Few things will ruin a day, such as discovering that your car's battery is empty. But the day is not a lost cause. Access to jumper cables and another running vehicle is all you need to get back on the road. And if another running vehicle is not available, you can also use a portable jump starter. All you have to do is follow these simple steps.
Find a set of jumper cables and confirm that they are in good condition
It is a good idea to always bring jumper cables in your vehicle, along with a first aid kit, a flashlight, an extra jacket and. It is better to have them and never need them than to need them and be without them.
Locate the batteries on both the dead vehicle and the moving vehicle
They are usually under the hood, but they can be in the trunk or elsewhere – consult the manual
Park the vehicle to be steered next to the dead vehicle
Park close enough so that the jumper cables can stretch between the batteries of both vehicles. Make sure that the ignition on both vehicles is off .
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Manuel Carrillo III / Roadshow
- Attach one of the positive (red) terminals of the starter cable to the positive pole of the empty battery (marked with a "+" – this is often covered with a red cap).
- Attach the other positive terminal to the correct battery positive connection.
- Attach the negative (black) clamp to the negative connection of the good battery. Returning to the non-working car, attach the black clamp to that end on a piece of unpainted metal under the hood at least 1 foot away from the empty battery. (See "Keep yourself safe" below.)
Start the engine of the controllable vehicle
Let it run at 1500 rpm for a few minutes. After a few minutes, the empty battery must be sufficiently charged to start the non-working car.
Try starting the unusable vehicle
It must at least turn around. If it does not start after a few cranks, return to step 5. If the vehicle starts, remove the cables in the reverse order in which they were installed. Then drive the vehicle with the previously exhausted battery for about half an hour to charge it before turning the engine off.
Need more info? Here's how you can start your car in depth
So you turned on your contact and instead of starting your car and taking you to your next destination, all you have to do is make a quick click, or maybe completely no sound. It looks like you have an empty battery.
If you have a set of jumper cables in your trunk and another (operable) vehicle nearby, you can be back on the road in less than 10 minutes – even less if you have one of those portable jump-starters with you with you.
Identifying guidance points
Normally your battery is under your hood, but sometimes it is in the trunk or even under the floor of the passenger compartment. If you open your bonnet and there is no battery, consult your user manual.
Once you have found the battery of your car or truck, identify the positive and negative poles. It is the metal posts that protrude from the plastic housing and they have plus (+) or minus (-) symbols nearby.
Some car manufacturers go the extra mile and color coordinated battery pole terminals with red for the positive side and black for the negative side. After you have identified the positive and negative poles of your battery, do the same for the steerable vehicle that you use to start your car quickly. Once you've done that, it's time to connect.
Keep yourself safe
With the controllable vehicle switched off, start the connection process by attaching a red cable clamp to the positive terminal of your dead car. As long as part of your jumper cables is connected to a power source, ensures that the cable clamps never touch each other. This can cause sparks that can increase the risk of fire.
Walk to the controllable vehicle and connect the other red clamp to the positive pole of that battery. While you are there, go ahead and attach the black clamp to the negative connection. Walk back to the unusable vehicle and complete the circuit by attaching the black clamp on that side to a piece of unpainted metal under the hood that is ideally more than a foot away from the exhausted battery.
Do not complete the circuit by attaching the black clamp to the negative pole of the empty battery. This is a recipe for an explosion.
Start your engines
After you have made all four connections at the three terminals and a single ground point, start the engine of the steerable vehicle and gently press the accelerator pedal to increase the engine speed to around 1500 rpm . This allows the alternator of the moving vehicle to support the charging process.
After the moving vehicle has charged the empty battery of the other car for a few minutes, try starting the vehicle with the empty battery. If your dead car fires again, you may want to shout, "He lives!" With those theatrics out of the way, you can now start disconnecting the terminals in the reverse order in which you connected them.
If you had to borrow jumper cables from a stranger, thank them very much and let them know that you are going to the auto parts store to pick up your own set, because jumper cables are absolutely necessary to have in your car at all times . If that car parts store is a few more cities away, even better – an extended ride can give your car's dynamo enough time to charge a battery that had a near-death experience.
Originally published October 2018.