This time of year it’s not uncommon for customers to find themselves at the mercy of a dead vehicle battery. Certainly such a problem doesn’t discriminate from happening year round, but it’s fair to say inclement weather promotes greater odds. Some of you may have AAA or another roadside-service equivalent, but for the rest it’s important to know how to properly jumpstart your vehicle. For that matter, even if you do have a 3rd party available to you this is still good information to learn and/or review.
Before you begin, you want to make certain your vehicle’s battery is the issue. Usually one will suspect the battery if interior lighting is dim or you have power windows that won’t engage as quickly as normal, just to borrow a couple examples. Other possibilities include if your vehicle’s engine is turning/cranking slowly, or if your instrument panel lighting will not illuminate. While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common symptoms associated with a possible dead battery.
First, familiarize yourself with where your vehicle’s battery is located. While this may seem obvious, and we agree it is, fact is batteries can actually be hidden in some very unlikely places (trunk, under the driver’s or passenger’s seat, etc). Point here is that not all batteries are found under the vehicle’s hood. Once you have the battery in sight, search for the positive and negative battery terminals (usually found on top of battery, and often marked with “+” and “-“). Jumper cables come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Don’t be confused, the black cable/clamp almost always corresponds to the negative. From there, you could have white, yellow, red, or a variety of other colors connected to its positive counterpart.
There’s more than one method of jumpstarting a vehicle, although the most common is parking the two vehicles side by side in the same orientation or facing each other with minimal distance between them. You may also have what’s often referred to as a “jump box”, in which case you would have only the vehicle with the dead battery, as a second vehicle is unnecessary. In cases of traditional jumpstarting between two vehicles, you’ll connect two of the clamps to each vehicle for a total of four clamps, in the following specific order:
- Connect one positive to (+) on the dead battery
- Connect the other positive to (+) on the good battery
- Connect one negative to the (-) on the good battery
- Connect the other negative to a grounded piece of metal on the vehicle with the dead battery, usually easy to find right under the hood
While connected to the vehicle with a good battery, NEVER allow the positive and negative clamps of your cables to touch each other.
Doing so will potentially cause a serious injury.
Next, you want to start the engine for the vehicle with the good battery. Allow the engine to run for at least a couple minutes, making a point to gently accelerate the engine speed with the gas pedal periodically. This will assist with charging the dead battery, but it doesn’t require pushing the “pedal to the metal” so don’t overdo it.
Try and start the vehicle with the dead battery. It should work fine, but if it doesn’t you’ll want to check your jumper cables’ connection. Assure that you have a secure connection to all applicable terminals and repeat the process. If after a few attempts your vehicle will not start, there’s a very good chance your battery will no longer accept/hold a charge and it needs to be replaced. This may not necessarily be true, however, because the battery is only one component of a vehicle’s Charging System. Your vehicle may require additional diagnostic testing to confirm no other complications, such as a faulty alternator or starter.
If your vehicle starts, immediately begin to remove the jumper cables in the exact REVERSE order. Be careful once again to not allow the positive and negative clamps to touch each other. Leave your vehicle’s engine running for at least five minutes, especially if the driving you have to do is a short distance. It helps to accelerate the gas pedal periodically in this case, too, so as to expedite the charge necessary for your vehicle to operate. If you happen to still have problems the next time you attempt to start your vehicle, contact your local automotive repair specialist and have your vehicle evaluated for maintenance/repair. For best results, connect your battery to a certified battery charger for 10-12 hours before use.