Angie's How To JumpStart a Car

Date Published: Dec. 18, 2014

Time: 15 Minutes

It’s bound to happen at some point: You turn the ignition key in your car and the engine revs, but doesn’t turn over.

Your battery is dead. And as fate has it, it usually happens at the most inopportune time.

Waiting for roadside assistance to come and start or replace the battery is a good option, but not everyone has the time or money. Learning how to properly start your car’s battery using jumper cables is a handy skill to know. Auto professionals say it’s a simple process once you have the hang of it.

But don’t just wing it, auto experts say. Jumping a car can release hydrogen from the battery and, if it comes into contact with a spark, cause an explosion.

Here's how to jumpstart your car so you can get back on the road again quickly and on with your day.

- Photo by Eldon Lindsay; graphic illustrations by Robert Cooper

Tools & Materials Needed 
A good set of jumper cables
A car with a working battery
Safety goggles (if available)
Safety gloves (if available)
1Step 1: Reference your owner's manual for special details

Check your owner’s manual to see if there are specific specifications for jump-starting your vehicle.

It’s important to note that if your car’s battery is leaking or damaged, never try to jump-start it. The battery likely needs to be replaced or at least checked out by a professional.

Reputable mechanics say to avoid smoking while starting a battery — which can cause an explosion — and advise keeping metal objects away to avoid a spark.


Safety note: If you don’t feel comfortable jumping the car battery, have it towed to a shop.

jump start car diagram
2Step 2: Park the working vehicle adjacent to the stalled one

Park the vehicle with the working battery directly in front of or next to your car, so the front of both cars are close enough to each other for the cables to reach, but aren’t touching. Auto experts recommend activating the emergency brakes on each car and putting the key in the off position.

jump start car diagram
3Step 3: Attach the jumper cables to the positive terminals

Use the jumper cables you have stored in your trunk or glove compartment. Be sure to untangle them so you can easily identify both ends of the positive and negative cables. If you have safety goggles and gloves, put those on to protect your eyes and hands. Make sure the ignition to both vehicles is off. Connect one of the red positive (+) cables to the positive terminal on the dead battery and the other end to the positive terminal on the working battery.

jump start car diagram
4Step 4: Attach the jumper cables to negative terminal and grounded metal

Then clamp one end of the black negative (—) cable to the negative terminal on the working battery, and clamp the other end of the negative cable to a piece of grounded metal, like a nut or bolt, on the engine block of the vehicle with the dead battery. Don’t connect it to the dead battery’s negative terminal, or any moving parts, to avoid igniting a spark.


Safety note: Once you connect the cable to the first terminal, be sure the rest of the cable ends don’t come in contact with each other or this could create an electrical arc and cause damage to the vehicle.

5Step 5: Start the ignition on the working vehicle

Turn off all components inside the vehicle, like the heating or A/C, radio and lights. Start the car with the working battery and let it run for a about a minute. You may need to let it run longer, depending on how much of a charge the dead battery needs.

6Step 6: Try to start the stalled vehicle

Next, start the car with the dead battery. If it doesn’t start immediately, let the cables cool down and try again.

7Step 7: Allow the battery to charge

Once the car is running, let the engine run for a few minutes so the battery will charge. Slightly revving the engine on the vehicle with the charged battery by pressing the accelerator — not flooring it — will help ensure a good charge on the dead battery.

jump start car diagram
8Step 8: Safely remove the cables

Remove the cables in reverse order of the way your installed them. Don’t put the cable ends in contact with anything because they’re hot and can cause a spark.


Drive for about 30 minutes or keep the engine running for at least that long to ensure the battery fully charges. If you shut the vehicle off too soon after recharging the battery, it likely will lose the charge and you’ll have to do it again.


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