It’s been a rough morning, but you can still make it to work on time if you peel out of your driveway right now! You toss your bag in the boot, hop in the driver’s seat, turn the key and… noth*ng. Not a sound – with the exception of your hyperventilating. Looks like your car battery is dead.
To borrow some handy advice from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, “Don’t panic!” – you can fix this. And it will only take you 8 easy steps and the vehicle/battery of a good Samaritan.
Before we get into it though, here’s a warning to the more environmentally conscious among us: If either vehicle in this scenario has an electronic ignition system or is an alternatively fueled vehicle (e.g. electric, hybrid), using a jumper cable could do some serious damage.
Step 1: Ensure Both Vehicles Are Properly Parked
Park reasonably close to the other car so that your hoods are near each other (since that’s where the battery typically resides). Both cars must be in park or neutral, the ignition must be shut off, and the parking breaks engaged. If you are struggling to locate your battery, take a peak at the owner’s manual of your car. That should give you a clue as to how to access it.
Step 2: Access Your Car Battery And Take Out Your Jumper Cables
However, before you connect anything to anything, take this great opportunity to check that both your batteries have the same voltage. This information should be printed in an obvious location like on a white or yellow sticker on top of the battery (you can’t miss it). It is very important that the number of volts on both batteries matches up or you run the risk of burning out your car’s system completely.
Once you’ve taken this precaution, you can finally take out your jumper cables. Unwind these chunky black and red cables, separate them, and lay them flat on the ground between the two cars. At no point during this process should the clamps touch each other – any accidental contact can cause your car’s electrical system to short out.
Step 3: Attach One Of The Red Clips To The Positive (+) Terminal Of Your Battery
Always start by connecting the positive cable to the dead battery. Your battery’s positive terminal will always be covered with a red cap. Remove the cap and attach the clamp.
Step 4: Attach The Other Red Clip To The Positive (+) Terminal Of The Donor Battery
Remember to address the red cable and positive terminals before doing anything else.
Step 5: Attach The Black Clip To The Negative (-) Terminal Of The Donor Battery
Now that the red cable and positive terminals are taken care of, you can start on the black cable at the live battery’s negative terminal.
Step 6: Attach The Last Black Clip To An Unpainted Metal Surface On Your Car That Is NOT Near Your Battery
Ideally, this piece of metal should not be connected to your battery or anywhere too low into the engine compartment. The only conditions are that this piece of metal be clean and unpainted. Consider using one of the metal struts that holds the hood open or a clean bolt on the engine block.
Step 7: Start Up The Working Vehicle
Have your good Samaritan start up their car and let it run for a few minutes to begin charging up your battery.
Step 8: Try Starting Your Car
If it doesn’t start, make sure the cables are properly connected and have your new friend run their car for an extra five minutes or longer. Then, try to start up your car again. If it still doesn’t start, your battery may be nothing more than a heavy, ugly paperweight now.
See – it’s not so difficult. And it’s only dangerous if you’re being stupid or careless. It’s all part of making the Mother*Financial decision to be a responsible car owner.