Minimize the Dangers of Jump-Starting Your Car
There are few worse feelings than a dead car battery. First you hear the clicks. Then you try starting the car again — still nothing. This time you slowly take out the key, hoping it was a fluke. You delicately put the key back in, close your eyes and rotate. Click, click, click, click. What now?
The first reaction for most people is to pop the hood, find a friend with a car that actually starts and pull out the jumper cables. Wait. Do you really know what you are doing? Is it positive first or negative first? What is it people say about grounding? Are you sure the battery should be jumped?
Before attaching jumper cables to a high voltage battery, let’s discuss some risks. Jump starting a car should always be the last resort. Before doing anything, remove all jewelry or any metal object that might come in contact with the battery terminals. Rings, bracelets and necklaces all pose a risk of shorting the battery and causing you harm.
Next, confirm the battery does not smell rotten. A rotten egg smell means there is a leak of hydrogen gas and jump starting could cause an explosion. Also check the temperature of the battery before jumping. If the battery casing is hot to the touch, let it cool down before taking any action. Any spark or open flame could cause the battery to blow up. Never smoke or have any flames around a battery. A battery is extremely volatile and even the smallest spark could end in tragedy. Keep in mind, a dead battery is a symptom that something else is wrong. The problem is identifying the issue so it does not happen again, even when you do have a successful jump start.
Let’s assume you are stranded. You have removed all your jewelry, there is no rotten egg smell and the battery is cooled. You cannot find a mechanic to come out to your car and you need just enough power to get you to the auto shop. How do you jump start your car in the safest way possible?
Before You Jump Start:
- Pull the car with the good battery close to the car with the dead battery, but make sure none of the cars’ parts are touching.
- Turn off the engine. Remove all jewelry and be sure to wear protective eye gear and gloves. Battery acid is no joke.
- Clean any corrosion off your battery terminals with a wire brush or cloth. You want the cleanest connection possible.
- Confirm this is your only option. Emergency booster kits offer a safe alternative to charging a dead battery.
- Connect the positive jumper cable (most likely red) to the positive terminal of the dead battery.
- Ground the negative cable (most likely black) by connecting it to either the engine block or a clean area on the frame of the car on the dead vehicle. Do not to let the cables touch.
Connecting the Good Car Battery:
- Connect the positive (red) cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
- Connect the negative (black) cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
- Check all connections.
Starting the Vehicles:
- Start the good battery.
- Leave the good battery running in idle at around 1500 rpms for 10-15 minutes.
- Start the dead battery.
Removing the Cables:
- Remove the cables in the opposite order. Negative (black) good, positive (red) good, negative (black) dead, positive (red) dead. Again, do not let the cables touch.
Once you have successfully jumped your car, take it to a professional as quickly as possible. There is a good chance your car battery will die again. To help prevent a dead battery, have your battery checked with every oil change. Preventive maintenance may save you from hearing the clicking sound of a dead battery in the future.
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