How to Jump Start a Car

Reader question:

My battery on my car is dead and I need to know how to jump start a car battery. I’m terrified that I’ll blow something up. How do I do it?



It’s actually pretty easy to jump start are car, but being in such close quarters with gasoline and electricity and a running car is enough to make anyone a little nervous. It’s the sort of thing that needs to be done with care, because it is true that doing the wrong thing can cause big problems. Most of the time, you’ll know you’re doing something wrong by the shower of sparks, but we know that you don’t want to see even that. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get out your car’s owner’s manual and actually read through it. Not all cars can be jump started, and not all the same way. Some have special requirements. Reading the manual informs you of the requirements that the manufacturer puts forth.
  2. Don’t let the two cars in the situation touch. This shouldn’t be a problem, but if it is an issue, just say no. You will have to park them close to each other so that the cables will make it over the divide, but don’t let them touch.
  3. First things first, both of the cars need to have their ignition off.
  4. Most people don’t do this step, but you really should, because messing with something as volatile as a car battery is something that requires safety precautions. So put on a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes in case of sparks or smoke.
  5. Figure out which terminal is which. Positive will have a plus sign, and negative will have a minus sign. Negative is usually black, and positive often orange.
  6. Spread the cables out on the ground and be sure not to let the red clamps and the black ones touch each other. Get cables that are approved by the SAE.
  7. Clamp one of the red cables to the positive terminal on the car with the dead battery, and the other red cable to the positive battery of the car that’s doing just fine. It’s is more important than ever right now to make sure the black and red cables do not touch.
  8. Clamp a black cable to the negative terminal of the car that’s fine’s battery.
  9. Connect the other black cable to a metal part on the dead car that is a good distance from the dead battery. The engine manifold usually works fine. Don’t connect it to anything that moves.
  10. Start the engine of the working vehicle.
  11. Start the engine of the car with the dead battery. If the battery is really dead, it might not start, so wait a few minutes and try again. If it still won’t work, you went wrong somewhere.
  12. Once all that’s done, you can go ahead and remove the jumper cables backwards.


Fashun Guadarrama.

About the Author:

Austin Davis, consumer car repair advocate. "Hi there! I love to help people solve their car repair problems and I hope my site was helpful to you today. Thank you for stopping by."