If it has ever happened to you, you won’t forget it. You turn the key in the ignition or press the start button and … nothing. The battery is dead, and you feel helpless. But you aren’t helpless because you’re about to learn how to use jumper cables.
BUT FIRST, LET’S LOOK AT HOW THE BATTERY STARTS THE ENGINE AND KEEPS IT RUNNING
The more you know about how a battery works when it’s working right, the easier it will be to understand how to jump a car.
Your car’s starting and charging system consists of the battery, the starter motor, and the alternator — all working together to start and provide electrical power to your car.
- The battery stores electrical energy.
- The starter motor converts the electrical energy to mechanical energy to crank the engine.
- After the engine has started, the alternator produces an electric current that replaces the energy the starter drew from the battery.
So it goes, over and over again.
Until it doesn’t. Even a top-quality, well-maintained battery can only go through this process a finite number of times. When there is no more electrical pressure available in your car’s battery, it’s dead, and you’ll be glad you learned how to jump a car.
FIRST, BE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Always keep these items in your trunk because you’ll need them if you’re stuck with a dead battery.
- Jumper cables. Higher gauge cables are preferred because they carry more current faster and can get you running again sooner.
- Gloves. Rubber gloves will protect your hands from corrosive battery acid.
- Safety goggles. You need these even if you wear eyeglasses. Prescription glasses are designed to correct your vision, while safety goggles are made to provide protection.
Now here’s how to jump start a car with cables:
PLEASE NOTE: This process does not require disconnecting and reconnecting the car battery.
1. Getting started
- Park your car and the car you’ll use for jumping near one another. They should be close enough for the cables to reach, but they should not touch.
- Turn off the ignition of both cars.
- Examine the cables. Make sure they aren’t tangled or frayed.
2. Make connections
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT HOW TO USE JUMPER CABLES: Do not reverse jump connections, as severe damage can occur to either or both cars!
- Clamp one of the positive (red/+) jumper cables to the dead battery’s positive (red/+) clamp.
- Connect the other end of that jumper cable to the other battery (red/+) clamp.
- Connect the negative (black/-) jumper cable to the good car battery’s negative (black/-) terminal.
- Connect the other end of the car battery negative (black/-) jumper cable to a ground on the car with the dead battery. (What’s a ground? An unpainted metal surface away from the battery, often the engine block.) PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT touch the two ends of the jumper cable as you do this.
3. Proceed with CAUTION
- Avoid creating sparks when connecting/disconnecting jumper cables.
- Never smoke when jump starting a car.
- Be careful, since batteries produce explosive hydrogen gas when operating.
- Start the car that is providing the jump.
- Allow the dead battery to charge for 15-20 minutes.
- Now start the car with the freshly-charged battery.
- If it doesn’t start, check the car battery terminals. Tighten and/or clean them (as needed). If it still doesn’t start, there may be a problem in addition to the dead battery. Contact a tow service and have a professional look at your car. With more than 2,000 locations nationwide, there is probably a Jiffy Lube in the vicinity.
4. YAY! It started!
- Disconnect the cables in the reverse order you attached them.
- Let the newly restarted car run for several minutes before you hit the road.
Remember, though, that just because the car is running again, it doesn’t mean your battery is in optimal condition.
CONSIDER BRINGING YOUR CAR TO JIFFY LUBE AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE.
A trained technician will:
- Ask about your driving style. For example, if you often drive in stop-and-go traffic, the alternator may not have sufficient time to fully charge the battery
- Visually inspect your battery, including the hold down and connections
- Perform a thorough terminal cleaning (as needed with your approval)
- Replace cables (as needed with your approval)
- Inspect connections and tighten them, if required
- Electrically test the battery, including OCV (Open Circuit Voltage) and CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)
- Inspect and adjust your battery fluid level (if possible)
Make a battery check part of your regular car maintenance regimen. Each time you come in for an oil change, why not ask the Jiffy Lube tech to inspect the battery, too?
THE BEST WAY TO AVOID A DEAD BATTERY IS TO TRY TO PREVENT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE
You may feel more confident, now that you know how to jump a car, but you also understand what a hassle it can be. So look out for the warning signs of a weak battery, including:
- A clicking sound when you turn your key in the ignition or press the start button
- Slow cranking during engine start up
- Dim or weak exterior or interior lights
- The “charging” light comes on, which could indicate a battery problem
If you experience any of these problems — even if it’s in-between regularly-scheduled maintenance — it’s a good idea to have your battery checked out.
WHETHER YOU DRIVE A CAR, TRUCK, MINIVAN OR SUV, YOU CAN COUNT ON JIFFY LUBE
Every service will be performed by professionals with the proper training and knowledge. Jiffy Lube techs use quality Pennzoil® products whenever possible and consistently install parts that meet or exceed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations.
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Here’s an article about how a little DIY can help extend the life of your car battery.
Please note: Not all Jiffy Lube service centers offer Battery Maintenance and Replacement Services. Please call ahead or visit jiffylube.com to ensure the service is available.