A Guide to Jump-Starting Your Vehicle

Whether it's for work, errands, or leisure, the majority of us spend a lot of time behind the wheel. However, many of us lack even the most fundamental knowledge of car care and repair. You can figure out how to do just about anything to your car if you have some determination and a few pointers from the experts.

Initiate your search for the vehicle's manual by locating the owner's manual. This is a high-level overview of the most important parts, including troubleshooting advice tailored to your specific model and make.

Instructions for Jump-Starting a Car

Always have the following in your car:

  1. The longer the jumper cables, the better.
  2. Heavy-duty mechanic gloves provide the most safety, but disposable gloves are acceptable.
  3. You should never leave home without a flashlight.
  4. Coveralls, or paper aprons, are available for clothing protection and can be found at most paint stores.
  5. The owner's manual for your vehicle is usually located in the glove compartment.

You'll need to locate another driver who can supply a jump start to your car's dead battery. Be cautious and use your best judgment when accepting help from strangers. Don't let anyone talk you into accepting help from them, and make sure to call a loved one and fill them in on where you are and what's happened.

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The following warnings should be considered before you and your assistant begin the jump-start procedure:

  • The first step is to consult the manual. Due to the vehicle's delicate electronic circuitry, the manufacturer may warn you against performing a jump start.
  • In the event that your battery has frozen, do not attempt to jump it.
  • Never attempt to jump a dead battery. Extreme caution is needed. It's time to get a new battery, so call a tow truck or a friend who can lend a hand.
  • First, make sure the battery isn't completely dead. Fluid levels in cells should be checked and water added as needed. Read the manual carefully for important safety information.
  • Corrosion (white or greenish powdery stuff) on a battery can be removed with a wire brush, aluminum foil, or anything else besides your bare hands because the battery's chemicals can be harmful to your skin. The dust is an irritant to the lungs and should be avoided by covering the mouth and nose.
  • When connecting the cables, make sure the clamps never touch each other. A good practice is to have one person hold each end of the cables, and another person hold each clip.

Instructions for Use:

  1. Take precautions by covering yourself and the ground with a blanket and gloves.
  2. Pop the hood and look under the hood of your car. To fully "pop" the hood, the latch must sometimes be released as well. It's a small lever that can be found by feeling around under the partially opened hood. While you're working, prop the hood open with the stick.
  3. Find the power source. The owner's manual should include either written directions or a diagram showing the location of the battery.
  4. As a first step, make sure the donor vehicle is parked nearby and turned off.
  5. There are two "terminals" on the battery, or posts. Each has a corresponding positive and negative sign; the former is red and the latter is black.
  6. A plastic cover that snaps off easily to reveal the metal of the positive terminal post (or red) is recommended. In order to guarantee a secure and complete connection, it is important that the cables be attached to each component as securely as possible.
  7. Clamp the positive (red) terminal post of the car's battery to the ground (black) terminal post. The terminal post should be securely gripped by metal teeth on the clamps.
  8. Connect the good, functioning battery's positive terminal post (or red) to the cables' POSITIVE (red) clamp. Until they turn their car back on, it is still off.
  9. Connect the NEGATIVE (black) clamp on that end to the minus (-) terminal of a good, functioning battery.
  10. The last clamp should be the NEGATIVE one (black), and it should be fastened to an unpainted metal area of the engine block of the vehicle being jump-started (yours). A metal nut or bolt would serve as a suitable metal surface, and the further away from the battery the better.
  11. Now that everything is hooked up and secure, you can start the donor vehicle. Start your car after waiting a few minutes. If you are having trouble starting your car, give it a few more minutes.
  12. In the event that this is ineffective, you should cease. Reverse the procedure to release the clamps and express gratitude to the car's owner. Seek outside assistance at this time.
  13. Start the car and look for a battery warning light on the dashboard. If it's on, it could indicate that the alternator isn't doing its job and that the driver shouldn't keep the car on for very long. Please seek immediate medical attention if this occurs.
  14. Keep the engine running for a few minutes if the car starts; doing so will give the battery a boost.
  15. It's best to unhook the clamps in the opposite order from which they were attached. If you want to keep the battery charged while driving, give it at least 30 minutes of use before stopping again. If not, you might need a second battery recharge.

A Jump Start Box or Jump n' Carry is a great option for the true DIYer. One of these inexpensive little boxes can give you a jump start on your own, no matter where you are (and for about $150). Read the fine print and your owner's manual to make sure your car supports this feature.

Get a copy of the article and keep it in the car's glove box for quick reference.

If you ever find yourself stranded, GEICO's Emergency Roadside Service can help you with a variety of issues, including a dead battery. Consider including it in your car insurance policy today for only pennies per day per vehicle.

The next article will explain how to check tire pressure.

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