order in which they were attached. Make sure none of the clamps touch each other or the cars. 
  8. Keep the engine running. Go for a drive or run the car above idle (barely revved with your foot on the gas) for 5 minutes or idle for 20 minutes before turning it off. This should give the battery enough charge to start again.

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Now that you can say you know how to jump start a car, let us know in the comments what other car care tips you’d like to see featured on The News Wheel!


  • Jump starting a late model car with jumper cables is a horrible idea. It’s the single best way to burn up the alternator on the donor vehicle and damage sensitive computers in both vehicles.

    Jumper cables were great in the old days. But if you really want to avoid damage, use a jumper pack instead.