You get in your car, turn the key in the ignition, and nothing happens except a weird clicking noise. If your car won’t start, there is a good chance your car battery is dead. Fortunately, it’s easy to jump-start a car battery. If you have a good Samaritan with jumper cables parked next to you, you can jump start your car by yourself.
Steps to jump start a car battery
- Drive the good car up to your car, so the car batteries are as close as possible
- Attach the red “positive” cable to the good car battery terminal, then attach the other red “positive” cable to your car battery terminal
- Attach the black “negative” cable to the 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
- Start the good car first, wait for 2 minutes, then start your car, wait for 2 minutes
- Remove the cables in the reverse order they were attached (i.e., black/your car, black/good car, red/your car, red/good car)
- Let your car run for two more minutes, then hit the road
What to do if jump starting your car battery doesn’t work
The terminals on your battery may be corroded. The metal from the clamps must be touching the metal of the terminal. You may need to grind them back and forth to eliminate the gunk. Or your battery could be old. If so, you should get a replacement battery, saving you future headaches.
If jumping your car battery still doesn’t work, your vehicle could have a bigger problem, such as a blown starter or busted alternator. Learn to tell the signs of a bad car battery vs. an alternator. If you’re uncomfortable under the hood, check to see if you can access roadside assistance through your car insurance or auto club to get a replacement battery or get your car towed.
Considerations for jumping a car battery
Make sure you have jumper cables in your trunk in case this ever happens again. And do your best to avoid the scenarios that can cause the car battery to die, such as leaving your lights on, only taking short trips, and exposing your vehicle to extreme heat or cold for long periods. Learn more about how to extend your car battery life.
Failure to follow these step-by-step instructions could result in electrical shock or another serious injury. If you’re unsure about anything in this article, please contact a mechanic, roadside assistance, or another car specialist for help.