How to jump a car battery

On the Road 3 min read

A step-by-step breakdown of this essential bit of roadside know-how

You get in your car, put the key in the ignition, turn it, and nothing happens except a weird clicking noise. Guess what? Your battery might be dead.

Fortunately, jumping a car battery is easy.

So, let’s assume a good Samaritan with jumper cables is parked right next to you. What’s next?

1. Drive the good car up to your car so the car batteries are as close as possible


2. Attach the red “positive” cable to the good car battery terminal, then attach the other red “positive” cable to your car battery terminal

3 Attach the black ‘negative” cable to good car battery, then “ground” the car by attaching the other black “negative” to a solid, unpainted metal surface on your car (such as a bolt), as far away from the battery as possible. Avoid any moving parts in the engine.

4. Start the good car first, wait for 2 minutes, then start your car, wait for 2 minutes

5. Remove the cables in the reverse order they were attached (i.e. black/your car, black/good car, red/your car, red/good car)

6. Let your car run for 2 more minutes then hit the road!

If it doesn’t work …

The terminals on your battery may be corroded. The metal from the clamps have to be touching the metal of the terminal. You may need to grind them back and forth a little bit to get rid of the gunk.

Or, your battery could just be old. If so, you should get a replacement battery, which can save you a lot of future headaches.

If it still doesn’t work, there could be a bigger problem with your vehicle such as a blown starter or busted alternator. It’s probably time to call a tow truck.

In the future …

Make sure you have jumper cables in your trunk just in case this ever happens again. Also, if you’re not comfortable under the hood, check to see if you have access to roadside assistance through your car insurance, manufacturer or auto club.

To learn more about Progressive’s Roadside Assistance, call us at 1-800-776-4737, or talk to a local agent.

ELECTRIC SHOCK HAZARD: Failure to follow these step-by-step instructions could result in electrical shock or other serious injury. If you’re unsure about anything in this article, please contact a mechanic, roadside assistance, or another car specialist for help.

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