How to Jump Your Car Battery - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Nov 1, 2019

How to Jump Your Car Battery

You jump in your car, ready for your morning commute and upon turning the key to start the ignition—nothing. Another attempt—nothing. A dead battery. Whether you’re a young driver or have many years of driving under your belt, a dead battery can be a rude awakening. For some, this means an immediate call to your trusty roadside assistance company. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be! With a set of jumper cables and another running vehicle, you could be back on the road in minutes.

Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to safely use jumper cables when you’re caught in a pinch.

Step 1: Set up

  • Park the vehicles facing each other. For manual transmissions, set the vehicle to neutral. For automatic, set the vehicle to park. Turn both vehicles off and set the parking brakes.

Step 2: Attach the cables

  • Open the hood of each vehicle and locate the batteries. Locations can differ based on the make and model of the vehicle, so it’s best to refer to your manual. 
  • Always make sure you can locate a positive and negative terminal on the battery itself. This is typically seen as a “+” and “-“ or red and black colors. 
  • Attach one red cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery. Then, attach the other red cable to the positive terminal on the functioning vehicle’s battery. 
  • Attach the black cable to the negative terminal on the functioning vehicle’s battery. 
  • Do not connect the last black clamp to the dead battery. Instead, you will attach it to an unpainted nut, bolt, or metal part on the vehicle. 

Step 3: Let it charge

  • Start the functioning vehicle and let it run for 30 seconds to a minute. Keep in mind the age of the dead battery as it may need more than a minute or two to allow the connection to work successfully. Older batteries tend to take longer to charge.

Step 4: Attempt to start the dead vehicle

  • Turn on the ignition of the vehicle with the dead battery. If it doesn’t work right away, it may require a few additional minutes to charge or you may need to try lightly revving the engine of the functioning vehicle. 

Step 5: Disconnect the cables

  • Once you revive the dead vehicle, always disconnect the black or negative cables first, then the red or positive ones.
  • Be careful not to let the clamps make contact with each other if any of them are still attached to a vehicle.

Step 6: Drive to recharge

  • Take a short drive to charge your battery.
  • Once the car is up and running, the alternator will charge the battery and ensure that it doesn’t die again once you turn it off. 

Safety First

As always, safety should be a priority. Keeping a car safety kit can come in handy when presented with a dead battery. Before grabbing the set of jumper cables to charge your battery, you should be aware of a few safety risks. It’s always important to read your cars manual as some vehicles require additional steps when charging a dead battery.

When handling jumper cables, remember that their function is to transfer an electrical current from one vehicle to another. Once one end is connected to a car’s battery, you should never touch anything with the other end besides the proper target. It’s recommended to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying sparks.

As we approach the winter months, it’s recommended to have your battery tested by a mechanic. You don’t want to be unprepared for New York State winter weather.

If you find yourself stuck in a situation without jumper cables, roadside assistance may be another option for you. Chat with your local agent to add this coverage to your existing policy!

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